MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru cancels copper project after police kill protestors

Published by MAC on 2011-04-12
Source: Reuters, EFE, Wall Street Journal

As we go to press, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has officially cancelled the Tia Maria project after two protestors were killed, and forty four injured, following clashes last week with police over the permitting of one of Peru's largest - and most heavily contested - new mines. See: Peru protest against Tia Maria continues

A few days earlier, the proponent company, Southern Copper (owned by Grupo Mexico) announced it would postpone the project following a critical UN environmental assessment.

The Tia Maria project raises questions about the Environmental Impact Study quality in Peru. Jose de Echave of CooperAccion (and MAC member) said that the project “demonstrates the poor quality of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) that are produced in our country.

"EIAs are nearly 20 years old and companies developed them under the assumption that our authorities will approve them without evaluating them rigorously.”

He goes on point out that there is a need for an independent environmental authority with the capacity to evaluate the EIAs unlike now, where the same government body (Ministry of Energy and Mines) that grants mining concessions approves EIAs.

Meanwhile, the country gears up for presidential elections (although they may be postponed); the outcome of which isn't likely to see any change in Peru's reliance on mining, whoever gets to set the rules.


Resource conflict erupts in Peru days before vote

By Terry Wade and Marco Aquino


5 April 2011

LIMA - Farmers opposed to Southern Copper's $1 billion Tia Maria mine said on Tuesday they would boycott Peru's presidential election unless the mining company abandons its project and police stop attacking protesters.

Protests at Tia Maria mine in Peru
Protests at Tia Maria mine in Peru - Manuel Berríos, La Republica

Their demands came hours after a clash that killed one protester and injured 20 and put widespread conflicts over the control of Peru's natural resources ahead of Sunday's election into sharp focus. Two presidential candidates urged calm.

The front-runner in the presidential race is a left-wing nationalist, Ollanta Humala, who favors a greater role for the state in tapping Peru's mineral resources.

Peru, one of the world's fastest-growing economies and a major global minerals exporter, has lined up about $40 billion in mining and oil projects for the next decade. But more than 100 rural towns have mobilized to stop projects they fear would take scarce water supplies or cause pollution.

Clashes from nagging conflicts often turn deadly and critics say the government has been an ineffective mediator. More than 30 people died in 2009 when police broke up a protest by indigenous groups in the Amazon opposed to oil and logging.

"We aren't going to vote unless the miner leaves our town," said Jaime de la Cruz of a citizens group in Islay, 620 miles (1,000 km) south of Lima, the capital. Voting in Peru is compulsory and people who refuse to vote can be fined.

"The government must understand we want to take care of our own lives," he said on local TV.

Project Stalled

Peru's mining ministry has tried for months to broker an agreement by calling in an agency from the United Nations to help evaluate the environmental impact of the mine and telling the miner to pump sea water up from the Pacific Ocean instead of using local river water to help run its mine.

Late on Tuesday the government said it was suspending the environmental impact study for six months in a bid to calm tensions and end the protests.

Last week, Southern Copper's Chief Executive Oscar Gonzalez said the mine's opening was being delayed for at least a year to 2013 because of the conflict. In mid-April, the company's board will evaluate taking its investment elsewhere, he said.

Southern Copper, one of the world's largest copper producers, is a unit of Grupo Mexico.

"We need to be very careful," said former President Alejandro Toledo, who is tied for second in the presidential race. "We are sponsors of foreign and national investment. It is welcome, but extractive companies don't have a blank check to pollute rivers and forests."

Former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, also tied in second place behind Humala, called for restraint.

"I'm asking everyone for a one-month ceasefire so that an agreement can be reached," Kuczynski said. "However, if at the end of the day the people don't want a mine, then they won't have a mine, so I ask for calm and unity."

Humala, who favors raising taxes on mining companies and has said more natural resources should be put in the hands of the state, has yet to comment on the farmers' demands.

(Reporting by Terry Wade and Marco Aquino; editing by Anthony Boadle and Todd Eastham)

2 Killed as cops clash with protesters in Peru


8 April 2011

Lima - Two people were killed and 44 others injured Thursday when Peruvian police sought to clear protesters occupying a bus station in the southern city of Mollendo.

It was 5:00 a.m. when police moved against supporters of the Islay province Defense Front taking part in mobilizations against a giant mining project, an assistant director of the Peruvian national ombud's office told Efe.

A 50-year-old man died in the confrontation along with a 31-year-old man who suffered a fractured skull and later died of the injury, Rolando Luque said, adding that four of the 44 people injured were in serious condition.

The injured include both police and civilians.

Another person was fatally shot Monday amid the disturbances.

Thursday's clash came on the 16th day of a general strike in Islay aimed at derailing the Tia Maria copper mine and less than 72 hours ahead of Peru's presidential and congressional elections.

Luque said he was angry about the "surprise" police operation, suggesting that it wrecked the negotiations the ombud's office initiated Wednesday with the Islay Defense Front.

Peru's interior minister, Miguel Hidalgo, told Frecuencia Latina television that police acted to clear a key road and ensure freedom of movement.

"If there is still a violent attitude, we, in coordination with (local) authorities, will protect the rights of those who need to travel on that highway," he said, adding that Peru needs "calm" for Sunday's elections.

Some 3,000 protesters in Mollendo continued to battle police as of midday Thursday, according to Luque.

He said the city's hospital could no longer cope with the number of wounded and that he had formally asked the central government to send help.

The Arequipa regional government agreed this week to temporarily suspend the Tia Maria copper mine project pending an outcome to talks between national authorities and the Islay Defense Front.

Islay residents have spent months trying to block the Southern Copper Corporation's $949 million Tia Maria project, which they say will divert water from agriculture.

Southern Copper postpones key Peru project


29 March 2011

LIMA - Southern Copper, one of the world's largest producers of the metal, has postponed its $1 billion Tia Maria mining project in Peru because of social conflicts, Chief Executive Oscar Gonzalez said on Tuesday.

The company will revise the project's viability later this month and consider alternative sites in Argentina and Ecuador in the meantime, Gonzalez told local television. "The project will be delayed a year, maybe until 2013,"Gonzalez said. "A new board will revise the situation and if they prefer to take their investment elsewhere, we'll suspend the project."

Some Peruvians in the southern region of Arequipa oppose the Tia Maria project over worries about water supplies and have launched a new round of demonstrations in recent days.

Clashes over natural resources are common and sometimes deadly in Peru. Many Peruvians feel left out of a decade-long economic boom, and distribution of resources is a top campaign concern in the April 10 presidential election.

Tia Maria would produce 120,000 tonnes of copper a year, according to Southern Copper, a subsidiary of Mexican miner Grupo Mexico. Peru is the world's third-largest copper producer.

(Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Southern Copper to Comply With U.N. Report

By Sophie Kevany

Wall Street Journal

29 March 2011

LIMA - Southern Copper Corp. official said Tuesday that the company expects to comply with a number of United Nations recommendations on the environmental impact of its stalled Tia Maria copper-mine project in Peru.

Meanwhile, Peru's government has authorized the use of military force to back up police control of anti-Tia Maria protests.

Demonstrations against the proposed mine, which caused the project to be suspended last April, began again last week following the leaking of the government-commissioned U.N. report.

The report was completed and delivered to the government earlier this month. The Mining and Energy Ministry has said official approvals for Tia Maria now hinge on compliance with the U.N. report's recommendations, giving the company 90 days from the day it receives the report to do so.

Tia Maria project manager Mauricio Pero said Southern Copper had received the report Monday. "We will first review the document, and we expect to be able to comply with all the applicable recommendations," he said. Southern Copper has said Tia Maria should produce 120,000 tons of copper a year and expects it to go into production at the end of 2012.

Separately Tuesday, in a statement published in newspaper La Republica, the anti-Tia Maria protesters demanded the complete withdrawal of the mine project, saying the U.N. report "evidenced critical deficiencies" in the project's environmental-impact study.

The protesters say the mine project will damage their environment and water supplies. Their statement also said the "indefinite" protest would continue despite injuries to hundreds of protesters and 17 arrests. "The Tia Maria project is socially and environmentally nonviable," the statement said.

About 1,000 police are in the province of Islay, home to the mine project, said media reports, while the armed forces are guarding a nearby fuel plant against attacks. The issue of government force against protesters is a sensitive one in Peru. Last year five protesters died during another mining-related protest, and in 2009 during another extractive industry related protest, 23 police and a disputed number of protesters died.

Southern Copper, which has mines in Peru and Mexico, is controlled by Grupo Mexico SAB de CV. Peru is the world's second-biggest copper producer, according to figures from the mining ministry.

Two killed in clashes over Peru mining project

Amnesty International Press Release

8 April 2011

The Peruvian authorities must refrain from using excessive force against people protesting against a large mining project, Amnesty International said today, after two protesters were shot dead and scores were injured in clashes with police.

The clashes came during demonstrations Thursday against the "Tía Maria" mining project in the southern province of Islay, Amnesty International said today.

"The Peruvian authorities must investigate the killings and begin a fair consultation process with those communities that may be affected by the mining project, said Nuria García, Amnesty International's researcher on Peru

Another protestor was killed on Monday amid confrontations with police in Islay province. Eleven other people, including three people officers, were also injured.

The dead protestors are Aurelio Huarcapoma, 50, and Néstor Cerezo Patana, 31. Three protesters have now been killed this week amid the disturbances. Andrés Taype Chuquipima, 22, was reportedly shot dead from behind by police officers on Monday.

The Tambo community in Islay, Arequipa department, have been protesting for two weeks against the development of a mining project by Mexican company Southern Copper that they say will contaminate the water they use for agriculture.

On 27 March, the government authorised the deployment of troops to support the police during the demonstrations in Islay.

Protests and social unrest within communities who demand their right to consultation in connection with mining and oil industries are widespread in Peru.

In several cases, clashes between police and demonstrators have resulted in dozens of people killed or injured. During some of these protests Amnesty International has documented severe acts of violence and human rights violations.

In June 2009, 33 people, including 23 police officers, were killed and at least 200 people were injured in a confrontation between police and indigenous communities in the department of Amazonas.

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