Peru uses emergency rules to end violent protests at Xstrata minePublished by MAC on 2012-05-29
Source: Dow Jones Newswires, Reuters, BNAmericas
Protesters in the Peruvian province of Espinar have accused Xstrata's Tintaya mine of causing pollution, and demanded an increase in donations that the company makes towards local development projects.
As the protests grew last week, police moved in: two people were reported killed, with fifty others injured.
In a typical "knee jerk" reaction, the purportedly leftwing government of Ollanta Humala suspended freedom of assembly and imposed emergency rules.
Previous articles on MAC: Las Bambas impact study approved by Peru's mining ministry despite concerns
Peru uses emergency rules to end violent protests at Xstrata mine
By Marco Aquino and Terry Wade
29 May 2012
LIMA - Two people were killed and 50 were injured in protests against Xstrata's Peruvian copper mine Tintaya on Monday, prompting the government to suspend freedom of assembly in a bid to break roadblocks isolating the mine.
At least 30 of the injured were police and one judicial official was detained by protesters in the mountainous southern region of Cusco, officials said.
President Ollanta Humala, a former military officer like Prime Minister Oscar Valdes, has urged mediation to avert violence, but critics say he has become impatient with intransigent protesters and too willing to rely on authoritarian tactics to maintain order.
The latest protest over the spoils of natural resource wealth is one of hundreds of disputes that Humala has tried to defuse.
The conflicts threaten to delay billions of dollars in investments in a sector that drives 60 percent of exports in Peru's fast-growing economy. They also test Humala's ability to resolve conflicts in an often polarized political environment.
"What we are dealing with isn't a peaceful protest. We are dealing with extremists," Valdes said in a nationwide TV address.
It was at least the second time the Humala administration has used emergency rules that give the army special police powers and prohibit people from gathering in groups to end anti-mining protests in one of the world's leading minerals exporters.
At least 10 people have died in disputes over natural resources since Humala took office in July. At least 174 people died in similar protests during the government of his predecessor, Alan Garcia - marring his term.
The Tintaya protest has blocked transport links, but the global firm's mine is operating normally and its port on the Pacific coast has stocks of concentrates for the time being, a company executive said.
Despite being hit by the week-long protest, Xstrata is committed to investing in Peru and its $1.5 billion expansion to the Tintaya mine is on track to open in late August, said Luis Rivera, the company's operations director for Peru.
Protesters in the province of Espinar say the mine causes pollution and want the company to boost financial donations it makes to the local government of Espinar, which the company has rejected, saying its voluntary contributions are already very generous.
'Radical Political Position'
"Our local contribution is 30 million soles ($11 million) a year, which isn't a little," Rivera said. "We give 3 percent of our pretax profits to the province of Espinar and they want us to raise this to 30 percent."
Espinar, like many local and regional governments in Peru, is periodically hit by anti-mining protests by poor residents who say they have not seen the benefits of the country's decade-long economic boom. The central government and miners criticize local governments for lacking the capacity to spend tax revenue and say they are sitting on piles of cash.
"The municipal budget in Espinar is 190 million soles a year, and it only manages to spend 30 percent, and they are asking for more money," Rivera said.
He said all serious studies have shown the mine fully complies with all environmental standards and that complaints of the protesters over water quality were being trumped up for political reasons.
"There is a radical political position behind all of this," Rivera said.
Humala, a former leftist who now firmly supports projects proposed by foreign mining companies, has said the far-left, while small, has tried to stop big mining projects as part of a push to expand its influence.
Protests against the $4.8 billion Conga mine in northern Peru, the largest project in the history of the country, have already delayed U.S.-based Newmont Mining's timetable for the mine.
"We are interested in dialogue and the development of Espinar, but we find ourselves facing a very radical opposition," Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino said in a statement from his office.
"There is a radical current that says no to Antapaccay and no to Las Bambas. This means they don't want mining, which is unacceptable," the minister said.
Rivera said the company's Antapaccay copper project, which is essentially an expansion of Tintaya that would almost double capacity to 160,000 tonnes a year, is on track to open in late August.
The existing part of Tintaya is slated to end operations in 2014 and Antapaccay would stay open to 2030 or beyond. Tintaya currently produces about 90,000 tonnes a year of copper.
Xstrata is also working on its $4.2 billion Las Bambas project in southern Peru. It would produce an average of 400,000 tonnes of copper concentrate plus gold, silver and molybdenum byproducts. The company's website says it would open by the end of 2014.
"Las Bambas is in the engineering phase. Obviously any political noise in the area affects all projects in southern Peru," Rivera said.
Protests against Tintaya due to misinformation, lack of development, expert says - Peru
By Greta Bourke
Business News Americas
28 May 2012
The root cause of the protests against Xstrata Copper's (LSE: XTA) Tintaya copper mine in Espinar province in Cuzco region is a combination of misinformation and delays to local development plans, mining consultant Leopoldo Monzón told BNamericas.
Protesters refused to meet with a government committee that travelled to the province over the weekend to try and resolve the opposition to the mine that flared up last week.
The government is facing an increase in mining conflicts organized by diverse players that oppose the activity, according to Monzón. "The population is in the middle and is [the sector] that most loses out," he said.
"On the one hand, radical anti-mining sectors are misinforming the population and when they govern - as is the case in Espinar - they do nothing despite having a generous canon available. On the other hand, the government is weak because it doesn't have the means to stop the protests," he added.
The protests are due to delays in development plans and the implementation of the new territorial organization law, according to Monzón.
"If the new land-use law had already been drawn up and accepted by the population and if [authorities] had started to carry out [development] plans, there would be no reason to protest... [The population] would already have 100% water and sewerage coverage as well as access roads," Monzón said.
"It's important to make the national public investment system (SNIP) more flexible to allow plans to be carried out," he added.
Meanwhile, the mines and energy ministry (MEM) is trying to set up talks with certain district mayors over opposition to Tintaya.
MEM minister Jorge Merino said that there is a connection between the protests in Espinar and the anti-mining leaders from Cajamarca that are opposed US-based Newmont Mining's US$4.8bn Minas Conga copper-gold project.
"One cannot go and talk when a violent group imposes unacceptable conditions... we are interested in the development of Espinar but we are being confronted with a very radical position because what they want is to shut down the mine," Merino said on national TV.
According to Merino, the radical group is also planning to start protests against Xstrata's Las Bambas project in Apurímac region.
The protesters claim that operations at Tintaya have polluted the Salado and Cañipía rivers and want the company to increase its contribution to a local development fund to 30% of its operating profit from the current 3%.
"The call for 30% is absurd," Monzón said. "No project would be profitable."
The mining canon also needs to be better organized or "in its place the mining companies could carry out projects under the works for taxes law," he added.
Xstrata has said it is willing to hold talks with the protesters.
Xstrata Copper is the red metal division of the multinational resource group Xstrata.
Xstrata Says Peru Mine Unaffected By Protests
Dow Jones Newswires
23 May 2012
LIMA – Xstrata Copper, a division of Anglo-Swiss mining company Xstrata PLC, said Wednesday that ongoing protests aimed at its Tintaya mine in southern Peru have not affected production.
A group of residents in the province of Espinar, located in Peru's Cuzco region, started protests this week to pressure Xstrata to increase contributions to a fund for local sustainable development projects. The protesters want the company to increase contributions to 30% of operating profit from the current 3%.
Local media reported on Wednesday that two people were injured when protesters confronted police. The protesters tried to take over company installations that pump water to the Tintaya copper mine, newspaper La Republica reported.
Located about 10 kilometers from the Tintaya mine, Xstrata is also developing its $1.47 billion Antapaccay project. Production at Antapaccay, which will deliver 160,000 tons of copper per year for at least the first five years of production, is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of this year.
"The protests by a small group of people in Espinar are not impacting Tintaya's production or the construction of our Antapaccay project," a spokeswoman for Xstrata Copper said. "We are committed to engaging in constructive dialogue with all our stakeholders to address any concerns."
Peru is the world's second biggest producer of copper and silver, and a major producer of gold, tin, zinc and other minerals.
Mining companies plan to invest about $53 billion in Peru in the next few years, but a number of those investment projects have faced delays due to community opposition largely over environmental concerns.
Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino said, however, that much of the opposition against mining companies in Peru comes from groups that are driven by political interests.
"We have to understand that there are political groups that have their own agenda that are creating conflicts based on allegations that have not been proved," Merino said Wednesday.
Statement of Concern and Solidarity with the Espinar Community
29 May 2012
Statement of Concern and Solidarity with the Espinar Community in view of the declaration of the state of emergency and ilegal detention of 22 civilians
We are international development organisations with links to the Catholic Church, who represent four European countries, Belgium, UK, Germany and Switzerland.
Bethlhem Mission Immensee, Switzerland
Broederlijk Delen, Belgium
CAFOD, England and Wales
Through this statement, we would like to express our great concern at the increasing conflict in Espinar in recent days and the declaration of a state of emergency in the province. According to local reports, there are about 1,500 police officers present in the region.
We are alarmed about the police violence aimed at people protesting against the Xstrata mining company, which has already resulted in the death of at least two people and a high number of police and civilians wounded, including the Mayor of the provincial municipality of Espinar.
In addition, we have received alarming information about the torture by public security forces of at least three young people from Espinar and the illegal detention and mistreatment of 22 civilians in the Tintaya Marquiri mine site. Off the 22 civilians being detained, three of them are women, one is a minor, and two are staff members of the Vicariate of Solidarity of Sicuani. The Vicariate has always been recognised for its constructive and impartial work in favour of human rights defence, respecting the legal framework and seeking coordination with the state authorities.
As international organisations, committed to the principles of social and environmental responsibility of mining companies, we make an appeal to the parties involved.
With urgency we ask that:
· The authorities guarantee the physical welfare of the detainees, their transfer to a medical centre or place of legal detention, and that the public security forces who have committed acts of violence are duly investigated.
· Xstrata does not allow its mine site to be used for the illegal detention of civilians.
· The delegation of the European Union and the European embassies in Peru give follow up to the accusations, harassment and criminalisation of the Vicariate staff and community leaders of Espinar who are seeking to defend the people's human rights, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.
· Care is given to ensure the respect for the human rights of the people participating in the protests, and that a peaceful resolution to the conflict is sought with the opening of a meaningful dialogue, facilitated through external and independent mediation.
We also respectfully ask the government authorities that:
· The dialogue is carried out with the presence of the most senior Xstrata representatives who have not been involved directly in the negotiations to date;
· The dialogue also includes representatives of the Ministries of Mining and Energy, Health and the Environment;
· The dialogue takes place in Espinar, and not in Cusco, so that the Espinar Community can know about it and feel part of the process;
· The concerns of the population regarding the high levels of heavy metals found in the soil, water, blood and urine of people living near the mining operations are taken seriously;
· The issue of water quality and scarcity is given consideration, taking into account that it affects a large number of the population and is their central concern with respect to the different mining projects that are being developed in the region;
· New studies and participatory environmental research is taken forward in an objective and scientific way, validated by all of the parties involved in the conflict;
Finally, we express our solidarity with the Vicariate of Sicuani, other social organisations and the municipal authorities, who have been striving for several months for a constructive way of making their concerns heard, regarding Xtrata's social and environmental mining operations in the region.
Bethlhem Mission Immensee, Switzerland
Broederlijk Delen, Belgium
CAFOD, England and Wales