MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Violence at Candente Copper's mine

Published by MAC on 2013-01-28
Source: AP, New Internationalist, EJOLT

As predicted in our recent (Perú - Cañaris: The first mining conflict of the year?), four people are reported as wounded in clashes over a Canadian-owned mine after the community's deadline to re-start protests passed on 20th January 2013.

In a sign that this could be the start of yet more violent clashes, the interior ministry has announced the creation of special police forces to patrol mining zones.

Against this backdrop, Newmont has continued to claim that their disputed Conga project will not go ahead with community support. Also, Xstrata have increased the estimate of costs for their Las Bambas project, but the likely merger with Glencore may lead to their withdrawal from the project as part of company rationalisation.

Clash at Canadian-owned Peru mine leaves at least 4 hurt

Vancouver-based company involved in dispute with local officials over drilling at copper mine

The Associated Press

25 January 2013

Police in northern Peru say at least four people have been wounded in a clash with several hundred people trying to enter a Canadian-owned copper mine where drilling began last month.

At least a dozen people were wounded, with one man shot in the back with live ammunition, a local doctor said by phone. The man spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.

Regional police commander Col. Jorge Linares denied that live ammunition had been used, saying police only used tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protests began Sunday against the Cañariaco mine.

Its owner, Candente Copper Corp. of Vancouver, says it obtained approval from more than 700 locals in July. But local officials say the community rejected the mine in a referendum.

Local referendums on mining: the Kañaris in Peru

By Joan Martinez-Alier

EJOLT prjkect -

23 January 2013

Latin America has turned to local referendums in mining conflicts. The precursors include Tambogrande in northern Peru, and Esquel in Patagonia in Argentina a little over ten years ago. Although the legal validity of such referendums is not always recognised, they were effective in stopping gold projects. "Yes to agriculture, no to mining", was said in Tambogrande, an irrigated valley of the Peruvian coast. Other slogans were: "yes to life, no to mining", "yes to water, no to gold", depending on the location. The examples of Tambogrande and Esquel were transmitted by video and supported by networks such as the Mining Conflicts Observatory in Latin America (OCMAL) and by the web page which was born in Esquel, "No a la Mina". They are not NIMBY cases but manifestations of popular and indigenous environmentalism, local expressions of the global Environmental Justice movement.

Confronted by the inhibition of the authorities towards the protests and their acceptance of bribes offered by mining companies, we see that local inhabitants exhibit a proud sense of democracy sometimes reinforced by feelings of indigenous identity. Direct action is used, marches and strikes, but also local consultations. Thus, in June 2012 there was a referendum in Loncopué (Neuquén, Argentina), which was won with 84 per cent opposing open pit mining.

There are about 30 or 40 well-documented cases in Latin America, with two main varieties. Consultations that appeal to the ILO Convention 169 which states that indigenous peoples may withhold consent to mining, plantations or extraction of oil or gas in their territories. In Guatemala there have been many consultations of this type, the most famous in Sipakapa in the department of San Marcos, another gold mining case. Without always attaining immediate victories, they at least increase the social legitimacy of the opposition and delay project execution deadlines. In other cases (as in Peru, in the case of Islay in Arequipa) mainstream citizens (not ethnic minorities) organise referendums following the precedents of Tambogrande and Esquel. A third possibility is for the State to ask for a local referendum, as could occur in Uruguay with the Aratirí iron mining project. A recent analysis of such referendums is offered in Policy Brief n. 1 of the European - Latin American research project ENGOV

A current case is that faced by the Kañaris community in Ferreñafe, Lambayeque (Peru) who mobilize against the junior Canadian Candente Copper company and against the Peruvian state. This Quechua-speaking community were possibly ancient mitimaes. The Cañariaco Norte project involves an investment of 1.5 billion dollars and 110,000 tonnes of copper per year for 25 years. On September 30, 2012, the villagers (male and female) from the different villages of San Juan de Kañaris, attended a community consultation. A previous meeting (favourable to mining) had recorded low participation. The final publicly released result was 1,896 participants (about half of the census), of which 1,719 voted against the project, 106 in favour, and 71 blank and null votes. They did not apparently appeal to the ILO Convention 169 but instead simply to local democracy. The consultation was witnessed by the national police and support organisations: the National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining in Peru (CONACAMI), the MUQUI Network, the so-called Command Control Unit of Lambayeque. The Ministry of Energy and Mines ignored the results despite the Director of Energy and Mines of the Lambayeque Region attending the referendum. The result was also rejected by the Candente Copper company and its CEO, Jeanne Freezea, who announced that it would continue with the exploration of copper, gold and silver in the Kañaris lands. Meanwhile, the community president requested that the wishes of the community expressed by secret ballot in this consultation be respected.

In late 2012 there was a roadblock and a temporary kidnapping of three geologists; forms of action performed the world over. On December 17, 2012, in a tug-of-war, the community suspended protests until presentation of the conclusions of the dialogue with the authorities. The company offered the neighbouring community one million shares once construction of the mine would start. The price of these shares on the stock exchange ebbs and flows with the news coming from Ferreñafe. On January 11, 2013, the president of the community, Cristóbal Barrios, announced the decision of almost four thousand villagers to restart protests against the mining project, if it were not permanently closed within this month. On 21st January the police threw tear gas against demonstrators approaching the Candente Copper mining camp, on the following day a general strike was declared in San Juan de Kañaris, where there is much tension.

See the short video: Lambayeque: Comuneros de Kañaris inician paro indefinido contra proyecto minero, Martes, 22 enero 2013

Peruvian protesters face increased police brutality

By Stephanie Boyd

New Internationalist

25 January 2013

In an ongoing campaign to remind the public that the police exist to serve foreign corporations, Peru's interior ministry has announced the creation of special police forces to patrol mining zones.

While mining executives may sleep more peacefully at night with this news, Peru's indigenous and farming communities are asking who will protect them from the environmental contamination and human rights abuses generated by the mining projects.

Since President Ollanta Humala came to power 18 months ago, 15 civilians have died during protests with Peruvian police forces, the majority in conflicts related to oil, mining and gas projects.

The most recent incident occurred on 23 January, when 400 Quecha-speaking farmers from San Juan de Cañaris in northern Peru were attacked by police. They used tear gas to disperse the peaceful crowd from the installations of Candente Copper, a Canadian company. Community leaders say the proposed mine would destroy their source of water and livelihood. Last year, Cañaris held a referendum in which 95 per cent voted against the mine.

Peruvian law requires the government to consult farming and indigenous communities before giving out concessions on their land, but human rights groups have criticized loopholes in the law. It is also important to note that it isn't binding, meaning the government must consult the community, and is then free to go ahead and do what it wants.

Peru's military and police forces have been accumulating dangerous new powers to use force against civilians in recent years, including the right to open fire on unarmed protesters. In January 2013, a new law enabled the military to remove bodies without the presence of public prosecutors during a state of emergency.

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to recognize the possibilities for abuse, cover-up and impunity under these new draconian laws.

Newmont pouring $150 million into Peru’s Conga this year

Cecilia Jamasmie

25 January 2013

The world's number two gold producer, Newmont Mining, expects to invest $150 million on its $4.8 billion gold-copper Conga project in Peru this year, but said it won't go ahead without community support, reports BNAmericas.

The article quotes CFO, Russell Ball, saying the company plans to spend $80 million in equipment, $40 million in reservoir construction and nearly $30 million in community and social-related issues.

Last year was not an easy one for Newmont. Production troubles, labour issues and political problems in Peru and Indonesia hit the miner. On top of that, global demand for copper remained weak due to the prevailing frail economic environment, which —in turn— didn’t let prices rise and caused the cost of gold production to soar.

In the first nine months of the fiscal year, the company reported lower production figures for both copper and gold. Attributable gold production stood at 3.73 million ounces, down from 3.87 million ounces over the same period last year. Attributable copper production was 108 million pounds, down from 152 million pounds during the first nine months of 2011.

Newmont decided to halt Conga’s construction work in November 2011 after violent protests in the northern Peru region forced the government to declare a state of emergency.

Social pressure continued all though last year, with Peru’s government hiring international consultants to report on report on the viability of the water strategy proposed for the Cajamarca region, where the project is located.

Minas Conga is being developed by Minera Yanacocha, of which Newmont Mining, the world's number two gold producer, holds a 51.35% interest and Compañía de Minas Buenaventura a 43.65%.

In 2013 Newmont said it would continue to follow its "water first approach" announced in August last year. This means it will focus on the construction of four reservoirs it agreed to build in the Cajamarca region.

The contentious Conga is set to begin production in early 2015, but it continues to be on hold until at least the end of 2013. It is capable of producing up to 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of copper per annum with a 19-year life of mine.

Conga was designed basically as an extension of Buenaventura's nearby Yanacocha, which is Latin America's largest gold mine and it is approaching the end of its life.

Xstrata’s Las Bambas copper mine to cost $5.2bn


25 January 2013

LONDON - Xstrata said on Friday its Las Bambas copper project in Peru would cost $5.2 billion, keeping to 2012 estimates as the miner prepares for a merger with Glencore that will see many of its growth projects come under scrutiny.

Xstrata is the world's fourth-largest producer of copper and, among the diversified miners, has the largest exposure to copper, a metal that is expected to benefit from tight supply, as mine grades deteriorate and new projects lag.

Copper, however, is also likely to be a battleground with Glencore when mining projects are reviewed once the tie-up is complete. Commodities trader Glencore favours expanding existing operations in the promising, though tough, Congolese copper belt, over plans in Latin America, where miners have battled with delays, community protests and escalating costs.

Analysts expect a review of the combined Glencore-Xstrata group's projects by the incoming management, led by Glencore Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg, could result in cuts to Xstrata's pipeline of greenfield projects, particularly in locations like Argentina, where costs have soared and political risks are seen to be high.

Xstrata increased the cost of Las Bambas by more than 20 percent last year to $5.2 billion after permitting delays held back construction, but it stuck to that on Friday despite what some analysts had flagged as the risk of further costly delays, due to community unrest in Peru.

The project - with a capital intensity of $13,000 per annual tonne, at the mid to lower end of the spectrum - is now expected to ramp up during 2015. Xstrata expects combined annual copper production from Peru of around 700,000 tonnes from 2015, 400,000 of that from Las Bambas.

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