MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Troops deployed after deaths in Tia Maria mine protests

Published by MAC on 2015-05-11
Source: BBC, Reuters, Peruvian Times

The confrontations, and deaths, have continued over Southern Copper Corp's proposed Tia Maria project.

Now government soldiers have been deployed, allegedly to "help maintain law and order".

Previous article on MAC: Peru: Deadly demonstrations and shareholder activism

Peru: Troops deployed after deaths in Tia Maria mine protests


9 May 2015

Peruvian soldiers have been deployed near the Tia Maria copper mine after the deaths of a protester and a policeman over the past week.

The government says the troops will "help maintain law and order" following weeks of violent protests.

Local residents say the mine will ruin the environment and damage agriculture in the area if it becomes operational.

The company, Southern Peru, says the mine will be compliant with the highest environmental standards.

Local residents in the southern Arequipa region have opposed the mining project since 2009.

A new set of protests began in March and three people have died since.

The latest fatalities are construction worker Henry Checlla, injured during clashes on Tuesday, and a policeman who died on Saturday after being hurt in a protest on Wednesday.

The Peruvian government has not ruled out declaring a state of emergency in the southern province of Islay, where the copper reserves are located.

"We haven't lost hope that dialogue is resumed. Meanwhile, we are taking measures to help maintain law and order," President Ollanta Humala said.

The Mexican owned-company which has been given mining concessions in the Arequipa region of southern Peru, says it will invest approximately $1.4bn (£900m).

"Tia Maria project will use state of the art technology which would be compliant with the highest international environmental and sustainable development standards," the company says on its website.

The project was put on hold several times over environmental issues, but was given final approval last year.

Why is Tía María a failure? Six key flaws

In the Tia Maria conflict, in Peru’s Arequipa region, the dialogue has failed or does not exist because of six essential reasons that I try to summarize.

Jorge Agurto


11 May 2015

1. Lack of sincerity, good faith and transparency

Since the first attempt to develop the Tia Maria copper project back in 2009, there was no sincerity nor good faith on part of the Peruvian State and the mining company, Southern Copper, to share information in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a complete and transparent way.

It was stressed, as it is now, that the study was solid, complete and flawless… until the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) brought it down with 136 observations. This first EIA was canceled in 2011, with the social cost of three deaths by police repression.

The most common sense and ideal situation would have been that the government ask the UNOPS once more to review the second EIA before approving this sensitive project again in 2014. But the government and the company gave pretexts and avoided the review of the study by this impartial body.

The consequences are plain to see. Now it is too late for the government or any agency to be credible or gain the necessary social reception.

This situation is even worse considering that serious technical objections to the second EIA came to light as well as the concealment of facts, such as that the project also intends to mine gold (while the project was always described as copper project) which the company would have had to develop special control measures for these kind of projects.

2. Belligerent, aggressive and unfriendly attitude against Mayors and leaders

The government and the mining company never treated the opponents of the Tia Maria project as citizens and their representatives as interlocutors.

Adjectives as ignorant, recalcitrant and enemies of development have been applied not only to local farmers but also to social leaders critical of the project.

The provincial mayor of Islay and three other district mayors, legitimately elected as representative authorities, have been denigrated and abused even though they are also part of the Peruvian State.

The press, mostly controlled by El Comercio Group, has lent itself to the infamy of celebrating the statements of the national authorities whom are in favor of mining and to denigrate the local authorities and citizens who defend agriculture.

This belligerent attitude has not helped to create the conditions for a rapprochement or constructive dialogue between the two actors bent on diametrically opposite and extreme positions.

3. Maneuvering and accusations of anti-mining terrorism

The false announcement of the cancellation of the Tia Maria project due to opposition by “anti-mining terrorism” was at the same time a stupidity and a serious accusation thrown by a senior official of the mining company.

While the cancellation was denied a few hours later, there is no doubt that it was an intentional maneuver to pressure the government to tighten its strategy and impose the project based on delegitimizing opponents.

The accusation of “anti-mining terrorism” was echoed by many business and political spokesmen and was reproduced often enough until it became commonplace in public opinion. As serious as the accusation is the government has never exhibited any evidence for the alleged political or terrorist conspiracy accusations against mining activities.

4. Repression, deaths, media operations

A fourth misconception is that police repression can solve a conflict that has deep social roots. The government is mistaken if thinks that the citizens of Arequipa can be turned docile with bullets and tear gas.

The unveiling of a “terrorist farmer”, the shooting to death of two unarmed civilians and the disproportionate police presence in Islay province is the worst scenario to build bridges and promote dialogue.

Members of the police are also victims of a conflict that they have not generated and which exposes risks to their integrity. More than 100 police officers have been injured so far, some seriously wounded.

The adoption of a State of Emergency involves the restriction or suspension of constitutional rights such as freedom of speech, inviolability of homes and freedom of assembly and movement. Obviously, this measure will not solve the conflict, rather it will aggravate the open wounds of a community that has not lost its dignity and is willing to sacrifice in order to defend, paradoxically, its life and future.

5. False dialogue scenarios and accusations of intransigence

Until today the scenarios and agendas for dialogue have been handled by the government in a way that is only convenient to the mining company’s claims, without respecting the basic conditions for horizontal, direct and respectful dialogue between two confronting parties.

Some government officials, such as the Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal, played the dirty game of presenting the local leaders to the press as rebellious, intransigent and unwilling to dialogue.

What the government does not accept is, that at this stage of the conflict, the population of the Tambo Valley rejects the project and will not dialogue without a sign of distension, which today can only mean the cancellation or suspension of the project.

6. Avoid addressing the fundamental issue

The underlying problem generated by the conflict is the coexistence of large-scale mining and agriculture in the province of Islay and in the Tambo Valley.

The government avoids recognizing that behind the Tia Maria project is a set of other mining projects, whose concessions cover more than 85 percent of the province of Islay. The intention seems to be to turn the entire province into a mining district.

In such conditions, the survival of agriculture and livestock farming is practically unfeasible. It is not just a single mining project, but also an activity whose intensity and extension threatens the current life conditions and survival of most of the population of the Valley.

They human rights of the population in the Valley and their legitimate right to defend their way of life, economic means and development option are at stake.

Let us not forget that agriculture is a sustainable economic activity and the Political Constitution of Peru in its Article 88 states: “The State preferentially supports agricultural development”.

In conclusion, if Tía María failed it is not because of an anti-mining conspiracy, but because the nature of the project that makes it unfeasible and also the mistakes of the government and its spokesmen and operators.


Tia Maria Copper Project: At the Negotiation Table Again

Peruvian Times

6 May 2015

Farmers and government officials are attempting to sit at the bargaining table again today in Arequipa, following the death of a second protester in Mollendo, in the most recent violent protests against Southern Copper’s Tia Maria mining project.

Those meeting for dialogue, led by the People’s Ombudsman, include the minister of Energy and Mines, Rosa María Ortiz, Arequipa’s governor, Yamila Osorio, the Agriculture minister, Juan Manuel Benites, and the mayors of the towns of Islay, Cocachacra and Punta Bonbon.

The strike began in early April, led by farmers from the towns along the Tambo River basin, who are convinced that the Tia Maria copper project — just 2.5 km up the road— will pollute their water supply and their land.

The Tambo Basin covers a farming area of some 14,500 hectares, on which over 3,500 farmers work in small plots, growing rice, sugar cane, garlic and potatoes.

Tia Maria —which Southern Copper, owned by Grupo Mexico, has decided to postpone until 2017— was first shelved in 2011 after violent protests broke out in the Islay province. Three activists died in the protests then, but unrest began as early as 2009.

At the time, the mining company’s environmental impact study, initially approved by the government, was evaluated independently by UNOPS, the UN project services office, and the office made 138 observations to the report.

In 2014, the government approved a new environmental impact study, which includes a water desalination plant project that Southern Copper in 2009 rejected as too expensive.

Second protester killed in clashes over Peru copper project


5 May 2015

LIMA - A man protesting Southern Copper Corp's $1.4 billion Tia Maria project in Peru was killed in clashes with police on Tuesday, the second death in two weeks as government talks with opponents remain thwarted.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez said authorities were investigating how the protester was killed and two others wounded in Peru's southern region of Arequipa.

Tia Maria has the potential to add 120,000 tonnes of copper to Nasdaq-listed Southern Copper's annual supply, but the project has been stalled since three people died in similar rallies in 2011. Opponents say they fear the project will pollute surrounding agricultural valleys.

Helar Valencia, one of four local mayors calling for Tia Maria's cancellation, said the death of another protester further eroded trust in national authorities.

"This is going to anger people even more," Valencia said. "If before only some were against Tia Maria, now I think it's the whole valley."

Perez, who said he had ordered police not to use lethal weapons, replaced local law enforcement chiefs after another protester died from a bullet wound April 22.

Southern Copper said last week that the protests might delay the project's 2017 start date and that progress hinged on talks between opponents and the government of President Ollanta Humala, who supports Tia Maria.

Valencia said talks broke down more than two weeks ago and had not resumed since.

Construction on Tia Maria was poised to start when the protests broke out more than 40 days ago.

Southern Copper, controlled by Grupo Mexico, received an environmental permit for Tia Maria last year after it agreed to build a desalinization plant to ease pressure on local water supplies.

Conflicts over mining projects in Peru, the world's third-biggest copper producer, have held up billions in investment and left several protesters dead in recent years.

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Ted Botha)

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