MAC/20: Mines and Communities

The popular referendum on September 16th

Published by MAC on 2007-09-15

The popular referendum on September 16th

EL PARAMO N°006

September 2007

Electronic Bulletin of VIMA, the Vicariate for the Environment

While the day of the referendum draws closer - only some days from now - the social climate in the region is heating up more every day. Accusations fly about insults, death treats by phone, and even armed assaults. Last month the mayor of San Ignacio, also president of the Frente, coalition of grassroots movements that organise the referendum, has been victim of an armed assault. More worrisome is the arrival of the army in Ayabaca – zone where the referendum is to be held.

The aim of the referendum is to enable the rural population in the northern Peruvian department of Piura to express their opinion about the forthcoming Rio Blanco copper mine project of Minera Majaz, the Majaz mining company. For over four years, the presence of the Minera Majaz company has caused social problems in the region. Over 30 000 people living in the districts of Ayabaca, Pacaipama and Carmen de la Frontera will participate in the referendum next Sunday September 16th.

Meanwhile the communities of Ayabaca observe how Minera Majaz is stepping up its activities against the referendum. Minera Majaz is organising festivities for the people with music and liquor on the 14th and 15th of September, the eve of the referendum. The head of Majaz's public relations department, Andrew Bristow, confirmed in La República of 04-09-07 that the company is supporting these festivities.

Regardless of the discussion about the legality of the referendum, the community leaders in Ayabaca, Pacaipampa and Carmen de la Frontera continue with the final preparations, to ensure some 30 thousand people are able to pronounce themselves on mining activities in their area. Together with 20 representatives of the NGO 'Transparencia', some 20 international organisations send their representatives to participate as observers of the referendum. All of the organizations are active in areas relating to citizenship and democracy, and come from a number of different countries, among them Canada, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and the United States.

Meanwhile, on the national level, the government laughs away the referendum. President Alan García thinks the referendum is absurd; the president of the National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy, Isaac Cruz, has called it 'unacceptable' and the Ministry of Energy and Mining announces that the referendum is 'against the right that people have to receive adequate information'. The National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE) on the other hand, considers that these kinds of referendum are a well-established mechanism for participation of communal and regional governments. This statement can put an end to the agitated debate about the legality or illegality of the referendum, which holds the region in its grip for over a month now.

More information about the referendum? See http://www.consultavecinal.org

More information about the Majaz case, see: http://www.todosobremajaz.com

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