MAC: Mines and Communities

International Request For Observers To A Referendum On The Rio Blanco Copper Project

Published by MAC on 2007-07-30

International request for observers to a referendum on the Rio Blanco copper project


30th July 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen: Please receive our cordial greetings from Lima, Peru!

We are contacting you today on behalf of the rural communities in the districts of Carmen de la Frontera, Ayabaca and Pacaipampa, in the region of Piura in northern Peru. These communities are currently being threatened by the impacts of a huge mining project – the Rioblanco copper mine project.

We, Red Muqui and the Frente por el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Frontera Norte del Perú are working in a broad alliance of Peruvian civil society organisations to defend the rights of these rural communities.

The purpose of this letter is to invite you as an international observer to a referendum on the Rioblanco copper mine in Peru. The referendum is going to take place on 16 September 2007 in the districts of Carmen de la Frontera, Ayabaca and Pacaipampa, in the region of Piura, Peru, close the the border with Ecuador.

The referendum will give the farmers' communities the chance to take up their right to participate actively in a decision that will affect their life, their future and their way of living.

Background Peru is a country which is extremely rich in minerals and natural resources. Over the last 15 years, the mining sector has grown enormously, with investments from international mining companies being supported by the government and multinational institutions. This rise in mining activities has lead to economic growth, but also to many conflicts about the scarce resources of land and water between the local rural communities and the big mining enterprises.

The Rioblanco Copper Mine The Rioblanco copper mine is one of the biggest mining projects in Peru and in Latin America. It is an open pit mine project, moving huge amounts of ground, cutting down forests and using dangerous chemicals to extract the minerals. The mine is currently in an exploration phase and is planned to be opened in 2010.

The area of the mine is situated in northern Peru, in the department of Piura, provinces of Huancabamba and Ayabaca. This is a biologically very fragile area where two important rivers have their sources and rainforests being home to many different species of animals and plants would be endangered.

The mine is owned by a Chinese consortium (Zijin Consortium) and is currently in an exploration phase. The Rioblanco copper mine in not the only mining project in the region. Once this pilote project is in implementation, several other mines will most probably follow and turn this region into a mining district of enormous dimensions.

Peruvian and international human rights organisations and environmentalists are worried because of the consecuences the future mine will have on the population, their farming activities, the flora and fauna in the region.

There is a lot of resistance against the mine in the local communities as life in the provinces of San Ignacio and Jaén in the neighbouring department of Cajamarca has already changed due to the presence of the international enterprise and will be subject to substantial changes once the mine will be opened. Several community leaders have been killed during confrontations and Human Rights violations have been taking place.

Organisations involved in the case Various national institutions and organisations are supporting the case:

The Defense Front for Sustainable Development in the North of Peru - Frente por el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Frontera Norte del Perú (in short Frente), is the coordinating body of the local organizations and social movements. The Frente and its members are looking for sustainable development processes in their region and for a peaceful dialogue between the different stakeholders engaged in the conflict.

The Red Muqui, a platform of Peruvian NGOs and civil society organisations, is supporting the local communities as well as the Frente de Defensa in the defense of Human Rights as well as environmental rights. They are working in a broad alliance of Peruvian institutions looking for the respect of Human Rights in extractive industries, more sustainable development and environmental protection.

The Peruvian Obudsman, the Defensoría del Pueblo, has published a report in which it shows evidence that the company does not enjoy the legal permission from the communities to operate on their land. It has also published a report on social conflicts in mining areas in Peru.

International organisations have also looked into the matter and published their findings and recommendations:

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has published a report on the rich biodiversity in the natural reserve Santuario Nacional Tabaconas Namballe which is neighbouring the future copper mine. This biodiversity is endangered by the future mine.

The Peru Support Group (UK), with the support of Oxfam GB, have carried out an international investigation to study the probable effects of this mining project. As a result of this investigation, the delegation recommended to abstain from mining activities in this region as it is extremely fragile in terms of biodiversity and Human Rights are being violated by imposing mining activities on the local population.

Misereor (Germany) has sent international journalists to do a documentary video on the case. The video is available on Google Videos on the internet (titled: The Majaz Case).

The Rioblanco case is being supported by various international agencies and institutions, such as Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Cafod (UK), CATAPA (Belgium), Caritas Germany, Misereor (Germany), Oxfam America, Oxfam GB, 11.11 (Belgium), Peru Support Group (UK) and others.

The local population, represented by the Frente de Defensa and other Peruvian organizations, will be very pleased and obliged if you get involved in the case and act as an international observer during the referendum.

Although the referendum is not a legally binding mechanism in Peru, it will definitely have an impact on the further development of this mining case, as other cases have shown. National and international organisations demand that the communities affected by extractive industries' projects should have the right for previous informed consent and should be involved in the decision on mining projects on their land.

We will be glad to provide you with any additional information. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us:

Javier Jahncke Benavente
Red Muqui
Telf. 0051.1.421 47 47

We thank you in advance for your consideration and are looking forward to receiving your answer.

Yours sincerely,

Javier Jahncke Benavente
Coordinator FEDEPAZ
Member organisation of RED MUQUI

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