MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Fora In San Ignacio And Piura: Mining Does Not Generate Development

Published by MAC on 2006-07-06
Source: Vicariate for the Environment


EL PARAMO N°002, (Electronic bulletin of the Vicariate for the Environment (VIMA) Jaen

6th July 2006

Last month, the 'Front for the Development of the Northern Border of Peru' (el 'Frente por el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Frontera Norte', FDSFN), a superordinate organization which unites different actors of the civil society of the North of Peru, organized different informative events. The 9th of June, marking a postponed celebration of the Day of the Environment, saw a forum about 'mining and its impact on the environment' organized in San Ignacio (see Forum in San Ignacio: Mining does not generate development). On the 16th of June another informative forum about 'mining and sustainable development' was held in Piura (see Forum in Piura: "Without zoning, mining activities would be catastrophically").

During both events, which were widely attended by representatives of the whole civil society, the mining industry sector was analyzed on a national level, with a particular focus on the case of the Rio Blanco project of Minera Majaz.

The mining industry was questioned: it generates little employment, tax revenues are minimal and the environmental costs are not taken into account. Therefore the conclusion is clear: mining does not generate development, and even less sustainable development. Nevertheless, the Peruvian State maintains a politics of massive exploitation of the natural resources of the country. There exists a huge confusion between what is 'economical growth', as against 'sustainable development'. This has led towards an unbridled growth of mining concessions. However, this multitude of concessions is not accompanied by the necessary zoning into different economic areas. Under such basic classification, the potential of every area must be taken into account, and the voices of the local actors must be heard.

Concerning the case of the Rio Blanco Project of Minera Majaz, it was clearly demonstrated that the company is illegally present in the area. Minera Majaz cannot count on the necessary approval of the General Assembly of the communities were it is organizing its activities. Without this requisite, the company becomes illegal and is therefore violating the Peruvian Constitution and different international treaties.

Given that the Rio Blanco project is located at the source of various river basins, there exists a serious risk that mining activities would affect the springs. The environmental contamination and degradation of the river basins could severely damage the agricultural sector. Furthermore, the open pit mine would be deployed in a very vulnerable ecological area containing cloud forest and paramos, only 20 kilometers away from the national reserve of Tabaconas Namballe. Therefore, we conclude that the location of the Rio Blanco project is inappropriate for any mining activity. Also, it is very likely that, as soon as the Rio Blanco project starts up, many other companies will also want to exploit their concessions. Thousands of hectares in the region have been leased, although they remain untouched for the present. Nevertheless, the exploitation would have drastic consequences for the whole region.


The presence of Minera Majaz has provoked a lot of resistance by inhabitants of the northern provinces of Peru. Many protest marches have been organized in Huancabamba and Ayabaca, as well as in Jaén and San Ignacio. The fiercest protests took place in July and August 2005: a second march to the mining campment resulted in a second fatality, and was followed by a region-wide strike. In September, the Front for the Development of the Northern Border of Peru (the 'Front') was created in attempt to revive the dialogue with the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM). Nevertheless, the MEM withdrew from this table of dialogue after a couple of meetings, just when the first accusations about the violations of Human Rights were expected.

The MEM questioned the representativity of the leaders of the Front and argued that the mining company did not participate in the dialogue. However, the Front rejects any participation of the mining company because of its illegal presence. The legal situation of the company is still disputed. The MEM abandoned the dialogue after a difficult process of more than five months (see The Peruvian State abandons dialogue). With regards to the role of the Peruvian State in the conflict, we refer to the open letter of the 'Network Muqui', a network of different local and national institutions that stimulate sustainable development of the region (see Network 'Muqui' invokes the Peruvian State to protect the civil rights concerning the case of Majaz).

In response to the retreat from the dialogue, the Front organized a macro regional strike in the provinces of Ayabaca, Huancabamba and San Ignacio (see North border region of Peru strikes two days to demand the retreat of Minera Majaz). At the same time, a petition was started to collect sufficient support to demand a popular referendum to define the future of the northern region of Peru. Nevertheless, the MEM has already made clear that it will not consider the result of the referendum as binding (see Locals demand popular referendum about Rio Blanco. State will not accept the results.).

A delegation of farmers of the northern region of Peru will march to Lima the 10th of July to request a meeting with the newly elected authorities (see Protest march to Lima against the mining project Rio Blanco of Minera Majaz). The conflict of Minera Majaz will be put on the agenda for the next government and the petition signed by thousands of locals will be presented to demand a binding referendum.

In addition, the communities stand strong in their argument that it is the State that has caused the problem. They wish to have a dialogue, not as a means to negotiate the entry of the company, but to resolve the problem of its illegal presence and human rights abuses by the company.

Last month, in a workshop and a Forum in Piura, organized by the Front for Sustainable Development of the Northern Peruvian Frontier and their allied organisations, these arguments were discussed and strengthened.

The conclusion was that the solution was through a process of Free Prior and Informed Consent. Since then a process of popular vote has begun where the communities have been collecting signatures: to date some 5,000 signatures have demanded that the local authorities implement the consultation processes.

The situation reminds us all of the popular consultation process reached in Tambogrande which was a crucial element in stopping the mining company from performing their mining activities.The leaders of the communities affected by mining in Cajamarca, due to Newmont´s Yanacocha mine, are supporting the communities of Piura and a strengthening of the Northern Group which was formed by the companies seeking to execute mining activities in the biodiverse regions of Northern Peru.

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