MAC: Mines and Communities

Peruvian Communities sign an agreement with BHP Billiton

Published by MAC on 2005-01-15

Peruvian Communities sign an agreement with BHP Billiton

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Has the world's most powerful mining company become responsive to community demands? Or is it continuing to pull the wool over peoples' eyes? In truth, BHPBilliton seems to be doing both - depending on where it operates or is seeking to.

Recently five Peruvian campesino (farming) communities in Espinar, together with their allies, sealed an agreement with the company, under which it must offer replacement land, relocation with proper infrastructure, recognise cases of human rights violations, undertake joint environmental monitoring activities, and support development projects for community benefit. Any future mining activity in their area will only be undertaken if BHPBilliton obtains the prior consent of the land owners (the communities).

The agreement is viewed as a significant advance by local communities. Previously, their demands were largely ignored by the company. Through community organisation and the intervention of the Community Aid Abroad Mining Ombudsman, the Tintaya Dialogue Roundtable was established in Espinar to address community complaints. The recent agreement was negotiated within this dialogue process.

Elsewhere, traditional land owners continue to be angered at the company 's broken promises (in Papua New Guinea, for example), or its apparent deceit (as, only a week ago, in the Indian state of Orissa). In Espinar, the communities involved in the dialogue process enter a critical stage, while their agreement with the mining company is put to the test.

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