MAC: Mines and Communities

What Is Happening In Tintaya?

Published by MAC on 2003-06-16
Source: CooperAccion

What is happening in Tintaya?

By Jose de Echave

What has been going on in Espinar? To understand the recent events, we have to look at the complex map of conflicts which are going on in this province. There are at least three settings of the conflict, which run parallel and can be summarized as follows:

First, at the base of the conflict is a collection of demands from a conjunction of organizations in the province. These demands arise from an agreement signed in September of 2003 by which BHP Billiton Tintaya would pay, in the first five years of the project, a maximum of 3% of their pre-tax earnings, or a fixed minimum of U$1.5 million annually. These recourses would be utilized to finance development projects. The agreement was signed by almost all of the organizations representing Espinar, including some of those who are leading the recent demonstrations, and who seek to disavow the framework of the September 2003 agreement and instead present new demands.

The second scene in this conflict is the situation with the campesino communities, who have been directly affected by the arrival of mining to the region in the 1980's. In accordance to their demands an agrement was signed this past 21 December 2004, by which BHP Billiton Tintaya would commit to provide the communities with new lands, a sum of U$330,000 per year to finance development projects, and to implement participative environmental monitoring processes. Cases where the company had violated human rights of community members were identified, and specific reparations were being worked out. Until the moment that the conflict exploded, the company and the communities, supported by non-governmental organizations, were working out the implementation of the agreement.

A third setting in this conflict emerged when the company put into operation a new tailings deposit operation in Huinipampa. The residents of this small headwaters region have expressed fears of possible impacts of this project mainly over effects on their water resources as well as its location, uphill from the path of a small river, the Cjuluyomayo. Mechanisms for dialogue have begun to be put into place, which have not appeared to overcome differences and calm the fears of the community members of this basin.

The recent demonstations and acts of violence revolve principally around the provencial demands for a radical reformulation of the draft agreement signed in September 2003. One of the demands that called attention is the request that the company contribute a fixed amount of U$20 million annually. The proposal to reformulate the agreement was made in an assembly on May 17, and delivered to the company on May 18, with the request that the company give their response on May 20, in the Plaza de Armas in the city of Yauri. The demonstrations erupted on May 23, immediately producing regrettable acts of violence. This short amount of time between the formal delivery of the demands and the demonstrations should show that there was a lack of will for real dialogue. No one in their right mind would think that demands of these magnitude could be seriously considered in such a short time period.

In this setting, it is necessary to take up the path of dialogue again, a dialogue which has permitted important advances in the zone of influence of the mines of Tintaya, which today run the risk of being lost. For this is is essential to identify the legitimate agenda of the population of Espinar and differenciate between that and subordinate interests which may respond to other motivations.

Without doubt this is a moment of truth for all the actors who have worked in this region for the establishment adequate relations between diverse groups, preventing any forms of marginalization and strengthening strategies of tolerance and coordination. This situation demands that we very clearly diferenciate between really what is a fair demand and what is an excessive demand -- out of touch with reality, and which might be playing with the expectations of the population.

We hope that sooner rather than later, the path of dialogue is taken up again in Espinar, and in this new context, the experience, abilities, commitments and alliances which have been developed in these past years will permit the finding of a solution and the continuation of the work for the development of the communities.

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