MAC: Mines and Communities

Internet? Give us irrigation, Peru farmers say

Published by MAC on 2005-10-13

Internet? Give us irrigation, Peru farmers say

October 13, 2005


LIMA, Peru - Hundreds of Peruvian farmers living near the huge Las Bambas copper project plan a two-day protest on Sunday against a government program to spend a social fund on Internet connections in an area where many cannot read or write.

As part of Swiss-based Xstrata's concession deal to develop the southern Andes deposit, the company last year paid $45.5 million (26 million pounds) to a government-run fund to alleviate poverty in one of the country's most impoverished regions.

The government has said it plans to spend the money on installing computers connected to the Internet, soccer pitches and developing city squares in the Apurimac region.

"We're peasants, many of us cannot read or write ... But we don't believe the Internet will help us as much as an irrigation channel will," said Cristian Huilca, who went to Congress in Lima to lobby lawmakers, on Wednesday.

Huilca said farmers planned to block the entrance to the exploration site being developed by Xstrata, although it was not likely to stop exploration.

Xstrata, which aims to begin copper production at Las Bambas in 2011, was not immediately available for comment.

Mining is Peru's biggest export earner and money is flowing into poor Andean mining regions as metals prices hit record highs this year.

But many poor farmers and a growing number of officials worry that funds are being ill-spent on decorative parks and buildings rather than on badly needed schools, drinking water plants, hospitals and electricity provision.

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