In Peru there is a lot of expectation about what the new government of Pedro Castillo is going to do in mining matters. Throughout the last few weeks, various organizations and communities affected by mining have sent messages to the new government that takes office on July 28, mainly related to addressing their environmental, health and human rights demands. Many of these voices come from the Andean South of Peru, the region where there are more socio-environmental conflicts related to transnational mining activity.
Human Rights without Borders (DHSF) is an organization that works on issues related to the impacts of mining in the Andean South of Peru, specifically in the provinces of Espinar, Chumbivilcas and Paruro, in the department of Cusco. Important large-scale mining projects and operations are found in this region. Two of these operations are: Antapaccay, owned by the Swiss mining company Glencore (Espinar province); and Constancia, owned by the Canadian company Hudbay (Chumbivilcas province).
The mining operations in this region are located in the territories of indigenous and peasant communities that are mainly engaged in agriculture, so water is very important for their subsistence. Large-scale mining generates pressure and competition for the use of water, not only because it consumes huge amounts of water to extract and process the mineral, but also because it pollutes rivers and lakes with its chemical and toxic waste. All this generates resistance from the communities and socio-environmental conflicts.
Oracio Pacori, director of Human Rights without Borders, makes an analysis of the main characteristics of mining activity in the South Andean region of Peru, focused mainly on the Espinar province, where the Antapaccay mining project is located. It is an emblematic case that reproduces many patterns in the way in which mining is imposed and the impacts it generates. Espinar, where minerals have been exploited for almost 4 decades, provides an overview of what can happen in the regions where other important mining projects are being imposed, such as Tía María, Quellaveco, Las Bambas, and several others.
FIRST PART – Overview of mining in the Andean South of Peru
The Antapaccay and Constancia mining operations are located within the so-called “Mining Corridor” of the South Andean region of Peru, an area that is home to important mining operations and highways, through which minerals are transported to the Pacific coast for export. This area is constantly militarized as a result of the “states of emergency”, a normative figure that suspends the rights of communities and social protests to guarantee the production and export of minerals.
The Antapaccay mine (formerly the Tintaya mine), is a polymetallic deposit that produces copper, silver and gold. Glencore is currently seeking to expand its mining operations in Espinar, through the expansion of Antapaccay, towards the new “Coroccohuayco” mining project.
In this part of the interview, Oracio Pacori gives us an overview of what is happening in Espinar and the South Andean region of Peru in relation to mining, and the role that DHSF plays.
Oracio Pacori (DHSF): Audio only in Spanish
Transcription: My name is Oracio Ángel Pacori Mamani. I am the current director of Human Rights Without Borders (DHSF). DHSF is an NGO, a non-profit organization of civil society, that promotes the defense of Human Rights, mainly in the high provinces of the Cusco region, in Peru. I am referring to the provinces of Espinar, Chumbivilcas and Paruro. These are three provinces that have one characteristic in common, the three are in a territory where extractive activities are carried out, mainly large-scale mining. But they are exclusively rural provinces, with a strong identity, each with its own characteristics.
These three provinces are also linked to the Southern “Mining Corridor”, because it links the regions of Puno, Cusco, Arequipa and Apurímac, where the largest mining project in the country is located: the Las Bambas project, which is now owned by MMG (Minerals and Metals Group, China), but let’s not forget that this project was previously owned by Glencore Xtrata.
In the case of the mining corridor, Espinar is an emblematic case. It is the only province in the mining corridor, where there is an experience of 40 years (of mining). There is the Glencore Antapaccay mining project, which was previously the Xtrata Tintaya project. The Coroccohuayco expansion project is now in the process of an exploration study – in prior consultation. This tells us that Espinar will continue to be an emblematic case, because if the Coroccohuayco expansion of Glencore is approved, we would be talking about 30 to 40 more years of mining. So (Espinar) is going to continue to be an emblematic case.
As we can see, DHSF works on issues of defense of Rights in these provinces, mainly on extractive and defense of Collective Rights issues, which has to do with the defense of the environment, the negative impacts that this generates (mining), mainly in peasant communities, and the affectation, resistance and mobilization that is generated through social organizations.
SECOND PART – Coexistence with mining, Impacts and social conflicts
To talk about of the coexistence with mining in Espinar, it is necessary to refer to the so-called “Framework Agreement”, signed between the mining company and the municipality in 2003, whereby 3% of the annual profits of the mining activity are destined to the development of the province. Since its creation, the organizations have unsuccessfully demanded the modification of the agreement, so that the province autonomously administers these resources, and not the company, as it happens now.
For years, communities and social organizations have demanded that the state and the government pay attention to their demands, so that the framework agreement can be modified and environmental and health problems can be resolved. However, the apathy of the state and the company has led to conflicts of great intensity. In 2012, the population mobilized and was violently repressed by the police, the consequences of which were four people killed, several injured and arbitrary detentions. As a result of these conflicts, social protest has been criminalized through lawsuits against the province’s social leaders.
Of all the existing mining operations in the mining corridor, Antapaccay in Espinar, is probably the one that causes the most complaints of contamination and damage to health, and where the most social conflicts and state repression have occurred.
Oracio Pacori (DHSF): Audio only in Spanish
Transcription: In the first social conflict is where the issue of coexistence (with mining) visible years ago, and to find mechanisms for how Espinar benefits from mining activity … that is how this first “framework agreement” was born, so that a part of the profits generated (by mining) are distributed to benefit the development of Espinar. But the “framework agreement” failed to institutionalize itself, and mining activity continued to advance, generating other types of impacts. We have been part of the conflict in 2012. The mining activity had generated environmental impacts … that is, the impacts were already visible, mainly in the water. That is why through a study we demonstrated that there was pollution that (mining) was generating in water resources. A situation of conflict is generated, no longer to see issues of social relations, but to see how these impacts are mitigated, to seek mechanisms to be able to solve the environmental impact that the mining activity was generating. It is there, at that time, when the first cases of criminalization of the social leaders of the communities, are seen, who only came out to protest to enforce their rights. That is why since then we have been accompanying cases of criminalization of leaders and authorities.
This is what generates a conflict in 2012. After this, a series of conflicts have been generated, and other types of problems have also become visible. For example, the issue of health effects. Currently, the impact on the health of people with toxic metals is an issue that we are seeing, and that is also generating concern and resistance in some communities, because this already affects their lives, it is no longer only the natural resource nor the mechanism of social coexistence… but they are already health problems. That is what we are experiencing in Espinar in general lines.
Added to this is that they have been constantly declaring “states of emergency”, not only the province of Espinar, but the entire mining corridor. What’s more, the declaration of emergency, which was previously declared throughout the corridor, is now much more focused. In other words, in the face of so many emergency declarations, they already declare a state of emergency in a district or some communities. So there they make an excessive use (of force) … a misinterpretation of the norm, from the state, in order to control (the sitation). (They) see that it is the only way to avoid situations of conflict, when it should be dialogue and the respect to the rights, those that guide the process of solving the conflict.
THIRD PART – Mining activity and conflict in Espinar in the context of Covid 19
Transnational mining in Peru did not enter quarantine during the Covid19 pandemic. Despite sanitary restrictions and quarantine, the government allowed the development of mining throughout the production chain. And just as mining activities did not stop, neither did the conflicts inherent in it.
In the case of Espinar, the last conflicts occurred in the middle of the pandemic, between July and August 2020. The population demanded attention to their demands regarding health and the environment, the modification of the “framework agreement”, but also a payment of a 1000 soles bond (265 USD approx.) from the resources of the “framework agreement”, that was going to serve to alleviate the needs derived from the economic impact of the pandemic. Faced with the refusal of the company, the population came out to protest and was brutally repressed by the police. In August of that year, the National Human Rights Platform (CNDDHH) of Peru and DHSF, published an extensive report in which they denounced the violation of Human Rights, mistreatment and torture by the National Police towards the population.
To guarantee mining activity during the pandemic, the government continued to declare “states of emergency” in the region. In addition, to speed up the viability of Glencore’s new Corocohuayco project, the authorities proposed to hold virtual consultations with the communities in the area of influence, something that was rejected by social organizations. At present, mining in general is a fundamental part of the economic reactivation plans in Peru, with projects such as Antapaccay and others at the helm.
Oracio Pacori (DHSF): Audio only in Spanish
Transcription: We have been in the pandemic, and they still continued to declare states of emergency, and other types of problems have re-emerged. Let’s not forget that the pandemic has had an economic effect on the communities, and social organizations in Espinar took to the streets to demand the revision of the “framework agreement”, which initially had a more economic approach, but which began to see problems related to environmental impacts, the issue of health effects. What’s more, in the midst of the pandemic, (the population) asked for an (economic) bonus, with the freedom to have these resources.
This conflict has developed in the midst of the pandemic, there has been repression by the state, there have been injuries, police misconduct, even medical professionals have been intimidated who have confirmed that the injured were shot. (There have been) complaints from the leaders to investigate these events, but they remain truncated in the judiciary.
Espinar, despite the pandemic, continues in a situation of conflict, in a situation of mobilization, but also in a situation of constant dialogue, requesting respect for their rights, asking the company to respect their rights, but calling for attention to the state, in order to solve these problems.
So, due to these events in recent years, I can tell you that the extractive activity, the large mining in Espinar, has generated in the population a series of situations of violation of rights. Except in the development of a future mining project (Corocohuayco). On this issue of the expansion of this Corocohuayco project, there is again a situation of conflict. There are 13 communities that have to be consulted. In the midst of the pandemic, (to) guarantee the development of this project, the authorities have seen a way to make a virtual consultation. This would not work because they are peasant communities that have a different cultural way of organizing and living together, and that requires a different treatment.
So, as we can see, even in the development of the project (Coroccohuayco), the mining extractive activity continues with a nuance of violation of rights of all kinds.
And what we do have to highlight during the pandemic is that extractive activities, despite the fact that we have been in a series of quarantines throughout Peru, has not stopped operating. Despite the pandemic, they (mines) have been operating. There have been complaints at different times, that the first infected by the Covid have been workers of these companies, or workers of the companies that subcontract these companies, and that are mobilized in these areas. Then the first case of contagion in Espinar, occurred in a company subcontractor of workers, who caused the Covid19 to reach the province of Espinar. And this issue has been tried to handle silently, it has not been made public. But to ratify that, despite the pandemic, Glencore Xtrata and the other mining companies have not stopped operating.
For example, the reactivation measures that have taken place in the country, with economic incentives – the beneficiaries have been these mining companies, although they are operating, they have been the first to benefit. That is a subject on which not much has been said.
PART FOUR – Mining patterns and trends in the South Andean region of Peru
Mining activities in Peru generally reproduce certain patterns or trends related to the impacts they generate. Espinar is in many respects an emblematic case where a large number of these patterns are reproduced. In Espinar there are reports of contamination of the environment and water, effects on the health of the population, socio-environmental conflicts, violation of human rights and criminalization of social protest. Although each mining project and operation has its own characteristics, it is undeniable that what happens in Espinar is reproduced to some extent in other mining projects and operations in the “mining corridor” of the southern Andes of Peru.
Furthermore, there are not only patterns related to the impacts that mining produces, but also to the way in which mining projects are made viable. For example, during the pandemic, the authorities also wanted to implement the “virtual consultation” to make Hudbay projects viable in the Chumbivilcas province. There are also cases that have tried to reproduce the experience of the Espinar “framework agreement”, which, in fact, is seen as a “bad example” by other companies in the region.
A common characteristic in all these mining projects and operations is, without a doubt, the tension that is generated between mining and the communities, with high and low intensity conflicts. For example, Espinar is a case of coexistence with mining, in which communities organize to enforce their rights and where conflicts arise due to the lack of attention from the authorities. In the case of the Tía María project of Southern Copper company (Arequipa department), it is a project that wants to be imposed by force and that has caused violent conflicts, since the communities and organizations reject the mining activity because it threatens the water and agricultural activity in the area. In the case of the Quellaveco project of the Anglo American company, (department of Moquegua), it is a project that, although it has generated protests in the past, does not seem to need force to impose itself. The degree of conflict depends on many factors, including the organizational capacity of the population and the strategies that companies use to make their projects viable.
Despite these differences, Oracio Pacori points out that the impacts of mining in all these cases will be the same, mainly because they are all mining projects that contemplate the extraction of minerals through the open pit technique, which generate many impacts.
Oracio Pacori (DHSF): Audio only in Spanish
Transcription: Espinar is a sounding board for what has been happening in the other mining projects in the region. It is the extractive issue. Espinar is a sounding board, because all the measures, these patterns – whether on the issue of criminalization, on the issue of dialogue processes or on the environmental issue – have been repeated in other regions, in other mining projects. Obviously there are a number of variations, but as I told you, Espinar, because of what has happened there, is the main resonance box in the Mining Corridor. What they apply in Espinar, they will be applying in other projects, and with much more efficiency. For example, the idea of doing the prior consultation in a virtual way through virtual citizen participation, they have wanted to do in the case of the Constancia project of Hudbay.
So as we can see, these patterns that occur many times, take as a reference what is happening in Espinar.
In matters of Criminalization, Espinar is the main focus, due to this delicate relationship that (mining) has with the communities, which ends in conflict situations, confrontational situations and mobilization. What is done now, for example, from the justice system against the leaders, is that, at the first call for a mobilization, from the public prosecutor’s office – by way of crime prevention – the leaders are notified automatically, as a intimidation mechanism. There is not even a fact, but (the authorities) are already intimidating them, they are notifying them, trying to define a crime. Protest is not only a right, but dialogue, opinion against extractive activity or wanting to denounce the violation (of rights) in this context, is a reason for intimidation. I think that, on these issues, everything that happens in Espinar has been applied to other extractive projects.
If we look at the mining corridor, obviously the style of operation that Glencore Antapaccay has is very different from the style of operation that has, for example, Hudbay Constancia, which is a Canadian company. The relationship mechanism they have (Hudbay) with the communities is much more closed. Practically in the Hudbay case, they have co-opted the peasant communities, they have other mechanisms for acquiring land, etc. Each project has its characteristics. But along the way, the social problems, the impacts they generate, are the same. In 2015 the mining project begins in the case of Hudbay, Constancia. Until 2020, they had no conflict situations, now in the districts where the project is in Chumbivilcas, every month there is a conflict situation and new problems. Due to the theme of coexistence, spaces for dialogue are being generated. From the population they ask for mechanisms such as those that have been generated in Espinar, with the “framework agreements” between the district governments with the mining company. Some complaints of environmental contamination are also beginning to appear… in 5 years of operations, situations of damage to natural resources are already visible. So this is an issue that, just as it has happened in Espinar, will be happening in other places.
In the southern Andean region, there is a strong rooted community organization. The peasant communities are living organizations, which must necessarily dialogue with the extractive companies, because the mineral resource is in their territory. This makes resistance situations visible in the face of the negative impacts of these activities. For example, in the case of Tía María (Arequipa), it is demonstrated and is clear that the activity that stimulates the economy of the population and that can also generate resources for the economy and the national treasury, is agriculture mainly, both for the national consumption, but with some advances for agro-exports. So I think that a producer, in the case of the Tambo valley, who sees much more possibilities (in agriculture) – not only as a way of life, but for his own economic development – is going to oppose mining… because it will not only impact the territory, but it will not generate greater economic development in its life, because the (mining) profits are going to be taken by a small group, that is known. I think those could be the characteristics in the case of the tambo valley, causing resistance. In the case of Quellaveco, I create the issue of organicity and perhaps the lack and development of this type of economic activities, such as agriculture, makes (the mining project) viable, moving forward in silence, but that in the end it will generate impacts, not only in the territories where they are, but also impacts in the neighboring territories in the regions where this project is developed. In the end, the impacts will be the same, because we are talking about common characteristics, they are companies that operate open pit, and they will generate the same impacts.
That is a first trend analysis that I can do, knowing how the projects are going. Each project has its technical characteristics, and it should be reviewed from that point of view.
PART FIVE – Energy transition and corporate speeches
At the end of the interview, Oracio Pacori tells us about the energy transition and the way in which companies use the discourse of transition metals to expand their mining projects, without taking into account the impacts they generate in the territories.
Glencore’s Antapaccay project mainly extracts copper, the international price of which on the international market has risen. This generates greater pressure in territories such as Espinar and in other territories from which copper and other transition metals are extracted. This situation generates more impacts on water sources. All this undoubtedly exacerbates the impacts of the climate crisis suffered by these populations that have limited water resources.
The Glencore case in Espinar certainly provides many clues that must be taken into account in other similar cases, such as the case of Constancia, Tía María, Quellaveco, La Bambas and many others. It is undoubtedly a common scenario throughout the South Andean region of Peru, a region where companies like Glencore plan to stay for many more years.
Oracio Pacori (DHSF): Audio only in Spanish
Transcription:We are in a society where there is a technological development and where we have been experimenting with the use of other types of alternatives, not only energy, but complementary to the production of other types of goods. But we believe that these studies, these discourses, are processes that take place over long periods of time, they are not immediate processes. We have been talking in the country, for example, only on the automobile issue, that we are going to enter a transition process – from the use of gasoline to gas, and from gas to cars that will run on electricity. If you see it in practice, we continue to have 90 to 95% in the case of the entire country, which is still dependent on gasoline consumption. For this transition process to pass, years will have to pass, changes in technology, that is a long-term issue.
I think that in front of this issue of the transition that they raise from Glencore…. the underlying theme is that they use it as a strategy to be able to expand their projects. In the case of Glencore Antapaccay, in Espinar, if they no longer have a greater interest in the copper issue, they would not be in the expansion of the Corocohuayco project, which is still in the consultation process.
We understand that it is a polymetallic project, but the main metal they extract is copper. Then you have to look at the trend in the price of copper in the world, the demand for this metal and what it is used for. I think that, in those terms, saying that we are going to transition is one more speech for negotiation.
I believe that Glencore Xstrata will still have a significant presence in Espinar and will be linked to mining activity, mainly copper, for many more years, as we are seeing it in practice.