Original version in Spanish published by Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente – DHUMA: El Verdadero Rostro de Litio y Uranio en los Pueblos Indígenas de Carabaya-Puno
Translated from Spanish to English by Thomas McDonagh
This report documents how the Macusani Yellowcake mining company, a subsidiary of Canadian mining company American Lithium, has been advancing a controversial lithium and uranium mine, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, in ways that threaten local communities and the surrounding environment. Based on interviews with community leaders and an analysis of the company’s own reporting, we highlight that Macusani Yellowcake has taken advantage of patterns of state abandonment to drum up some support for its project by offering “development projects” to certain communities in ways that have sewn division and created an environment where people who oppose the mine are subjected to harassment, monitoring, and threats, all while COVID-19 lockdowns have created new barriers to mobilization. Macusani Yellowcake has further failed to meet its obligations to consult with local Indigenous communities, has threatened to destroy important archaeological sites, and has been formally sanctioned for conducting exploration activities without proper environmental certification. Meanwhile, American Lithium has been promoting the project by arguing that its lithium will be used to provide “clean energy for the Americas”, all while it maintains highly concerning lithium and uranium mining concessions on the Quelccaya tropical glacier– not only is this the world’s largest tropical glacier and a key source of fresh water to local communities and ecosystems, but it is considered to be a thermometer that measures climate change.
Video: Lithium and uranium mining concessions on the Snowy Quelccaya
2. MACUSANI YELLOWCAKE AND ITS PROJECTS
Macusani Yellowcake is a mining company that owns the Falchani Lithium and Macusani Uranium mining projects, in the department of Puno, Peru. The company owns 151 lithium and uranium mining concessions covering an area of 93,000 hectares in the province of Carabaya (districts of Corani and Macusani), in Puno (1).
In 2007, Macusani Yellowcake, then operating under the name Global Gold, began its uranium exploration operations in the area. The company ended up stumbling upon a large amount of lithium in 2017 (2). During this time, the company used more than one variation of its corporate name, variously going by Macusani Plateau, Macusani Yellowcake, Plateau Uranium, and Plateau Energy Metals (3).
According to the website of the Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Institute (INGEMMET by its initials in Spanish (4)), Macusani Yellowcake has a total of 167 mining concessions. These concessions are located both in the provinces of Carabaya and Melgar (department of Puno) and in the province of Canchis (department of Cusco). Mining titles have been approved for 160 of these concessions, and 7 are still being processed (5).
3. THE AREA OF INFLUENCE OF THE FALCHANI AND MACUSANI PROJECTS
The Falchani Lithium and Macusani Uranium mining projects are located in a remote geographical area that is difficult to access, more than 4,500 meters above sea level. The projects’ direct areas of influence include the districts of Macusani and Corani in the department of Puno, as well as part of the territory of Cusco. In this area there are 7 Quechua small farmer (campesino) communities, whose livelihood is based on raising camelids (alpacas) and making artisanal products from alpaca fiber. The small farmer communities in the area of direct influence of the mining project also carry out other agricultural activities, such as growing bitter potatoes (6).
Historically, these communities have faced abandonment by the Peruvian State. In fact, many mining companies located in the territories of small farmer communities (Indigenous communities) in the province of Carabaya take advantage of the needs created by this abandonment and the lack of information and opportunities made available to locals. Some experts point out that the State appears in the area only when mining projects arise, which generates resistance from the population (7).
For its part, Macusani Yellowcake points to the development work it is carrying out with the small farmer communities of Isibilla, Chacaconiza, and Quelccaya, specifically infrastructure projects such as building a main square, a school, a medical center, synthetic grass soccer fields, etc (8).
Photo N° 01 – Falchani Mountain in the small farmer community of Chacaconiza
Photo N° 02 – Quelccaya Community: The residents breed alpacas
The State maintains its presence in the territories of the small farmer communities close to the lithium and uranium mining project through the Tambo Aymaña(9), located in Aymaña Town Center, Corani district. From here, the Peruvian Government provides state services, such as medical care, banking services, social programs, training, among others; covering the districts of Ajoyani, Corani, Macusani, Usicayos, and Ituata in the province of Carabaya (10). However, even the Tambo Aymaña is difficult to access for the remote small farmer communities of Carabaya, so many State services remain out of reach.
4. AMERICAN LITHIUM MINING COMPANY
Macusani Yellowcake is a Peruvian subsidiary of Plateau Energy Metals, a Canadian mining company that in May 2021 was acquired by another Canadian mining company, American Lithium (11), based in Vancouver. The main shareholders of American Lithium are URNM – North Shore Global Uranium Mining ETF, HighPoint Advisor Group LLC, Patten & Patten Inc/tn, Meeder Asset Management Inc and Sonora Investment Management, LLC.
American Lithium also owns the Tonopah Lithium Claims (TLC) Project in the US, which is located very close to the Tesla Gigafactory in the state of Nevada. The mining company presents its projects as being part of a social transition towards a new safe and sustainable energy model, and it proclaims that its projects in Peru will “help meet the need for…clean energy for the Americas” (12).
Regarding its financial statements, the company indicates that it has not yet obtained income from any of its properties. They say that the future of the company will depend on its ability to obtain financing to commercially develop its projects (13). However, the company is very optimistic about the lithium market, as it is a required mineral in the renewable energy industry. The company expects demand for lithium to increase at least 5 fold until the year 2030 and that prices will continue to increase (14).
On its website (15) the company says:
American Lithium Corporation is well-positioned to play a key role in society’s shift to a secure, sustainable new energy paradigm in the Americas(…) Following the acquisition of Plateau Energy Metals, American Lithium is advancing development of the large-scale Falchani hard rock lithium deposit, as well as one of Latin America’s most prolific uranium deposits, known as Macusani – both of which are located in southeastern Peru. With a near-term focus on these mining-friendly jurisdictions, the company has the advantage of both geographic and geological diversity in developing these world-class, scalable projects. Of particular significance is the fact that the safe, secure supply of strategic battery/energy metals is of growing importance.
4.1. American Lithium acquires the shares of Plateau Energy Metals
Plateau Energy Metals is a junior company, which, like many such companies, tends to have as its main objective to identify mineral reserves and then sell the projects on to larger mining companies (16). In this case, on May 11, 2021, in a public statement, the Canadian company American Lithium confirmed the acquisition of ordinary and outstanding shares of Plateau Energy Metals, highlighting that, as of that date, the latter will become a wholly owned subsidiary of American Lithium. The acquisition took place within the framework of a legal agreement under the provisions of the Corporations Act (Ontario)-Canada (17).
4.2. Lack of information about the projects in the communities
According to a local community leader in Macusani, Plateau Energy Metals merged with American Lithium to promote the exploitation process (18). However, there is a difference between a merger and the purchase of one company by the other. A merger occurs when two companies pool their resources to work together, while an acquisition refers to the larger company buying the shares of the smaller one, absorbing it (19). Macusani Yellowcake failed to communicate transparently with the population of Carabaya about these changes. As these are private investments, the company is not required to disclose the latest agreements between Plateau Energy Metals and American Lithium. However, since local small farmer communities are accustomed to all the latest information about what’s happening in their ancestral territories being shared openly, the potential positive or negative consequences of this agreement should have been explained to them.
According to a member of the Rondas Campesinas (20), whose identity we will not share for security reasons, Macusani Yellowcake carries out information sharing activities in small farmer communities in the area of direct influence, excluding other communities that are also in the vicinity of the mining project: “When we demand that information be provided for the entire population of Macusani and the entire Puno region, the residents who received information become jealous, arguing that there is no need to inform other communities, because the mining project is not in their territories” (21).
Regarding the lithium and uranium exploitation process, the member of the Rondas Campesinas points out that he does not know the details of the mining project. “We still don’t have clear information, but one of things that we want is for the lithium to be industrialized for clean [energy] technology; we don’t want a traditional exploitation of raw material, because this would not be beneficial for the population and the environment,” he says (22).
4.3. Corporate social responsibility strategy during the pandemic
According to the American Lithium website, some of the major social responsibility programs promoted by Plateau Energy Metals are: creating jobs for members of the Isibilla, Tantamaco, Chacaconiza, Quelccaya, Chimboya, Pacaje, and Corani farming communities; building roads and loaning road construction equipment for the community to improve its infrastructure; investing in local skills development in construction, environmental monitoring, and prospecting; assisting in the establishment of a drinking water treatment plant; supporting health campaigns; sponsoring educational programs and festivals; supporting and training full-time teachers; building an all-weather soccer field and a parade ground; sponsoring the monthly school milk program, etc (23).
According to the member of the Rondas Campesinas who we interviewed, these programs are concentrated in communities directly impacted by the lithium and uranium project, but there is no type of support for other communities in the broader area surrounding the project (24).
A villager who makes their living raising alpacas in the area informed us that, during the pandemic, they received technical assistance in deworming camelids from a mining company. However, when asked about the name of the company, the community member was unable to identify it (25).
For his part, the community leader we interviewed says that foreign mining companies have been dividing the local population, co-opting leaders and directors as their allies and leaving aside the majority of the population. He added that mining companies “do not accept questions from residents who are against mining activity, what the mining company says is law in Indigenous communities”(26).
5. GLACIERS AND CULTURES AT RISK.
5.1. Concessions in the Quelccaya mountain
The snow-capped Quelccaya mountain is the largest tropical glacier in the world. It is located in the southeast of Peru, in the Vilcanota mountain range, at more than 5,600 meters above sea level. It has a length of over 17km, an area of 44km² and an ice cap 200m thick (27). It is considered a world thermometer: since 1974, the North American Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson (28) has regularly travelled there to carry out climate change research.
The waters from the Quelccaya glacier contribute to the formation of lagoons, streams, and rivers, in turn supplying fresh water to the people who live around the mountain and contributing to local biodiversity more generally. Likewise, it is an important source of water for the Vilcanota River, which provides more than 50% of drinking water to the Cusco region and electricity to Puno, Cusco, and Apurímac in times of drought (29). It is also a source of water for the Amazon River (30).
Photo N° 03 – Quelccaya Mountain
In 2019, after 10 years of struggle, the Regional Government of Cusco received approval for Supreme Decree No. 012-2019-MINAM. This Decree established the Ausangate Regional Conservation Area, which includes part of Quelccaya mountain. Its aim is to preserve a representative sample of the Puna Ecoregion of the Central Andes of Cusco, which is of high biological, landscape, and water regulation value. The total area covers 66,514.17 hectares (31). Article 4 of the Supreme Decree states that property rights and other rights acquired prior to the establishment of the Ausangate Regional Conservation Area are not affected by it: this paves the way for Macusani Yellowcake company to develop its mining concessions on Quelccaya mountain.
Photo N° 04 – Quelccaya Mountain with mining concessions grids.
The grids of mining concessions that are part of the Falchani (lithium) and Macusani (uranium) projects are located on and around Quelccaya mountain. For example, there is a 900 hectare mining concession called COLIBRI XXXIX, with code No. 010148007, which was owned by Global Gold (Macusani Yellowcake) (32). This concession is superimposed on the snow-capped mountain. Human Rights and Environment (DHUMA by their initials in Spanish) was able to verify this, thanks to the GPS points that it managed to record during a visit, and which were later analyzed and corroborated with Google Earth and INGEMMET maps. This was news to DHUMA, and it is unknown by residents of the mine’s area of influence because they do not have access to information and communication technologies or specialists to explain the potential consequences of the future exploitation of lithium and uranium on Quelccaya mountain.
Meanwhile, on July 5th, 2021, Macusani Yellowcake submitted an Environmental Impact Statement for the Quelccaya exploration project to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, with the purpose of carrying out extensive diamond-type drilling (measuring 58,200 meters of total depth) spread out over 40 exploration drilling platforms. According to the company, this will allow them to identify more lithium reserves near Quelccaya mountain (33). This exploration process is located 6km west of the Falchani lithium deposit area.
Photo N° 05 – Quelccaya Mountain
5.2. Archaeological sites
The province of Carabaya is recognized for being the alpaca capital of Peru. It’s also renowned for its cave sites and natural landscapes. In 2005, at the initiative of Agronomist Rainer Hostnig, the cave sites of Macusani and Corani were declared a National Cultural Heritage site through Resolution Nº1658/INC (National Institute of Culture), delimiting a total area of 36,978.6451 Ha. ( 369,786,451,327m²). This is not enough, however, since, within the delimited area, there are more cave sites to be identified, and they must be incorporated into the declaration of Cultural Heritage. There are also other archaeological sites outside the area, including the 170 cave sites located in the districts of Macusani and Corani, registered between 2007 and 2008 by archaeologist Patricia Vega Centeno. There are also the archaeological sites identified by the archaeologist Edmundo de la Vega for the Minergia SAC Company in Corani.
Photo N° 06 – Cave Paintings
Given the progress of the lithium and uranium mining project in areas of archaeological sites and cave paintings, in May 2021, Rainer Hostnig, in collaboration with DHUMA, requested the Ministry of Culture to make the resources available to carry out a review and update the area included in the Corani-Macusani Cave Paintings Archaeological Landscape. Likewise, the placement of marking milestones on the updated perimeter was requested, and that the Ministry of Culture’s Land Registry Office (Dirección de Catastro y Saneamiento Físico Legal) register the perimeter plan at the National Public Records Office. To date, no response to this request has been received from the Ministry of Culture.
Photo N° 07 – Map identifying archaeological sites and lithium and uranium concessions
6. VIOLATION OF COLLECTIVE AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS DURING THE PANDEMIC
6.1. Legislation on uranium and lithium in Peru
Currently there is no specific legislation governing the exploitation of lithium and uranium in Peru. These minerals are associated with each other and occur in volcanic rocks; they are therefore different from the lithium resources located in the Atacama-Chile and Uyuni-Bolivia salt flats. The complexity of the project makes its operation difficult, since Macusani Yellowcake has so far failed to demonstrate the discovery of uranium-free lithium, uranium being a radioactive mineral that needs special treatment to avoid damage to human health and the environment (34).
In order to have legislation in accordance with the environmental needs and responsibilities in the exploitation of lithium (metalloid mineral) and uranium (radioactive mineral), the Energy and Mines Commission of the Congress of the Republic in its initial judgement on May 12 of the year 2021 formally proposed legislation that would declare the exploitation of lithium and uranium to be of public necessity and national interest (35). However, the Congress of the Republic only took into account lithium, leaving aside the opportunity to legislate for uranium in accordance with environmental standards. As a result, in July 2021, Congress issued Law No. 31283, which declared the exploration, exploitation and industrialization of lithium and its derivatives to be of public necessity, national interest and to be strategic resources (36).
6.2. Omission of Prior Consultation with Indigenous communities
Law No. 31283 was approved without carrying out a consultation of the communities involved; thus ignoring the provisions of ILO Convention 169, Article 6 which states that administrative and legislative measures that are likely to directly affect Indigenous peoples must be subject to prior, free and informed consultation (37).
In the Database of Indigenous Peoples of the Ministry of Culture, the small farmer communities of Chacaconiza, Isibilla, Quelccaya and other communities surrounding the mining project are identified as being part of the Quechua Indigenous people (38). This means that Indigenous peoples’ right to participate in the implementation of government policies is being violated.
According to Rodrigo Lauracio Apaza, a lawyer for the Muqui Network, in July 2021, the Constitutional Court issued a ruling (file No. 01717-2014-PC/TC) in which the national Executive Branch was urged to guarantee the prior consultation process in the mining sector. This means that administrative activity by the Ministry of Energy and Mines related to all stages of development of a mining concession (including exploration, exploitation, closure of the mine, and others) must be subject to a process of prior consultation within the framework of the principles of good faith, an intercultural approach, flexibility, reasonable time, absence of coercion or conditioning, and timely information, as stipulated in ILO Convention 169. The right to consultation must be guaranteed by the national government in the development of the lithium and uranium mining project, even when the inhabitants are in favor of the mining activity (39).
Prior consultation for the Peruvian State is nothing more than a box ticking exercise, undermining the principles laid out in ILO Convention 169. As a result, in July 2020, the then-Minister of Economy and Finance, María Antonieta Alva, proposed holding an online consultation to contribute to the reactivation of the country’s economy and to respond to the spread of COVID-19 in the Indigenous communities (40), a fact that was described by Indigenous organizations as an attack on their rights.
6.3. Administrative sanctions against Macusani Yellowcake
According to Rodrigo Lauracio Apaza, Macusani Yellowcake has carried out exploration activities for lithium and uranium minerals informally, without having an accredited environmental impact study issued by the National Environmental Certification Service for Sustainable Investments. The non-existence of archaeological remains in the exploration area was not proven, nor is there an authorization for the use of water issued by the National Water Authority. These breaches resulted in an administrative fine (41).
In 2020, the Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (OEFA by its initials in Spanish), through the Directorate of Environmental Enforcement, issued Resolutions 013-2020-OEFA/TFA-SE and 90-2020-OEFA/TFA-SE, sanctioning Macusani Yellowcake to fines of 2,301,962 soles (more than 550,000 USD). The sanctions are for carrying out uranium and lithium exploration work in the Chacaconiza unit located in the Corani district, in 2018, without having environmental certification; for non-compliance with the preventive measures imposed by OEFA; and for not stopping diamond drilling activities, among others (42).
In an interview with DHUMA, a local community leader in Carabaya said he was not aware of the administrative sanctions against Macusani Yellowcake; and that he has demanded that the mining companies intending to exploit natural resources be more transparent with the Peruvian population to avoid speculation and misunderstandings (43).
7. NATIONAL TRENDS IN PERU
7.1. State of National Emergency Declared
On 15 March 2020, the daily activities of the inhabitants of urban and rural areas of Peru were interrupted by Supreme Decree No. 044-2020-PCM, which declared a State of National Emergency in the country. This measure forced Peruvian families to remain in compulsory social isolation (quarantine), as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak.
During the emergency period, which lasted until 2021, some constitutional rights related to personal freedom and security, the inviolability of the home, and the freedom of assembly and movement were suspended (44). Crowds of people were restricted, including community meetings, neighborhood meetings, fairs, among others. It was also prohibited to move from one region to another, from one district to another, and from one small farmer community to another. Unfortunately, the law was issued based mostly on the social reality of the capital Lima, ignoring existing realities and differences in rural regions and in small farmer communities.
7.2. Meetings in Small Farmer Communities
Social dynamics in small farmer communities include holding meetings every two weeks, at the end of each month, or sometimes constantly, to deal with different issues and agendas related to reports, agreements, or coordination within the framework of their traditional ways and customs. These practices of discussing issues of communal interest by community members were affected by the suspension of the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly in the context of COVID-19. Macusani Yellowcake has been shown to be completely out of tune with the populations that live in the areas surrounding the mining project. Proof of this can be seen in how the company has withheld information from local residents, including information about the sale of company shares, OEFA administrative sanctions, etc.
Another determining factor that limits the inhabitants’ participation in the meeting spaces is the distance between small farmer communities, particularly in the districts of Corani and Macusani, which are very far from the communal meeting points. To get there, men and women have to walk long distances, often having to travel cross country.
The low presence of conventional media and digital media is another determining factor for the residents of Macusani and Corani in terms of access to relevant information about Macusani Yellowcake’s lithium and uranium exploration processes and their results. There are only two AM radio stations (radio Altura and Allincapac) that cover some rural communities, and other FM radio stations, but only in the towns of Macusani and Corani.
In addition, applications for mining concessions in the territories of small farmer communities are published only in the newspapers with the widest national circulation, such as El Peruano (National) and Sin Frontera (Regional). Another medium for more details on mining concessions is the INGEMMET website. These media are inaccessible to rural communities, since the aforementioned newspapers are only marketed in the main cities, while the internet services of the different operators are deficient in these rural areas. Additionally, one aspect that adds to this situation is that the inhabitants are Quechua speakers, a barrier that makes it difficult to explicitly understand the intentions of companies like Macusani Yellowcake and Bear Creek Mining (which owns a silver project in Corani).
DHUMA visited the area of influence of the mine, managing to talk with native authorities, local authorities and residents of Macusani, who claimed to be unaware of the actions that Plateau Energy Metals has undertaken through its subsidiary Macusani Yellowcake during the pandemic. Some responded with fear and suspicion. The reasons are unknown, perhaps due to lack of information or perhaps due to fear of being harassed or threatened.
A thesis study carried out in 2019, which is entitled Impacts and perceptions of the exploration of the mining deposits of the Canadian company Bear Creek Mining in the small farmer communities of Chacaconiza and Quelccaya (also part of the lithium and uranium area), points out that “the death of environmentalist leader Sallqa Puma led the residents of Chacaconiza and Quelccaya to accept mining exploration”(45). The study showed that residents feel a certain fear of being more critical of mining projects or questioning the exploration process.
7.4. Voices of politicians on the lithium and uranium project
While the residents of Macusani and Corani are still unclear about the development of the lithium and uranium mining project, during the electoral campaign for the 2021 elections in Peru, representatives of political parties such as Yony Lescano (Popular Action), Verónika Mendoza (Together for Peru) and Rafael López (Popular Renovation), promised to industrialize lithium and turn Puno into a lithium battery producing and exporting region (46). For his part, the current President Pedro Castillo (Free Peru), promised to nationalize lithium and uranium in the electoral campaign (47).
The 2021-2026 legislative period is made up of 10 parliamentary groups with a total of 130 members of congress, including Peru Libre with 37, Popular Action with 16, Popular Renovation with 9, Together for Peru with 5, and other parties making up the other 63 members. The legislators and their political parties will have a lot of work to do if they are to fulfil their electoral promises.
The 2021-2026 legislative period is made up of 10 parliamentary groups with a total of 130 members of congress, including Peru Libre with 37, Popular Action with 16, Popular Renovation with 9, Together for Peru with 5, and other parties making up the other 63 members (48). The legislators and their political parties will have a lot of work to do if they are to fulfil their electoral promises.
7.5. Community Organizations in Carabaya
The province of Carabaya is made up of community organizations, alpaca producer organizations, Mothers’ Clubs, Glass of Milk Committees, Food Support Centers and Rondas Campesinas. Of all of these groups, the Rondas Campesinas is the predominant organization in rural areas and small farmer communities. They can be seen at the entrances to a community or district manning checkpoints, where they record the names of the visitors, vehicle license plate details, exactly where people are going, and the reason for their visit. The maintain citizen security, dealing with criminal activity such as cattle theft, robberies on the road, infidelity of couples, and even crimes like murder or rape (49).
In May and August 2021, during visits to the small farmer communities of Tantamaco, Isibilla, Chacaconiza, and Quelccaya, in the area of direct influence of the Falchani and Macusani mining project, we were unable to observe the presence of police officers who are guarding the roads or patrolling in the communities as they should be. This makes it easier to understand why the Rondas Campesinas, in the districts of Macusani and Corani, had to strengthen their organizations and implement their citizen security measures according to their traditional ways and customs. There , each checkpoint has a video surveillance camera (50).
How were they strengthened? A resident, whose name we will keep anonymous for security reasons, mentions that the presence of the Rondas Campesinas is thanks to the support provided by the district municipalities, and they probably receive support from the mining companies located in the districts mentioned above (51).
In these areas where there are mining activities, many checkpoints are visible, while in other rural communities where there is no mining presence, they are only seen at strategic points (52).
8. CONCLUSIONS AND TRENDS
- Historically, the small farmer communities of Corani and Macusani have faced abandonment and exclusion by the Peruvian State. Macusani Yellowcake’s lithium and uranium project is located in these two districts, as well as in part of the province of Canchis in Cusco. Life for the inhabitants of this area can be precarious in many ways. They do not have accessible roads; they lack means of communication for accessing information and education; the internet service is deficient; and educational institutions are inaccessible. In addition, their main source of livelihood, the raising of camelids (alpacas), is not prioritized or supported, despite the region being the alpaca capital of Peru.
- This has allowed the mining companies located amongst these Quechua small farmer communities to obtain social license to operate in exchange for responding to some of their unmet needs. These are communities who, given the abandonment by the State, subsist with their own means of production. This is compounded by barriers to accessing information and opportunities.
- A strategy used by companies that seek to gain the acceptance of small farmer communities to exploit natural resources is to carry out local development work and frame it as corporate social responsibility. An obvious example is the actions undertaken by Macusani Yellowcake in the rural communities of Isibilla, Chacaconiza, and Quelccaya, where it carried out building works such as a parade ground, a school, a medical post, a bullpen, synthetic grass soccer fields, among other things. In this way, the companies undertake the State’s responsibility for these populations and seek to gain their approval.
- With the implementation of corporate social responsibility activities, Macusani Yellowcake has created division between the small farmer communities directly and indirectly impacted by their project. This weakens the strategic alliance between the small farmer communities, and consequently they are unable to organize a united front against the actions of irresponsible mining companies that cause environmental damage, putting the life of every living being at risk.
- After getting a foothold in the small farmer communities in the direct area of influence of the mine, the company’s next strategy is to dismantle communal organizations, divide the local population, and co-opt the community leaders as their allies, leaving aside the majority population. Once they have successfully taken control, the mining companies in general “do not accept questions from residents who are against mining activity, what the mining company says is law in Indigenous communities” (53).
- In other extremes, the residents who do not accept anything from the mining companies are victims of harassment, persecution, monitoring, or threats. A thesis study carried out in 2019, entitled Impacts and perceptions of the exploration of the mining deposits of the Canadian company Bear Creek Mining in the small farmer communities of Chacaconiza and Quelccaya (also an area of the lithium and uranium project), indicates that “the death of environmentalist leader Sallqa Puma led the residents of Chacaconiza and Quelccaya accepting mining exploration”. The study showed that residents feel a certain fear of being more critical of mining projects or questioning the exploration process.
- Regarding the existing Indigenous organizations in Carabaya, the Rondas Campesinas fulfil the role of providing and imparting communal justice, resolving the problems of cattle theft, assaults, and robberies, among other things. They also provide citizen security services through checkpoints that are found at the entrances to the rural communities where the lithium and uranium mining project is located. And how do they fund themselves? The strengthening of the Rondas Campesinas is due to the support provided by the district municipalities, and they probably receive support from the mining companies. At the checkpoints, members of the Rondas Campesinas and municipal police work together, the latter protecting citizen security. Suspiciously, in the areas where there are mining activities and projects, many checkpoints are visible, while in other rural communities where there is no mining presence, they are only seen at strategic points. This is another strategy for territorial control and a way of dividing groups and organizations that are in disagreement with the mining projects and activities.
- Another way to maintain a favorable environment for a mining project is by presenting it as a mechanism for changing society and ushering in a new safe and sustainable energy model. American Lithium, the parent company of Macusani Yellowcake, presents its lithium and uranium projects in Peru as necessary for providing clean energy for the Americas. However, Macusani Yellowcake’s history of unscrupulous activities shows that it is not very credible for them to speak of clean energy. So far, the company has shown a lack of transparency in its engagement with the population of the province of Carabaya –and of the country more generally– as evidenced by the two OEFA administrative fines it received in 2020. These fines amount to 2,301,962 soles (More than 550,000 USD) and are for carrying out uranium and lithium exploration work without environmental certification, for non-compliance with the preventive measures imposed by OEFA, and for not stopping diamond drilling activities, among others.
- Finally, the presence of lithium and uranium mining concessions on the Quelccaya tropical glacier– not only the world’s largest glacier of its kind, but also considered a thermometer that measures climate change– is of great concern. Nor is anything said about the archaeological remains such as cave paintings located near the lithium and uranium project. Another pending issue is the lack of legislation for the exploitation of lithium and uranium, an issue that needs to be dealt with in decision-making spaces (Congress of the Republic and the Executive Power), bearing in mind that these minerals are in volcanic rocks and associated with each other, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
(1) VILCA ARPASI, Paulo Cesar; The lithium mining project in Puno, March 2020 http://siar.minam.gob.pe/puno/documentos/proyecto-explotacion-litio-puno
(2) Lithium and Uranium are “associated minerals” which may co-occur.
(3) VILCA ARPASI, Paulo Cesar; El proyecto de explotación de litio en Puno, marzo 2020 http://siar.minam.gob.pe/puno/documentos/proyecto-explotacion-litio-puno (Página, 31).
(4) INGEMMET: https://geocatmin.ingemmet.gob.pe/geocatmin/
(5) On the website of the Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Institute (INGEMMET), the province of Carabaya has 69 mining concessions held by Global Gold (previous name of Macusani Yellowcake); there are also 12 concessions located between the territories of Carabaya and Canchis (Cusco); 3 concessions in Carabaya and Melgar; and 1 concession between Carabaya and San Antón; 1 between Carabaya, Melgar and Canchis. Likewise, under the name Macusani Yellowcake, in Carabaya there are 47 concessions, and 2 concessions between Carabaya and Melgar. And as Lithium Energy Peru, 2 concessions are held between Carabaya and Canchis. In the province of Melgar, Global Gold owns 4 concessions, and 2 concessions between Melgar and Canchis. And operating as Macusani Yellowcake, they have 1 concession there. The concessions also extend to the province of Canchis in the department of Cusco, where Global Gold owns 7 mining concessions and 16 concessions as Lithium Energy Peru. Adding up the mining concessions in the provinces of Carabaya and Melgar in the department of Puno and in the province of Canchis in the department of Cusco, there are 167 mining concessions in favor of the Macusani Yellowcake company, of which 7 are still being processed, and 160 for which titles have already been granted.
(6) Access to Thesis: http://repositorio.unap.edu.pe/bitstream/handle/UNAP/10721/Duverly_Joao_Incacutipa_Limachi.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (page 27)
(7) Special Report: Challenges and opportunities of lithium found in Puno, Sthefanie Mayer and César Vásquez, August 2018. https://apps.camaralima.org.pe/repositorioaps/0/0/par/r7839_2/informe%20especial.pdf
(8) Rumbo Minero: positive outlook for mining, December 2018. (página 20 y 28) https://www.rumbominero.com/ED115/Rumbo_Minero_Ed.115-Movil.pdf
(9) Tambo is a center run by the Peruvian State to tend to the needs of the small farmer communities, Indigenous communal organizations, ayllu,s and others, located in remote areas far from the cities, such as districts, provinces, or regions.
(10) Ministry for Development and Social Inclusion https://www.pais.gob.pe/tambook/tambo/perfiltambo/index/id_tambo/10830
(11) American Lithium Completes Merger with Plateau: https://f9a4c011-0fda-43cd-bf65-e4634b6a9397.filesusr.com/ugd/1b7fc3_b6ce0f4580414f268ed509452109a3ea.pdf
(12) American Lithium: https://americanlithiumcorp.com/
(16) Energiminas Magazine: https://energiminas.com/ponen-en-duda-existencia-de-lago-de-litio-hallado-en-puno-por-junior-plateau-energy/
(17) American Lithium: https://americanlithiumcorp.com/2021/05/11/american-lithium-completes-merger-with-plateau/
(18) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(20) Small Farmer (campesino) vigilance organizations initially created to guard against cattle rustling but which have subsequently assumed a wider range of governance, anti-subversion and even judicial role
(21) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(22) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(23) American Lithium: https://americanlithiumcorp.com/community-engagement-peru/
(24) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(25) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(26) Interview, August 2021
(33) Rumbo Minero: https://www.rumbominero.com/noticias/mineria/macusani-yellowcake-buscaria-litio-proyecto-quelcaya/
(34) El Comercio: https://elcomercio.pe/economia/dia-1/litio-minem-y-minera-canadiense-discrepan-sobre-necesidad-de-norma-para-minerales-radioactivos-carbonato-de-litio-noticia/?ref=ecr
(35) Bill 06215: https://leyes.congreso.gob.pe/Documentos/2016_2021/Proyectos_de_Ley_y_de_Resoluciones_Legislativas/PL06215-20200915.pdf
(36) Law Nª 31283: https://busquedas.elperuano.pe/normaslegales/ley-que-declara-de-necesidad-publica-interes-nacional-y-rec-ley-n-31283-1973481-2/
(37) Convenio 169 de la OIT
(38) Base de Datos de Pueblos Indígenas: https://bdpi.cultura.gob.pe/buscador-de-localidades-de-pueblos-indigenas
(39) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(40) Gestión newspaper: https://gestion.pe/peru/organizaciones-indigenas-rechazan-consulta-previa-virtual-para-toda-actividad-extractiva-noticia/
(41) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(42) DHUMA: https://derechoshumanospuno.org.pe/noticias/oefa-multo-a-la-empresa-minera-macusani-yellowcake-con-399-28-y-136-06-unidades-impositivas-tributarias
(43) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021
(45) Thesis study: http://repositorio.unap.edu.pe/handle/UNAP/14834
(46) Energiminas Magazine: https://energiminas.com/mendoza-lescano-y-lopez-aliaga-tres-candidatos-que-prometen-industrializar-puno-con-el-litio/
(47) Europe Press: https://www.europapress.es/internacional/noticia-castillo-promete-nacionalizar-principal-yacimiento-gas-peru-rescatar-recursos-estrategicos-20210414034135.html
(48) Agencia Andina: https://andina.pe/agencia/noticia-conoce-a-los-congresistas-de-republica-del-periodo-20212026-infografia-854362.aspx
(49) Direct observation, 2021
(50) Direct observation, 2021
(51) Interviewed, 2021
(52) Direct observation, 2021
(53) Interview with DHUMA, August 2021.