The Las Bambas mining company unleashes new tensions with the communities of Peru: what is behind the conflict?

The mining project known as Las Bambas, located in the provinces of Cotabambas and Graudepartment of Apurímac (Peru), once again has its copper production paralyzed amid protests and blockades by peasant communities, who demand various environmental and economic demands.

This is not the first time that the company MMG Limited, of Chinese capital, must suspend its activities due to demonstrations: the same thing happened in March and at the end of 2021. Specifically, the residents expected that the firm, which represents 2% of the world’s copper, would fulfill the social commitments assumed. Thus, while some sectors reject any type of extractive activity, others demand to be part of the production process.

Edgar Gila, a spokesman for the communities, explained several reasons for the unrest: “To date there is no result of the agreements in terms of education, livestock and culture. We had an agreement with the company to give up our land under the promise of having a hospital, schools and housing. But there is no progress,” he was quoted as saying. RPP.

With this scenario, a dialogue table was held on Thursday between the company and the community of Chila, but it ended without success and the extractive activity remains paralyzed. “The important thing is that we, as Las Bambas mining company, are absolutely willing to be able to restore this space for dialogue, within the framework of the rule of law, in order to verify these commitments,” said legal affairs manager Claudio Cáceres.

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Why is there conflict?

The area where the mine is located covers an area with almost 500,000 inhabitants, where four out of ten are pooraccording to data officials of the Peruvian Institute of Economy. Martín León Espinosa, a local journalist, review that for copper to reach the coast, it must be transported by a road corridor, which arouses controversy. It is 324.5 kilometers that cross 37 communities in the departments of Cusco and Arequipa.

In 2014, after an environmental impact study, it was determined that the copper should be transported by road, however, there was no such road. Facing it, regional and local roads were used, which were described as a national route, increasing the tension of the areas involved. This gave rise to complex claims: from compensation for environmental damage to jobs in the raw material transportation sector.

In order to understand the economic aspect of the matter, the company’s legal representative argued that the stoppage of works represents losses of 5 million soles per day (1.3 million dollars) for the State. In total, including the profits of the company, the daily losses due to blocks are estimated at about 9.5 million dollars.

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For its part, the Ombudsman accounted for at least nine social and environmental conflicts from 2011 to January this year, as a direct consequence of the operations of MMG Limited. One of the most resounding was unleashed at the end of March, when residents of the Huancuire community opposed the expansion of the mine in Chalcobambaa site in Las Bambas.

The extension, which would increase annual production by some 400,000 tons, had received government approval. However, it is still necessary to modify the environmental impact study, which will be submitted to a public consultation.

Possible political controversy

In addition to environmental implications and social tension, the activities of Las Bambas also produces political short circuits between the various jurisdictions, for the receipt of royalties. In Peru, half of the income tax that mining companies contribute must be redirected to the region where they operate.

In this case, the allocation corresponds to the department of ApurímacThat is why the regional government asks the other areas to refrain from demanding money that affects their interests. “No one is going to touch the royalties or the canon,” replied Jean Paul Benavente, governor of Cusco.

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In the midst of discrepancies between local leaders, in the last few hours the company spread statements on social networks giving their version of the stoppage: “On April 20, we stopped our operations before the invasion of a group of comuneros from Fuerabamba to our property. We regret this situation that affects thousands of workers and our country.”

In the Apurímac region, Pedro Castillo won more than 70% of the vote during the 2021 national elections. Last year, amid tension over the government closure of some mines in different parts of Peru, the head of state held : “From the beginning we have been clear in pointing out that mining operations must take place respecting the environment and the rights of the community.”

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