Today culminates the new truce granted by the six communities of the province of Cotabambas, in Apurímac, to the mining company MMG Las Bambas and to the Government so that their demands are met.
The social conflict that led to the suspension of Las Bambas mining operations for 57 days, with a total estimated loss of US$541 million in exports and S/296 million in tax collections, could be resumed due to the residents’ disagreement with the dialogue that held during the truce.
Sources close to MMG Las Bambas reported that the PCM called a new meeting with the communities for tomorrow, Tuesday. Edison Vargas, leader of the Fuerabamba community, confirmed that he has received this invitation and today his community will decide whether to participate in this meeting.
Artemio Solano, head of the office of the Ombudsman in Apurímac, commented to Peru21 that the Executive will propose addressing the demands of the communities in relation to the signing of new agreements.
It is worth remembering that, in a joint statement, the community leaders refused to sign on July 21 the act that concluded the first stage of the dialogue —carried out between June 20 and July 20—, accusing the Government, in complicity with the mining company , of hindering the correct development of the dialogue tables installed in each of the communities by restricting the dialogue to the revision of previous commitments and not accepting the negotiation on new demands.
Although the board has not been kicked, the possible extension of a truce will only prolong a conflict that, for the moment, seems inevitable in the face of a stalled dialogue with non-negotiable conditions on both sides.
In this sense, the mayor of the Challhuahuacho district, Porfirio Gutiérrez —who clarified that he is not in the area these days—, did not rule out that the conflict could escalate again in the following days and that if the protests materialize, the blockade of the South Mining Corridor. “The leaders (of the peasant communities) are the most hostile,” he added.
The former congressman for Apurímac, Richard Arce, agreed that the social climate is convulsed and the Cotabambian communities are “belligerent.” “For sure, access to the mine will be blocked,” he commented.
From the perspective of the former legislator elected with the Broad Front party, the Government of Pedro Castillo is guilty of deepening the crisis of social conflict that existed due to the irresponsibility of having generated overexpectations with the population during the presidential campaign.
“I directly blame the Government of Pedro Castillo. They did not fulfill the campaign commitments that were absurd. Populism and demagoguery were made and this has a cost and implication. They offered the nationalization of the mining projects, which is not feasible. They wanted to win votes and now the people feel that the government has deceived them,” he maintained.
INVESTMENTS AT RISK
If the conflict spreads and relapses into protest actions, the Chinese company MMG could be forced to paralyze its mining activities for the second time so far this year.
Arce warns that the conflict in the area puts at risk the planning of the Chalcobamba pit, a project to expand Las Bambas, located in the territory of the Huancuire community, whose leaders want to ignore the sale of land and demand new payments. However, the Chinese ambassador to Peru, Liang Yu, has already ruled that Las Bambas is not willing to give more money to the communities.
In this context, Arce maintains that the Executive’s inability to resolve the conflict would make Chinese businessmen reflect on their other investments in our country, such as Pampa de Pongo (Arequipa), Galeno (Cajamarca), Don Javier (Arequipa), Exploitation of Tailings (Ica) and Río Blanco (Piura), as well as the extensions of Toromocho (Junín) and Marcona (Ica).
KEEP IN MIND
- China is the main consumer of copper and zinc in the world and Peru is its second largest supplier. Likewise, the Asian giant is the country with the greatest future investment in Peruvian territory.
- Las Bambas restarted its mining activities on June 11, after a 57-day stoppage. In its first quarter, it registered 30% less copper production compared to the same period last year.
- Pedro Castillo projected in his message to the Nation for National Holidays that mining investment in 2022 would accumulate a total of US$5.3 billion, but he omitted to mention the Las Bambas conflict, a company that contributes almost 1% of GDP to the Peruvian economy.
- The Government held a total of 14 meetings with the communities of Nueva Fuerabamba, Huancuire, Pumamarca, Choaquere, Chila and Chuicuni before initiating the June 15 truce. All these meetings, like the dialogue of the technical tables during the truce, were unsuccessful.