Court Orders Peru To Consult Indigenous Peoples On Mining, Oil Projects


Dow Jones Commodities News Select via Comtex –

Date of publication: 
1 September 2010

LIMA – Peru’s highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal, said the executive branch isn’t fully complying with international conventions that oblige it to consult with indigenous peoples before approving projects, especially in the mining and hydrocarbons sector.

The Tribunal Wednesday ordered the Ministry of Energy and Mines to fully comply as soon as possible with its obligation to put into place the right to allow indigenous groups to have “prior and informed” consultation.

The Tribunal noted that this right to be consulted is included in the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, which recognizes a number of rights for indigenous and tribal peoples. Peru is a signatory to the International Labor Organization, or OIT as it is known by its Spanish initials.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines currently carries out a series of consultations before approving environmental impact studies for resource extraction projects.

However, the Tribunal said the current measures allowed for by the ministry “don’t fulfill the elements of being a prior consultation culturally conditioned to indigenous communities.”

The Tribunal also urged Congress to give final approval to a bill, first approved in May this year, that would give a legal basis in Peru to the Convention 169.

The executive branch has rejected that congressional bill, which would oblige companies wanting to mine or extract hydrocarbons to consult with indigenous peoples.

The legislation, if approved, is expected to have significant ramifications for mining and energy companies working in the Andean nation’s resource-rich economy.

Peru is the world’s largest producer of silver, the second-largest miner of copper, and a large producer of zinc and gold.

The country produces small amounts of oil but has opened large tracts of land to exploration. It is also rapidly developing its natural gas reserves.

The executive branch has opposed a clause in the bill that says Andean Mountain communities are to be recognized as having the right to force consultations.

President Alan Garcia has said he also opposed the bill in part over concerns that the proposals didn’t make clear that any consultation or vote on developments wouldn’t be considered a veto.

The consultation process for resource development projects became a more important issue in Peru following violent clashes between Amazon-area native groups and police near the jungle town of Bagua in June last year.

The natives, led by a community group known as AIDESEP, blocked a main highway for close to two months while they pressed the government to roll back a series of legislative decrees that regulated resource development.

A botched police effort to remove the natives led to the death of about two dozen policemen and a number of protesters.

Wednesday, the Constitutional Tribunal said that the government had been at fault for not having in place a framework for carrying out sufficient consultations with the native groups.

-By Robert Kozak, Dow Jones Newswires; 51-1-99927 7269; peru [at] dowjones [dot] com

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