Mining expansion, lack of communication leading to more conflicts - study - Peru


Ryan Dube, Business News Americas

Date of publication: 
20 July 2010

The growth in the number of mining concessions in Peru coupled with poor communication with local communities affected by the new developments are largely responsible for an increase in social conflicts in the nation, according to a study compiled by three local NGOs.

Mining concessions in Peru currently cover 19.8Mha of national territory, up 165% from approximately 7.45Mha in 2002, according to the study.

The region with the highest percentage of territory under concession is Apurimac, with over 55%.

In Cajamarca, which has been the country’s top gold producing region for the last 10 years, 43% of the territory is under concession.

Meanwhile, more than 37% of Arequipa region is under concession. In the region’s Islay province, where US-based Southern Copper’s US$934mn Tia Maria project is located, 61.1% of the land has been allocated to mining.


Residents that live near new mining concessions and developments often do not receive sufficient information about projects and their potential impact on the environment, one of the author’s of the study, Jose De Echave of Lima-based NGO Cooperaccion, said at a press conference to present the report.

With the exception of Apurimac, which has historically had less mining than other regions, there is a direct correlation between the expansion of concessions and social conflicts related to the environment, according to De Echave.

In June, 250 conflicts were registered in the country, compared to 84 in July 2006, according to the national ombudsman. More than half of the conflicts last month were related to the environment.

“There are no adequate mechanisms in place for residents to directly receive information about the land being put under concession,” De Echave said. “Local authorities don’t even receive adequate information.”

Nothing to Envy

However, energy and mines (MEM) minister Pedro Sanchez begs to differ, saying the process of informing residents about new projects is as good in Peru as in many other countries.

Communities are informed about mining developments through workshops and the presentation of the project’s EIS, which residents can review and afterwards submit observations to the government, according to Sanchez.

“I have some experience in other countries and the EISs that are done in Peru have nothing to envy with regards to studies done in other parts,” Sanchez said at the press conference.

Anglo-Swiss mining group Xstrata’s communication of its Las Bambas copper project in Apurimac is a good example of how miners can successfully inform communities, Sanchez said.

The company organized 19 workshops before the presentation of the EIS on July 15 during a public hearing with 5,310 attendees. Participants submitted more than 630 questions.

Complexity of Information

Nevertheless, EISs are often too technical and complicated for most people, according to De Echave.

“Environmental impact studies are very complex documents and are quite difficult for rural communities and even for local authorities [to understand],” he said.

Furthermore, communities lack sufficient time and support to analyze the studies. Following the presentation of an EIS, residents have approximately one month to review the document and submit observations.

“It’s very little time,” De Echave said. “Also, it isn’t set down that they will receive support for the review.”