Peruvian Mining and Its Connection to the International Economy
How the mining operations are affecting the local population
There are three key issues to look at when examining the Peruvian mining case. The first issue is the violence, conflict, frustration and poverty of created by the mining practices of certain mining companies. Their policies then create a climate of violence, conflict, poverty and frustration because they refuse to listen to the local populations demands. The second issue taking place in Peru is the increasing violations of human rights by the mining companies and their private security forces. The last issue brought is the question whether or not the industry will be viable in the future with metal prices falling.
As such my main point is to shed light on the way in which the big mining companies dismiss all the demands by the local population in the search for more wealth. The companies who operate in the mining rich regions of La Libertad and Mariátegui to name a few, have shown a total disregard for local population’s safety is apparent in many mining projects taking place in Peru. A prime example of this indiscretion is seen in the mining company Newmont Mining Corporation’s handling of the Yanacocha mine in Cajamarca, Peru. In late 2004, the company tried to expand its operations into the Cerro Quilish Mountain which was considered to be the key water source to the local town. The town then carried on a series of protests in response to the company’s plans which then turned violent. The company was then forced to withdraw all Cerro Quilish operations and the town’s water source was then saved. This is not the first case of a foreign company invading an area and disregarding the local peoples demands in Lain America.
A similar situation to the one experience in Cajamarca, Peru occurred in Ecuador during 1997. On May 12, 1997 a miner community in the town of Junín, Ecuador experienced the same frustrations as those residents of Cajamarca, Peru. In both cases the workers were refused wages by the mining company who operated in the area and as a result started a miners’ strike which in 1997 caused a huge setback for the Ecuadorian mining trade. This strike later caused widespread upheaval and eventually led to a military-indigenous coup which ousted the pro-United states government. It also strained diplomatic ties between the United States and gave rise to the new anti-United States Ecuadorian government of today. Which goes to show that even a remote mining dispute can have global repercussions.
Anther problem that has arisen in Peru has been whether or not the whole mining system is viable for the country as a whole. The current method in extracting these precious metals is known as large-scale resource extraction method and is extremely costly and harmful to the surrounding environment. On top of this the method itself generates relatively few jobs in the area of its use. In an attempt to reduce the negative impact of this practice the Peruvian government has established programs forcing corporations to redistribute revenues back to the local community through government channels. However, this has proved to be highly problematic because the central government has failed to transfer these funds correctly citing that they distrusted the local officials to properly spread the funds. In return the local communities distrust the government to address their concerns and wonder if the central government really has their best interests at heart. This is because many see no progress made to protect local populations residing around mines from the pollution and other harmful excesses that mining brings. The result is that people both in these mining area communities, mining companies, and in Peruvian government question whether the industry is viable for the future economic plans of Peru.
This concern stems from Peru’s weakness in its infrastructure which remains under-resourced and underdeveloped. This does not even include mentioning the growing needs of the mineral industry in relation to the current infrastructure which does not even come close to effectively facilitating this large industry. In addition, there has been the creation of an environmental ministry to help oversee that no environmental violations take in the process of mining and building of infrastructure. However, the Peruvian government has continued to allow the Ministry of Energy and Mines to regulate the mining industry which sets up a conflict of interests. Therefore, the concern is not only with whether or not the viability of the nation’s mineral industry is at stake but also whether human rights are being violated.
In 2004 and 2005, local protests occurred in Rio Blanco area of northern Peru where human rights were being infringed. Interestingly, this time the outside influence was not western in origin but from the Chinese company Zijin Metals. This like the Cajamarca protest led to violent clashes with police resulting in two deaths. The reason for the clashes was the company wanted to build a mine on the land the local used to produce organic coffee and fruit. In addition, in 2009 the same company was in violation of human rights after the National Human Rights Coordinator, and a coalition of Peruvian human rights groups released photographs of the 2005 protest which suggested that private security forces along with government police had tortured protestors in the demonstration.
This repression is seen throughout Latin America. In Nicaragua there was the oppressive Somoza regime which sought out and killed all opposition to its rule. In Colombia it was the combined efforts of the Conservative and Liberal parties through the joint venture known as the National Front. In all cases the poor are the ones who suffer. Whether it is oppression like that shown in the Peru where economic means are denied to the lower classes or political expression is denied in Colombia, Nicaragua or El Salvador the result is the same. The human rights are trampled on and the poor bear the brunt of these infractions.
In the end the proactive approach of the lower classes in Peru might prove influential in shaping the mining industry as well as the country’s politics and economy. If there is anything to take away from the article and the course it is that the people will always have the final say no matter what side they are on. In the Peruvian mining example they will and are dictating what the major mining companies can get away with in regards to environmental malpractice and human rights violations. They are also influencing the Peruvian government’s policies on the same issues as well as how to deal with these large foreign industries. Recently the government of Peru has taken an increasing role of protector of its citizens which is a step in the right direction. Hopefully in the future this relationship will strengthen and grow. Optimistically, in the future the mining industry will be able to benefit both the people of Peru and the companies in charge of the distinct mining operations. This is only if the government can prevent the mistakes that have plagued other nations we have looked at in this course: corruption of officials, lack of representation in politics, sole economic viability for the upper class, and the virus that is dictatorship. However, it looks promising that Peru will be able to overcome the violence, human rights issues, and uncertainty or question of success in the mining economy.
Mining Conflicts in Peru: Condition Critical. Page 3.
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Mining Conflicts in Peru: Condition Critical. Page4.
Mining Conflicts in Peru: Condition Critical. Page4.
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