The campesino assemblies of Segunda y Cajas (Huancabamba) and Yanta (Ayabaca) in Peru rejected the strategies of the mining company Rio Blanco Copper implemented to obtain the license for their project at any cost, despite it being denied several times by the communities.
“In our role as guardians of our plains and cloud forest ecosystems, we remain attentive and on the front lines demanding the Peruvian State and other competent authorities to comply with their role and guarantee respect towards our territories and collective rights, as it corresponds to the values and principles of a democratic and pluricultural state,” says a press release signed by representatives of the different assemblies.
“Failing to do so means to approve the illegal and arbitrary acts of the mining company Rio Blanco Cooper,” it continues.
The assemblies said the company is founding groups to promote deceiful dialogue tables, infiltrates local organizations to generate conflicts and internal divisions. They also try to get signatures in exchange for money, benefits or development promises.
The communities and assemblies reaffirmed their will, expressed in a consultation in 2007, and rejected all mining activity in the region. Instead, they want to promote agriculture, ranching and sustainable tourism.
They also regretted that the National University of Piura signed a cooperation agreement with Rio Blanco Copper under the pretext of “youth training” in Ayabaca and Huancabamba, even though the company's actions have left at least 10 dead and others injured and disabled.
They also complained that the company is secretly working in operating in its offices in the area, which were shut down by the Huancabamba municipality, violating local law.
The assemblies claim Rio Blanco Cooper is violating their fundamental rights recognized by Peru's constitution, it's general law on campesino communities, the law on campesino assemblies, the law on land and previous consultation, as well as the International Labor Organization's Convention 169.
On July 8, the Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace (Fedepaz) met with the campesino communities to analyze mining licenses in their territories, and identify key issues to keep an eye on and discuss possible development alternatives.
Fedepaz and the communities reviewed mining maps and official data and found out that 22.9 percent of Piura's territory is licensed to mining activities. In Huancabamba, 6.54 percent is licensed and in Carmen de la Frontera, 22.1 percent.
Besides, mining companies have started legal processes to license 800 more hectares. One of those licenses overlaps with the Chicuate-Chinguelas Plains and Montane Forest Private Conservation Area (ACP), which in theory would prevent mining in the area. However, that could change with an appeal.
Out of the 20 mining licenses in Carmen de la Frontera, 17 belong to Rio Blanco Copper. This doesn't mean that the remaining three are not linked to the same mining company. The license overlapping with the Chichuate-Chinguelas conservation area, for example, is under the name of a natural person, but it was Rio Blanco Cooper who filed an appeal to “reconsider” the ACP.
In Carmen de la Frontera, about 15,500 hectares has been licensed to mining, without any recognition from the local communities.
The Segunda y Cajas community and Fedepaz reviewed strategies to keep the ACP and recognized the importance of having a conservation area in their struggle against mining companies.