“Agro yes, mining no,” was chanted by hundreds of local farmers who took to the streets in order to defend about 1,300 hectares of cropland threatened by the project.
Peruvian farmers from the Tambo Valley in the central region of Arequipa began an indefinite strike Monday to protest the government's approval to initiate construction of a major open-pit mining project known as ‘Tia Maria’, granted to United States mining corporation, Southern Copper.
“Agro yes, mining no,” was chanted by hundreds of local farmers who took to the streets in order to defend about 1,300 hectares of cropland threatened by the project, which in turn employ about 25,000 workers from the surrounding area, according to reports from teleSUR’s correspondent.
In the municipality of Cocachacra, the closest to the project and the epicenter of large protests that halted the construction in 2011 and 2015, transport service was suspended, as hundreds of local farmers blocked the Panamerican highway and gather in the town’s center.
"We believe that we must support the request of farmers, mayors and the regional government itself in the sense that the nullity of the construction license must be decreed," left-wing Broad Front (Frente Amplio) congressman Humberto Morales said, as he joined other legislators from his party in the demonstrations.
The copper mining project has been categorically rejected by farmers of the central region of Tambo and by the mayors of the Islay province in the south of the country, amid fears for the consequences that open-pit mining will have on agriculture and more generally on the environment and freshwater sources.
The release of chemical substances such as cyanide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide, can cause great changes in the environment of the region destroying forests and polluting water key to agriculture in the region. Sound pollution resulting from mining operations can also affect the population and wildlife.
Last week, the mayors of Islay and the farmers of the Tambo Valley refused to talk with Peru's Prime Minister, Salvador del Solar and demanded to meet with the President of the country, Martin Vizcarra, yet did not receive a positive response.
On Monday, they sent a letter to Vizcarra to express their apprehension and displease with his administration’s decision.
According to energy sector experts, the construction license had to be approved this month before the company’s environmental permit expires. If it does the company would have to ask for another permit, restarting the complicated and long approval process, meaning another waiting period of several months until the government reviews a new environmental impact study.
The corporation has spent years waiting for the construction license that past governments refused to give after the deadly protests that first derailed the project eight years ago. The mine is expected to produce 120,000 tons of high-grade copper per year for 18 years, with an investment of US$ 1.4 billion.