Residents of a mining district near Cusco, Peru won their demand for dialogue with a Canadian mining company shortly after beginning a 72-hour strike.
A local assembly, the Defensive Front for the Interests of the Velille District (FUDIV), declared a 72-hour strike on Monday after the copper mining company, HudBay, refused multiple requests to discuss its environmental and social responsibilities.
“We will not be bought out by a plate of lentils,” said FUDIV president and lawyer Guider Puma. He claimed the company offered gifts like oats and toys to appease residents. “This is not the victory of Guider Puma, this is the victory of the people, because the people are truly tired with the abuses that the HudBay mining company is committing,” he said.
“Velille and FUDIV yielded and will soon discuss with HudBay.”
Besides citing impatience with a lack of response from the company, the residents’ assembly listed several demands enunciated over the past two years, including: following up with environmental obligations; paying workers their full wages; allocating the funds that the community was promised; and consulting the community when seeking government approval. Until now, the workers claimed, the company’s actions have constituted “an abuse of the autonomy and self-determination of the community.”
In a public declaration, the Ayllu of Uchuccarco, or traditional local government, said that the long list of unfulfilled promises includes a “district development plan to implement education programs, a health centre, electricity and to pave the road that connects Espinar with Chumbivilcas, as well as to provide jobs, economic opportunities, and that the company abide by existing agreements with local communities.”
Members of the 30 local communities protested last year when they saw their livelihoods, dependent on agriculture and livestock, threatened by mining. Many clashed with state police, who were recently granted increased protections from accountability for employing violence against protesters. In Peru, 230 protesters, mainly against mining companies, were killed and 3,318 wounded between 2006 and 2014, according to the anti-mining activist organization CooperAccion.
The Canadian mining company is still on trial for abuses in Guatemala, where a human rights defender was killed by a HudBay security officer. Guatemalan women have also accused its security personnel of sexual abuse.
An indigenous community from Canada, which is also claiming abuses at the hands of HudBay, expressed its solidarity with Villele. “Our efforts to protect traditional Indigenous lands, waterways, plants and animals from destruction, is a struggle to protect the future generations of all peoples: Indigenous, Canadian and Peruvian," said Chief Dumas.
Opened in mid-2015, the Constancia copper mine already produces 7 percent of Peru’s copper. HudBay saw a dip in profits this year, with a 55 percent drop in its stock prices in the past four weeks. The Constancia mine, though, has been the major reason for optimistic forecasts from financial monitors.
HudBay announced Monday that it would devote nearly 60 percent of its investments—US$180 million—to the copper mine in 2016. At the same time, the Ayulla of Uchuccarco , noted in its declaration that workers have been denied about US$1.3 million in pay, and the community has not received the US$5.4 million that it was promised.