After 15 days of an ongoing indefinite strike against the construction of the major open-pit mining project known as ‘Tia Maria’ in the Peruvian central Tambo Valley, protestors have denounced Monday new incidents of police aggression as they prepare to scale up the strike to all the Arequipa region.
Peru's Gov't Postpones License for Contested Mining Project
The Command for Popular Struggle for the Defense of the Tambo Valley met on Monday and concluded that the indefinite general strike called in the valley on July 15 “has been one of the triggers of the political crisis that led to early elections” called by President Martin Vizcarra.
However, "this solution does not mean a change in the neoliberal economic model but a way for dominant classes to deepen the extractivist agenda,” a statement read.
It is for this reason that the People’s Command called for a regional strike in Arequipa to start on Aug. 5 under the demand that the mining project, granted to United States mining corporation Southern Copper, is once and for all definitively terminated.
They also condemned the continuous use of police force against local farmers, workers and social organizations that are protesting against the project.
On Monday, various families from the town of Matarani in the Islay province denounced that police teargassed their homes, affecting children and senior citizens. "We don't understand why the gassed the homes, many children were taken to a hospital. Police committed an abuse," a resident told reporters.
Violent repression today in Arequipa against the population that rejects the Tia Maria mining project.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Energy and Mines notified that the country's Mining Council will decide on the license revision request submitted by the governor of the Isaly province, Elmer Caceres, on Aug. 20. While another request has been presented by a defense front for sugarcane workers in the region.
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 of negative effects on agriculture there, which exports large quantities of its fruits and vegetables. Citizens more generally are worried about the environmental damage the mine will create.
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.
According to energy sector experts, the construction license had to be approved this month before the company’s environmental permit expires. If that happens company would have to ask for another permit, restarting a complicated and long approval process, meaning another waiting period of several months, or years, 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.
Peru is the second-largest producer of copper in the world and its mining industry makes up 60 percent of its exports.