Peruvian Town Faces Off Against Mining Companies

Posted by Juan Arellano to Global Voices Online

 

Many may have heard of the village of Rancas because Peruvian writer Manuel Scorza wrote about the place in his series of novels “The Silent War,” and perhaps in “Drums for Rancas,” his most well-known book. However, Rancas is not a fictional town and it continues in a silent war against mining companies.

Elizabeth Lino Cornejo, a well-known natural linguist from Cerro de Pasco, located 30 minutes from Rancas, follows this community’s fight and noticed that her access to administer her blog Te Voy a Contar [es] (I Will Tell You) was blocked (although it was still visible to the general public) due to “infractions of the conditions of use.” She writes:

Soy Gestora Cultural comprometida con mi comunidad y desde mi espacio profesional hago las denuncias pertinentes y ejerzo mi derecho a la libre expresión. Cerreña de nacimiento y por herencia de mis abuelos y bisabuelos que caminaron por aquellas calles que ya no existen, que dejaron de existir por la minería irresponsable. Mis hijos solo podrán pararse desde lo alto de los cerros a mirar aquel agujero gris e imaginarse que allí existió una ciudad, mientras les cuente que la lluvia ácida producida por las constantes explosiones contaminó el aire que respiraban otros niños de aquel lugar.

(…)

¿A quien le causa tanta molestia que utilice el internet para contar estas cosas y alzar la voz? ¿A quién le causa tanta molestia que denuncie el abuso cometido el fin de semana contra dos mis compañeros, amigos y hermanos Carlos Gora y Jhoel Rivera en Cerro de Pasco? Más que mi compromiso es mi deber. En un país donde solo se oye las voces de interés de quienes le rinden culto al dinero y han dejado de lado los valores humanos.

"I am a cultural promoter committed to my community and from my own professional space, I make the pertinent complaints and exercise my right to free expression. I was born in Cerro de Pasco and due to the inheritance from my grandparents and great-grandparents who walked through those streets that no longer exist, that do not exist because irresponsible mining. My children can only stand on top of the mountaintops and look at the grey hole and imagine the a city once existed there, while I tell them about the acid rain produced by the constant explosions that contaminated the air that the children breathe.

(…)

Who does it bother that I use the internet to tell these things and raise my voice? Who does it bother that I denounce the abuse committed aginst two of my companions, friends, and brothers, Carlos Gora and Jhoel Rivera in Cerro de Pasco last weekend? It is more than a commitment, it is my duty: In a country where you only hear the voices of those that worship money and have left human values aside."

Lino Cornejo was later able to regain administrative access to her blog.

The Mining Company Volcán (Volcano) has been operating in Peru since 1943 in the mining settlements of Ticlio and Carahuacra, in Yauli, Junín. But in 1997 and 1999, it expanded with the acquisition of the San Cristobal and Andaychagua sites, also located in the province of Yauli, Junín and with Cerro de Pasco or Paraqsha, located in the province of Yanacancha, Pasco. These sites are now the property of Centromin Perú SA.

The web site of Minera Volcán argues that it operates its mining activies in harmony with the environment through the use of environmental impact studies and following environmental regulations. However, it is public knowledge that the company has had frequent problems with the residents in the area [es] where they operate or plan to operate, and other similar problems. For example, last December, Enlace Nacional reported that the local school had to be moved due to the expansion of the Volcán Mine [es] (video). But that is not all, in May, a law was passed (and which shows the economic power of the company) to relocate the city of Cerro de Pasco [es] , so that the Volcán Mine can expand its activities in the town.

In related news, the post Uprising: Peasant Community in Rancas from the blog Koripampa [es] denounces some of the maneuvers made by the mining company in order to achieve their objectives, including a meeting that was called in order to review the environmental impact report for a future project:

..sin embargo, y a espaldas de los pobladores de la comunidad, en ese taller se trato de aprobar de manera irregular la expansión minera de Volcán en los territorios comunales de Rancas. En dicho evento la población de la comunidad fue impedida de participar bajo el argumento que ya no había más espacio en el auditorio, mientras todos los asistentes al supuesto taller eran trabajadores y familiares de los trabajadores de la empresa Volcán.

"…however, behind the backs of the residents of the community, the meeting attempted to approve the Volcán mining expansion in the communal territories of Rancas in an irregular manner. In said event, the populace of the community was impeded from participating under the argument that there was no more space in the auditorium, meanwhile all of the attendees of the workshop were workers and relatives of the workers from the Volcán company."

These conflicts do not end, as mining continues to be one of the major economic activities in the country and the high demand of metals is not an opportunity that should go to waste. There must be ways to find a compromise between these interests and those of the residents of the area where these deposits are found. In the field of mining, there are many skilled people from the Volcán Mine that are involved with interesting projects such as

Mining Apprentices [es]

, and perhaps both sides can agree to come together so that we avoid a situation where we all lose.