This week, thousands of affected-community members protested against HudBay Minerals’ Constancia open-pit copper mine in southern Peru.
The Velille Defense Front (FUDIV) convened the 72-hour peaceful preventative strike, which took place from Monday to Wednesday. The communities decided to protest after invitations to government and company officials requesting talks over economic, social and environmental issues received no response.
Human Rights Without Frontiers – Cusco reported that the protests “had a massive turnout,” receiving supported from the major social organizations in the province of Chumbivilcas and all eight communities in the district of Velille. Velille is one of three districts in the province of Chumbivilcas, Cusco affected by the Constancia mine.
The human rights group further indicated that a large number of police protected the company’s mine site during the three days of demonstrations. No confrontations with police were reported.
On Tuesday, however, the Peruvian Observatory of Mining Conflicts stated that residents from the neighouring district of Santo Tomás heard a person who identified himself as the commander of the National Police for the area of Espinar tell a local radio station that police officers protecting the Constancia mine had received an order to shoot any person who threatened the mine site.* The Observatory stated that this upset local residents and led more people from the area to join the protest. According to the Observatory, protests grew, culminating with six thousand local residents participating in the final day of action.
On Wednesday, in the presence of the Chumbivilcas Attorney for Crime Prevention, representatives of grassroots organizations and authorities from Velille agreed to a process of dialogue with HudBay, the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the President’s Council of Ministers. The first session is anticipated for February 17th.
The Observatory remarked “It is hoped that this won’t be just one more dialogue process and that agreements will be reached taking into consideration the population’s demands accompanied by adequate implementation.”
We published Velille Defense Front's list of demands earlier this week with additional background about the conflict.
*The current administration of President Humala was criticized in 2011 for passing a law that gives armed forces ‘a licence to kill’, exempting police and army from criminal liability if they kill or injure through the use of weapons while on the job. See more about criminalization of land and environment defenders in Peru here.