Strike at HudBay's Constancia mine; Photos: Human Rights Without Borders - Cusco
Strike at HudBay's Constancia mine; Photos: Human Rights Without Borders - Cusco

Communities from the District of Chamaca Strike at HudBay Minerals’ Constancia Mine in Cusco, Peru

Jen Moore Latin America Program Coordinator Jennifer Moore works to support communities, organizations, and networks in the region struggling with mining conflicts.

Sources: Peruvian Observatory of Mining Conflicts, Human Rights Without Borders – Cusco

Since Monday, about 1,000 community members from the district of Chamaca in the province of Chumbivilcas, in the southern region of Cusco, have been occupying the installation of HudBay Minerals’ Constancia mine. On Tuesday, the community of Uchuccarco – also in the district of Chamaca, and one of the communities directly affected by the Constancia project – joined the protest. Together, all eleven communities within the district of Chamaca are participating in this action as part of the Chamaca Defence Front (FUDICH its initials in Spanish).

On Tuesday, HudBay Minerals issued a press release announcing that mine operations were temporarily suspended as a result of the community action, suggesting that the community members “[had] yet to present specific demands.” 

Contrary to HudBay Minerals’ assertions, however, communities have clearly indicated their discontent with the company’s failure to follow through on prior commitments and agreements. According to the Peruvian Observatory of Mining Conflicts, the district of Chamaca is seeking renegotiation of a 2013 agreement with HudBay in order to incorporate an annual social benefit that would amount to a defined percentage of the company’s profits, similar to what takes place in the neighbouring province of Espinar around the Tintaya copper mine. Since 2015, the municipality of Chamaca and the local population have also been asking for investment in education and infant malnutrition projects, which have yet to elicit a concrete response.

Human Rights Without Borders-Cusco further reports that the 2013 agreement with Chamaca included infrastructure projects that have not been fully implemented. As part of this negotiation, district authorities from Chamaca also requested that a contingency plan be established to address environmental contamination from the mine.

The community of Uchuccarco, which has its own land use agreement with the company given that the company requires community lands to operate the mine, is also protesting lack of follow through on company commitments, adds Human Rights Without Borders-Cusco.

It is unclear if or when HudBay will begin to pay taxes on its income from the mine, as well as whether it might be seeking to use a mechanism in Peru known as “public works for taxes”, which lets companies write off supposed social contributions from future tax payments, essentially putting communities in a position where they end up negotiating away their own future income from the mine.

Attempts at talks on Wednesday were unsuccessful and community members are demanding that high level company representatives travel to the area to attend to their concerns, given lack of trust in company personnel responsible for community relations. So far, there has been no reports of police repression or violence. 

Early this year, in January, thousands from the neighbouring district of Velille - another of the three districts in the province of Chumbivilcas, Cusco affected by HudBay Minerals' Constancia project - protested over economic, social and environmental issues.

Photo: Human Rights Without Borders - Cusco