HudBay Operations in Peru and Guatemala: Violence and Repression Found to Result from Mining Company Contracts with State Security Forces

Human Rights Without Borders-Cusco – MiningWatch Canada

Today, the Peruvian organization Human Rights Without Borders-Cusco (DHSF, from its initials in Spanish) presented the findings of its report “Mining Impacts Invisibilized: A view from the ground on HudBay’s Constancia Project” in Santo Tomás, Chumbivilcas province, where the Constancia mine is located. 

At the same time, HudBay Minerals’ responsibility in the 2007 rape of eleven Maya Q’eqchi women as a result of a paid relationship between the company and Guatemalan military and police was at the centre of a hearing in an Ontario courtroom just a few weeks ago. DHSF’s report documents on the Constancia open pit copper mine demonstrates that the use of public force has been privatized through the company's agreement with the police force, wherein 20 police officers are assigned to provide protection, surveillance, security, and custody within the facilities and the ‘area of ​​influence’ of the project. The privatization of police forces for mining purposes was found to result in greater social conflict, greater social and territorial control, and the criminalization of protest and international solidarity to facilitate the operations of the mining company.

DHSF finds that although the company promised that the mine would generate wealth for local communities, raising expectations among the communities in the region, the mine has exacerbated inequality and eroded the social fabric. This has generated tension and conflict within and between the communities closest to the mine, which manifests itself in protests against the company's activities at any moment, as happened in April 2019. The authors note that the mining operations of have given rise to a “permanent scenario of tension, dispute, conflict and negotiation over the environmental impacts, negotiation and renegotiation of economic contributions, and failures to comply with agreements.”

Instead of economic prosperity and wealth, the cost of living and inequality have been on the rise, while the company has deepened its control over communities and their lands, obtaining mining concessions at exponential rates. According to the report, the company has more than doubled the area it holds title to from 22,516 hectares in 2010 to 58,996 hectares. This corresponds to 67%, 47% and 83% of the territories of the districts of Chamaca, Livitaca and Velille, respectively. The report shows that the majority of the population of the three districts continues to depend on these lands for agriculture and livestock, despite promises of employment by the mining company. The expansion of the company in these regions has created tension and conflict as community members struggle to negotiate with the company, or in many cases, after having sold their land, they cannot make ends meet due to the high cost of living.

As in Guatemala, there are serious concerns over security and freedom of association among residents in Peru, as well as concerns about collusion between public authorities, state security forces, and the company. In Peru, mining companies are allowed to sign security contracts directly with the Peruvian National Police (PNP). A 2019 report by EarthRights International, the Institute for Legal Defence, and Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator, found that these contracts “compromise the impartiality and independence of the PNP to favour the rights of extractive companies over indigenous peoples and communities,” and that their existence “creates a hostile scenario that puts human rights, territorial and environmental defenders at risk.” A recent article by the Institute for Political Studies argues that the law that allows the privatization of police services is “just one example of how the law has been turned against Indigenous peoples and mining-affected communities in Peru and elsewhere, making fighting mega-projects an ever more dangerous vocation.”

The DHSF report notes that HudBay’s a contract with the police provides the context in which tensions between communities and the company are constantly managed, manipulated, controlled and repressed, either explicitly through criminalization and repression, or implicitly through “community relations” of the company that strengthen the surveillance, stigmatization, and delegitimization of local opposition, human rights organizations and defenders, while creating public relations “distractions”.

Such is the case with the continuous criminalization of leaders and human rights defenders around the Constancia mine. According to the report, the conflicts around the company's activities in Chamaca in 2013 resulted in 4 leaders facing ongoing legal proceedings, and in 2016, in Velille, 6 leaders were charged with property damage for their role in protests.

The reports also details how the police acted without impartiality and in favour of the company in 2017, when both DSHF and the Lima-based NGO CooperAcción were monitored, slandered and persecuted along with the then-coordinator of MiningWatch Canada’s Latin American program, Jen Moore, and investigative journalist John Dougherty, for presenting screenings of Dougherty's film “Flin Flon Flim Flam”. The film documents the impacts of HudBay’s operations throughout the Americas, including the Constancia mine. Moore and Dougherty were arrested by police officers, many in plain clothes in the city centre of Cusco and questioned for several hours before being released. 

The Peruvian Interior Ministry clearly demonstrated the political nature of this persecution when it published a statement mere hours after the arrest, accusing the two of violating the terms of their tourist visas and inciting communities to violence, stating that they were a threat to public order, while explicitly noting that HudBay had all the necessary permits to operate its mine. In October, a Lima court confirmed that these violations were the result of HudBay's contract with the police, which had led the police and Peruvian authorities to act with a bias towards the interest of the company, and that Moore and Dougherty had been wrongly charged and sanctioned.

DHSF also points out that this environment of social control, and increased inequality and conflict “contrasts sharply with the company's code of ethics for respect and relations with rural communities and local populations.”

In both the Peruvian and Guatemalan cases, the private use of public police and military forces serves as part of a general strategy of social and territorial control to protect corporate interests.

The full report in Spanish is attached.

Background on HudBay’s ongoing lawsuit in Toronto 

On November 8, 2019 an Ontario Court heard a motion from 11 Maya Q’eqchi’ women from Guatemala to amend the Statement of Claim in their ongoing lawsuit against Hudbay Minerals to provide further clarification and details regarding the deep involvement of Skye Resources Inc. (now part of Hudbay Minerals) in the violent eviction of their community on January 17, 2007 that lead to the rape of the plaintiffs by the men conducting the eviction.

According to an update circulated by Rights Action, “HudBay Minerals/Skye Resources’ corporate officers were fully aware of many of the most serious underlying issues in Guatemala – endemic repression and violence, racism, and corruption and impunity – and  that they chose to plan and coordinate directly with the Guatemalan military and police, and their own security guards (many being former military and police) to violently remove the Q’eqchi’ inhabitants from their lands, knowing that there were serious risks of violence and repression and knowing that there were unaddressed underlying legal questions as to the validity of Hudbay/Skye claims to the lands in question.” The testimonies and amendments presented this Friday will help to demonstrate that the company:

  • paid large undercover monetary payments to the Guatemalan police and military for their service in the forcible evictions;
  • worked extremely closely with the Guatemalan police and military as an integral part of an overall team in preparation for the forcible eviction;
  • took a highly aggressive and confrontational strategy in dealing with the land conflict with the Plaintiffs’ Q’eqchi’ community in remote Guatemala;
  • proceeded with evictions that involved use of force despite knowing that Guatemalan police and military had a record of violence and abuse at evictions;
  • acted closely with the police and military in the evictions themselves as an integral part of what amounted to a de facto military operation.

See a full background of the ongoing court case here.

Press Contacts:

  • Angela Choc, one of the plaintiffs in the Guatemala case, available for interviews via Grahame Russell (Rights Action), [email protected]
  • Jose Antonio Romero, lead investigator on the report, Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras, [email protected]
  • Jen Moore,Institute for Policy Studies - Global Economy Project, [email protected]
  • Kirsten Francescone, MiningWatch Canada, [email protected] (for assistance setting up interviews, or translation)