COVID-19: Canadian Mining Company Endangers Workers and Communities in Peru

Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras (Cusco) – MiningWatch Canada

A new report highlights the lack of transparency and action by Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals in the face of a COVID-19 outbreak at its Constancia mine in Peru as part of a broader pattern of irresponsible behaviour.

Highlights of the report

  • At least 21 workers at Hudbay’s Constancia mine have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The company did not take adequate measures to protect its workers and the general population, and did not provide information about the outbreak to local health authorities despite its claims to be “responsible”.
  • The positive cases are producing fear and constitute a serious risk for local Indigenous populations who are already suffering the economic, environmental, and social consequences of the mine.
  • These events constitute part of a longer trajectory of violations of human rights by the Canadian mining company.

A Peruvian organization, Human Rights Without Frontiers-Cusco (Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras-Cusco or DSHF) has published a report based on information from local communities affected by Hudbay’s Constancia mine. The report brings to light a recent outbreak of COVID-19 that is jeopardizing the right to health and life of workers and surrounding populations, where at least 21 workers have now tested positive for the virus. (According to the report, the company has 744 employees at Constancia plus many more third-party contract workers.)

On March 15, the Peruvian government declared a “state of sanitary emergency,” but permitted mining companies to continue working at a reduced capacity due to their “strategic” nature. Following this decision, Hudbay announced that it would follow the government’s direction and move operations to care and maintenance.

After 45 days, workers warned of a possible infection on one of the shifts, but the company immediately denied the allegations, stating on April 26 that “at present there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at our Constancia mining unit. None.” This statement was contradicted the following day by the Chumbivilcas Health Network who noted that the company had tested workers and have discovered 18 positive cases (1 of whom was a worker from Veilile, an nearby original community).

“The fact that the company lied about the possible outbreak comes as no surprise”, says Kirsten Francescone, Latin America Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, “Hudbay has a full history of violating the human rights of local populations at its operations in Guatemala and Peru. Their lack of respect for the Constancia affected communities facing this global pandemic forms part of a historic pattern of behaviour.”

Despite the confirmed positive cases and having an entire page dedicated to COVID-19, the company has not released a press statement to its investors about the outbreak. Local Indigenous communities and sanitary authorities have expressed their concern about this outbreak, due to existing vulnerabilities resulting from the impacts of the mine (especially dust) which could be further complicated by their remoteness and distance from specialized health services.

Local populations from various communities are demanding that local authorities take the necessary measures to guarantee their right to health, including: rapid identification of people who have had contact with infected workers; more concerted effort on the part of local health services to avoid the propagation of the virus; greater transparency about actions that Hudbay is taking with respect to the pandemic; on-site mine supervision of the company’s pandemic measures by the health authorities, and finally, that the relevant authorities investigate the company for violating sanitary measures and putting the health of workers and local populations at grave risk.

The full report in Spanish, with the full details, is here.