Justice & Peace visiting Peru: when will the extractivist model end?

Panorama, Las Bambas region, Credit: Justice & Peace

From April 15 to May 1, Mikaël (advocacy officer) and Martin (communications officer) flew to Lima, where the partners of the SER association (Servicios Educativos Rurales) awaited them with a program intended to strengthen CJP's political advocacy work, and to collect audiovisual material for the redesign of an educational tool on mining in Peru.

A meeting with our Peruvian associative partners

On site, we were supported by associations SER, Grufids, Red Muqui And CooperAction. Based on their expertise on the mining issue and the extractivist model, they introduced us to relevant actors and actresses to discuss the issues raised by large mining companies, but also illegal, or “informal” mines.

Meeting with Red-Muqui, Peruvian NGO, Lima. Credit: Justice & Peace

This is how we met researchers, academics, community leaders, citizens, etc. who spoke to us mines and the consequences of the extractivist model developed by the country.

We met these many people in the regions of Lima, Huancayo, Junin, Pasco, Cusco, Apurimac and Cajamarca and visited numerous mining sites thanks to the field knowledge of our partners.

Overview of the regions visited

The extractivist model: disastrous consequences for populations and ecosystems

In Peru, the mine is present in many rural regions, where Quechua and Uros communities live in particular. Agriculture and livestock farming are made extremely difficult by the proximity of gigantic mines which poison the water, air and soil. The farmers met in particular in the regions of Cajamarca, Puno, Espinar and Cuzco report of a catastrophe on ecosystems, but also on their way of life. Contamination of the population with heavy metals is commonplace, as is contamination of their plantations and livestock. These people, who normally make a living from trading these foodstuffs, can no longer sell them, because of the high levels of metals present in them. In addition, the criminalization of people opposing the mine forces them – due to lack of financial means – to resort to various associations and NGOs to defend their rights.

Hole at the Las Bambas mining site, next to the Quechua Nueva Fuerabamba community, Apurimac region, Credit: Justice & Peace
La Oroya, a former heavy metal smelter infamous for having rubbed shoulders with Chernobyl on the podium of the most polluted cities in the world, Credit: Justice & Peace

Diverse objectives in Peru for Justice & Peace

Our objective, in Peru, was twofold (or even triple). Meetings with partners with distinct profiles allowed us to collect material for Belgian and European political advocacy. thanks to the discussions initiated where we addressed both the consequences of the mine and the extractivist system, as well as its concrete alternatives. We were also able collect material for the future update of our educational tool “Gold at all costs” (2016), intended for secondary school teachers. Finally, thanks to visits to mining sites and meetings with citizens of the regions we will be able to raise awareness among the Belgian population of these issues, often unknown to the general public.

Cerro de Pasco, highest city in the world. One of its lagoons, completely saturated by sediments and acids due to the extraction and cleaning of heavy metals, Credit: Justice & Peace
Interview with Ketty Marcelo Lopez, president of La Organización Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas Andinas y Amazónicas del Perú, Credit: Justice & Peace

What are the alternatives to the Peruvian extractivist system?

Many possible solutions were discussed during these 2 weeks of meetings. Some at a local level, others at a national or international level. Let us cite in particular agriculture, very developed in certain regions of the country, which benefit from numerous native varieties of corn, potatoes, avocados, etc.

Agricultural plot, near the Las Bambas mine, Credit: Justice & Peace

Work should also be undertaken with certain laboratories and national universities to systematize land studies before the installation of a mining site, in order to have sufficient evidence to prosecute the companies responsible for damage to nature and the state of health of populations, as well as to question this permissive system.

At an international level, a duty of vigilance and traceability systems for strategic metals should be considered, as the consequences of their extraction seem invisible to European political leaders. For some people met, the Peruvian system leaves too much freedom to multinational companies and illegal mines, who appropriate land, expropriate citizens and destroy ecosystems with complete impunity.

A banal encounter, when we know that 500 trucks pass every day along this mining corridor, Las Bambas, Credit: Justice & Peace

It is up to us and our Peruvian, Belgian and international partners to use this material wisely. Many other avenues have been mentioned, and have already been discussed with our partners in Lima, in order to transform possible solutions into action. A work that we will continue to do from Belgium!

Final workshop in Lima with our associative partners, Credit: Justice & Peace


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