Peru's watchdog, Defensoría del Pueblo, has asked the government to enforce the recently approved “prior consultation law” to Canadian miner Candente Copper's (TSX: DNT) Cañariaco project in the country’s north.
The law, passed by congress in 2011, but in use only since early January, was designed to comply with the International Labour Organization's (ILO) agreement on the rights of indigenous communities to participate in development projects on their land.
In a letter to the prime minister's office (PCM), published by Crónica Viva, the body says 65% of population in the area where the $1.5 billion Cañariaco copper-gold-silver project is located is Quechua descendent. Because of that it asked authorities to make sure Candente is complying with the new law, which requires a minimum approval of two-thirds of the total registered aboriginal population in the mine’s proximity.
In early December, a group of protesters blocked access roads to the project and seized 10 subcontractors hired to conduct the project's environmental impact study (EIS). The incident was declared resolved, but last Friday at least four people were injured in a clash with police, while several hundred farmers protested against the company’s planned mine and blocked roads leading to it for four days.
MINING.com sources as well as Candente CEO Joanne Freeze herself say people with “underlying business interests” are leading the protests against the project. They also claim those leaders have links with terrorist groups, such as the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) and the Shining Path.
"It is pretty well known that this is not what it appears to be," Freeze told BNamericas (subs. required) earlier this week.
"It is very important for us that the government finds out who are the sponsors that are hiding behind the agitators, so that the community and all the people here can understand what is really going on," Freeze added.
Peru’s mining minister, Jorge Merino, said that demonstrators initially demanded a roundtable to foster dialogue, but now they are asking Candente to halt activities before agreeing to talks.
"We cannot allow that a company that is complying with the law is told to withdraw from community commitments because a small group want conditions on dialogue… it would send a very bad signal," Merino told Peruvian newspaper Gestión (in Spanish).
Mining drives Peru's economy, with growth forecast at more than 6% for 2013, but the social costs have been high, with several mining projects facing constant —and sometimes violent— opposition.