Mining concessions in Peru

CORRECTION – see comments: Due to my mediocre Spanish I earlier stated mistakenly that the mayor of Acomayo granted mining concessions, it was in fact the government, and local authorities are protesting the developments. My apologies to the mayor of Acomayo.

Original post, corrected:

I just read here that the Peruvian government has granted significant concessions in the Acomayo area to the mining industry without proper consultations with the people of Acomayo.

Allow me to be perfectly selfish here: Acomayo is not too far from Accha, and if you mess with Accha, you’re messing with me. If this causes any trouble for Mama Vicky in Accha, I might just have to get involved in the opposition movement…

Sarcasm aside, I once read a column in “El Comercio” that said “Peru is a poor country because Peruvians act like poor people.” Peruvian authorities are typically eager to sell the country’s natural resources out for what they believe is a big sum of money. However, if the financial crisis proves anything, it’s that money is just funny printed paper. You can’t eat it, dance with it or teach it to sit and wag its tail.

Now mining is a necessary and honorable industry. Without it we would not have roads, infrastructure, hospitals, etc. But if Peru wants to improve its economy beyond the business districts of Lima, business and political leaders need to focus on applying the country’s fantastic human and natural resources to improve the quality of life for all Peruvians, instead of just looking for big payments of foreign cash.

I'll have my river without lead, please.

I'll have my river without lead, please.

NB: a good site for news about the impact of mining on Peruvian communities is Conacami Perú: Confederación Nacional de Comunidades del Perú Afectadas por la Minería

NB: I didn’t keep the column I referred to above, it was printed in El Comercio around the signing of the Hunt Oil project. If anyone happens to come across it, please let me know.

La Oroya – putting the $ in perspective.

I just read this Reuters release on mining giant BHP Biliton:

“BHP Billiton Ltd/Plc (BLT.L) (BHP.AX) will cut 6,000 jobs and close its giant Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Australia, writing off $1.6 billion, as the global resources giant battles a collapse in commodity prices. …”

Much has been written about the environmental situation in the Peruvian town of La Oroya, since it was featured in an episode of CNN’s “Planet in Peril” a few weeks ago. This news release simply illustrates that the money involved to clean up, move or close the Doe Run smelter in La Oroya is just not that big an issue. Mining is a huge industry, and if BHP Biliton is willing to kiss $1.6 billion goodbye just because the economy is slowing, Doe Run and the Peruvian government darn well ought to pony up the money to fix, move or close the smelter at La Oroya.

Read an interesting comment about Doe Run’s history in the US at americaninlima.com.

Ward Welvaert

Mining and environmental protections in Peru

CNN recently featured the “La Oroya” case on its “Planet in Peril” series. Mining (“la mineria”) is quite controversial here in Peru, being one of the country’s largest industries but also one with a mixed environmental record. I’m seeing some local opposition to the environmental impact of mining, for example we noticed this sign on the way to Accha:

A roadside sign opposing mining near Sangarara, Peru.

A roadside sign opposing mining near Sangarara, Peru.

One thing I hope for is that when taxpayer money is soon handed out to the US auto industry there are strings attached in terms of environmental protection (the metals processed at “La Oroya” are used in industries such as auto manufacturing).