Aymara Protests in the Puno Region
Jun 23, 2011
Women protest at the blockade point in Desaguadero.jpeg
"No to the Santa Ana Mine. The Aymara Fight Lives On. Be strong brothers!"

Walter Anduvri is protesting the mine in the Santa Ana community and he is not alone. Over 10,000 demonstrators, most of them indigenous Aymara, are there with him and it is making national waves [1].

Since early May, Anduviri, leader of the Front for the Defense of Natural Resources and his colleagues have claimed that the Canadian Bear Creek Mining Company and the Peruvian National Government have been breaking the law. They claim that the government gave out the mining concession in violation of a number of environmental laws.

As a consequence of the protests, the border between Peru and Bolivia has been temporarily shut down, mine work has paused, and tourists have been evacuated from the region. Even the election of Ollanta Humala, seen by many as particularly representative of much of the nation’s indigenous population, has not quelled the protests.

Santa Ana, a heavily indigenous community, high in the Andes, near Lake Titicaca, is at the center of a boom in mining. Since 2002, the mineral-rich Puno region has experienced a 279% increase in mining concessions, expanding from 433,321 hectáreas in 2002 to 1,643,746 hectares in 2010. Yet few locals have seen the benefits of the industry, and 60% of residents remain in poverty [2].

The protestors are claiming a number of specific violations. Specifically, they are protesting denial of the right to “free, prior, and informed consent” prior to access of natural resources on their territory. Most importantly, Aduviri claims, the government approved the mine concession without public participation [3].

Under Convention 169 ILO and the Peruvian Constitution, indigenous peoples’ territories are legally protected, requiring formal processes of consent before they cede any land or mineral rights. Additionally, the Peruvian Constitution, forbids foreign ownership of mines within 50 kilometers of the Peruvian border, except in cases of public necessity [4].

Consistent disregard for indigenous rights of access to information and public participation in Peru has led to increasing frustration and growing social conflict. Recently failed negotiations between the protestors and government culminated in vandalism and looting of government buildings. One unfortunate consequence, according to Fuad Khory, the National Controller, said documentation of corruption cases being investigated in the Puno region have been destroyed in the attacks.

TAI partner Peruvian Society for Environmental Law [6] (“SPDA” in Spanish) has stepped in to play a role. SPDA is working to address indigenous peoples’ territorial rights and to address the weak consultation by engaging the incoming Humala administration. Within this context, the protestors have won a momentary victory, with a recently announced 14-month suspension of the mine as a result of a multi-stakeholder negotiation process [5].

Yet outcomes remain tenuous. The victory of president-elect Ollanta Humala,the widely supported candidate in the Puno region has the mining sector on edge. Pedro Martínez, president of Sociedad Nacional de Minería, Petróleo y Energía (SNMPE), an association bringing together mining industry stakeholders, is urging the President-elect to win the confidence of investors, “He should send a clear message about respecting contracts and the rule of law [7].”

[1] Peru: Aymara Indigenous People Announce Resumption of Protests in Puno http://bit.ly/lD7Tea

[2] Peru: Anti-Mining Blockades Suspended for Elections http://bit.ly/jbRqAq

[3] Convention No. 169 http://bit.ly/iDCpIB

[4] 2007 Decreto Supremo N° 083-2007-EM: “that development activities allow a significant increase in cogeneration natural gas consumption in enterprises currently employ it. The promotion of cogeneration and generation priorities in the Energy Policy of the State since it represents the potential benefits [of] primary energy savings, reduction of losses on the electricity grid, improving production efficiency, agent-oriented concurrent use of heat and electricity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions…” http://bit.ly/kd3BW3

[5] Peru: Puno Protests Resumed, Government Prepares Dialogue http://bit.ly/iKgFnK

[6] Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental http://www.spda.org.pe/

[7] SNPME’s “true goal of our business practices promote and implement environmental protection and efficient use of natural resources…[and] to respect the ethnic diversity (cultures, customs, principles and values of the societies with which we act) promoting dialogue and participation of different social groups in local development projects).” http://bit.ly/kP6SKV

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