During the morning hours of November 10, local residents from Uchucarcco, in the district of Chamaca, province of Chumbivilcas, in the region of Cusco, mobilized near the Constancia mining project to protest the company’s sustained failure to make good on commitments with the local population. According to local media, a group of residents crossed the company’s security fence. Two individuals were detained by the significant police force that protects the camp.

Little more than a year ago, in March 2012, mining company Hudbay, which owns the Constancia project, negotiated a contract to lease community lands in Uchuccarco. The company agreed to promote community development through a series of projects concerning education, health, housing and other issues. These ‘social investment’ agreements were to be approved and executed by a Multisectoral Development Committee (MDC), comprised of representatives of both the community and the mining company.

This new form of direct community negotiation earned Hudbay the recognition of the National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy as the recipient of its 2013 Sustainable Development Award in the ‘Promotion of Local Development’ category. The prize was given to Hudbay in recognition of the ‘achievements made by the Multisectoral Development Committees as a sustainable platform for future generations of Chumbivilcas.’ Slightly more than a year later, the residents of Uchuccarco condemn the company’s failure to comply with its agreements. They also complain about the lack of progress regarding the functions of the MDC, at the expense of the local population. The community calls an end to the contract, and demands the withdrawal of the company and the return of its communal land.

This situation of tension and dissatisfaction has been widely communicated in recent months to diverse authorities in the executive branch of government, to the National Ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo) and the company. The community has not received satisfactory responses. A visit to the area by the president of the national cabinet days before the conflict began failed to proffer results. The National Ombudsman, which has an office in Cusco, has not been to the area, although its presence was required on multiple occasions. The community demands that the company’s executive management travel to the area to respond to its demands.

It’s possible that in the coming hours, neighbouring community organizations from the project’s area of influence (Chilloroya and Velille) will add their voices to the protest.

With an investment of US$1.8 billion and a projected annual production of 80,000 tonnes of metal, Constancia is one of the most important copper projects in Peru. It’s estimated that the company will begin operations in the early months of 2015.

November 11, 2014