Las Bambas mine blockade lasts 60 days and ends in arrest of leaders

Peaceful Assembly

From 2nd February 2019 until 10th April 2019, members of the Fuerabamba indigenous community blocked the route through which copper is transported from a Chinese-owned mine at Las Bambas to the nearest port. Fuerabamba, a Quechua-speaking community that farmed and herded animals in the Apurímac region, was relocated to a new town near Las Bambas in 2007 so that the copper mine could be built.

Las Bambas is one of Peru’s biggest copper mines, with about 385,000 tonnes in output in 2018, receiving an investment of US$ 10 billion overall. As reported previously in the Monitor, the conflict with the local population started in 2015, when the community began protesting decisions made by the mining company that affect their territory. Since then five protesters have been killed. The local farming communities claim their farmland is at risk as a result of 300 heavy company trucks circulating daily through unpaved roads and has repeatedly accused the company of failing to fulfil its commitments in the relocation agreement.

A key demand of the recent blockage was the payment of compensation from the Chinese mining company to the community. As reported by the Peruvian Observatory of Mining Conflicts, civil society leaders alleged that the mining company has modified the project without including the population. Leaders also demanded that the government resume a dialogue with the community that had been suspended in 2016.

On 21st March 2019, Peruvian police arrested Gregorio Rojas, president of the Fuerabamba community, along with the community’s attorneys, brothers Frank and Jorge Chavez. The three were accused of attempting extortion against the mining company by organising the blockade. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders issued a public statement condemning these detentions and denouncing the criminalisation of social leaders.

According to news outlets, the community agreed to lift the blockade in exchange for a number of commitments from the Peruvian government, including ending the state of emergency in the region, and the removal of military and police personnel. The government also announced that dialogue on other community demands, related to the mine and legal cases resulting from the conflict, would be resumed.