By Jakob Stein
On July 15, farmers in the Tambo Valley in the Arequipa region organized a 72-hour period of protests, strikes, and roadblocks against the approval of the “Tia Maria” copper mining project.
Protesters held large demonstrations in multiple cities, participated in three days of work stoppages, and restricted transportation throughout the Province of Islay. Although opportunist political “leaders” tried to keep villagers from creating roadblocks, the masses still rebelled and blocked a portion of the Panamericana Sur, a major coastal highway that connects northern and southern Peru, for several hours.
The Peruvian Ministry of Mines and Energy granted the license for the 1.4 billion dollar mining project under the supervision of President Martín Vizcarra. Peru is the world’s second largest copper producer and approximately 60% of its exports come from the mining sector.
The “Tia Maria” project is operated by the Southern Copper Corporation (SCC), owned by the holding company Grupo Mexico, an associate of US finance capital and subject to their interests. Additionally, the US is the largest importer and consumer of minerals from Peru; the actions of the SCC are meant to satisfy US markets and are in direct service to US imperialism.
The reactionary old state in Peru has repeatedly attempted to push the copper mining project through over the past ten years despite strong opposition from the masses throughout Arequipa. Six people were killed and many other were seriously injured in clashes with police since 2011, and last week at least 400 additional police have been sent to the region from Lima.
Peasant farmers and other residents in the region are worried that the proposed mine will pollute the water and land as well as limit the availability of water to the rural population, which has been the case for many previous mining projects throughout Peru. The reactionary state has been quick to manipulate public opinion, pleading for “dialogue” on one hand, while deploying state repression against those who reject this “dialogue.”
According to the Nuevo Peru New Democracy Association, in these ten years of struggle against the project, peasants have been denied the “right to be represented by lawyers, the right of peoples to fully enjoy their natural resources, self-determination, and development.”