Photo: Protesters block road in Arequipa
By Jakob Stein
Last week, Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines suspended the permit for the construction of the $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper mine in the Arequipa region. The reactionary government suspended the license supposedly to reevaluate its legality and take into account the objections from local officials, but paralyzing strikes, port blockades, and combative protests have forced the government’s hand.
Over the past ten years, the Southern Copper Corporation (SCC) has attempted to construct the mine several times, but the people of the region have taken up the fight against it each time with tremendous courage and militancy. Residents of the Tambo Valley have been opposed to the mine since its inception over fears that it will pollute the Tambo River and the surrounding land used for agriculture.
Against the most recent attempt, protesters have blocked roads and railways that connect four separate mines to the port of Matarani, resulting in an estimated loss of $400 million worth of mineral exports. In a move characteristic of the corporatist fascist government, the military was deployed to clear the port and resume business operations with escalating repression against the people.
Militant protests have also erupted since the project’s initial approval in July, at least 34 police were injured and eight protesters have been arrested. Indefinite general strikes throughout the region have also disrupted commercial transport and tourism; the tourism industry alone is losing approximately $250,000 on a daily basis.
The SCC, along with the Minister of Energy and Mines Francisco Ismodes, are now pursuing the path of “social license.” The reactionary old state attempts to carry out the dispossession of the people in Arequipa with the supposed “agreement” of the masses, by appointing people to speak in the name of “participation” and using the executive power to trample on democracy and interpret the will of the people.
The masses in Arequipa have already shown that a temporary suspension of the Tia Maria mine is not enough; they are demanding the complete cancellation of the project. Although the reactionary old state will continue to push forward against the people in the name of capital, even with their supposed “approval,” the masses are not fooled and have mobilized thousands to combat and resist the machinations of the SCC and their lackeys in parliament.