Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Plebiscite Gives Mine the Shaft

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Plebiscite Gives Mine the Shaft

Article excerpt

La Oroya, Peru--home to a huge copper mine and heavy metal smelter run by the mining corporation Doe Run--is among the 10 most polluted sites on the planet, according to a recent survey by the Blacksmith Institute. So it shouldn't be surprising that when Peruvian citizens in the province of Piura, north of La Oroya, were given the chance to vote on whether they wanted a similar mining operation, they overwhelmingly opposed the idea.

On September 16, thousands of mostly indigenous people from Northern Peru converged on the villages of Ayabaca, Pacaipampa, and El Carmen for a plebiscite about the fate of a proposed copper and molybdenum mine. Despite intimidation from pro-mining thugs and warnings from the country's president, Alan Garcia, that the vote would be illegitimate, people came from throughout the. surrounding Countryside--some walking as much as eight hours--to cast their votes.

The final tally had more than 90 percent of voters opposed to the mine, which is being developed by a company called Minera Majaz. Although the plebiscite--organized by 12 regional mayors and Peruvian NGOs--was nonbinding, the vote is likely to put a big roadblock in the mine's path. Peruvian law requires local communities to provide permission for companies to use their land.

"The people can't be fooled," says Servando Aponte, an area resident. "They don't want the mine."

Local farmers say that the exploratory phase of the mine has already damaged the rivers on which they depend, and that the mining company is operating illegally on their lands. Area residents fear the situation will only get worse if the giant open pit mine is allowed to proceed. …

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