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The ghost pipeline: Las Bambas in its zero hour

Initially there were two mines operated by the same company, Xstrata, operating, one in Cusco (Tintaya) and the other in Apurimac (The Bambas). Between the two mining units, over a 200-kilometer corridor, is the Cusco province of Chumbivilcas. The Swiss capital company envisaged a pipeline between the two, for which it prepared an EIA in 2011 that included, in addition to the agreement through negotiation with the intermediate communities, an overlapping road to carry the necessary construction material.

But the pipeline was never completed. For 2013, a year after the EIA was approved, Xstrata sold Las Bambas to the Chinese MMG and the need for a pipe between the two mines was over. The company argued that the idea was never shelved, but could go hand in hand with a railroad site. It is there when he asks the Ministry of Energy and Mines (Minem) for the authority to transport his concentrates by road, by means of the declaration without consultation with the national highway populations and without a full evaluation of the environmental impacts (by means of a modification of his EIA) in around this new type of hauling for red metal concentrates.

Overnight, in 2016, more than 250 dump trucks per day, with a payload of 40 tons each, broke the tranquility of farmers and their families, who at no time approved such use of the road, as did happen to level of their regional governments. In practice, The residents feel that the State and the company have agreed to take them out of the equation and take the copper by weight.

An EIA for the tube

The situation was already heated before the first dust storm. In 2014, former President Humala launched Law 30230, known as the ‘environmental package’, the purpose of which was to make environmental enforcement more flexible in favor of private investment. With it, conflicts in the mining sector went from 10% to 37% that year, according to an OEFA report.

Romulus Much, president of Agromin, considers that if things had been done well from the beginning, no conflict would have exploded. Instead, he recalls episodes of mismanagement that contributed to social unrest, such as Vizcarra’s offer of works for S / 2,000 million in The Bambas, as soon as the MTC assumed.

“Conflicts usually happen when, from the beginning, the State is not present. Now it has reached an extreme level, with demands that are too high. When the pipeline was abandoned, it should have been explained to the people, at the time, how is it that from now on the passage of trucks would develop, asphalt the road “, maintains the expert.

However, Mucho recognizes that during the transition to the national route the modification of the corresponding EIA was not delivered.

“There was a void there. But the State was present, nothing was done without permission, “he says.

Copper: today or never

These are boom times for copper and Las Bambas, which will start paying IR from 2022, you know. There is no room for further delays or lockdowns in what represents MMG’s largest investment in the world. For Jorge Manco, UNMSM researcher, his announcement to paralyze operations does not contain substance, since the deposit will invoice, with all its problems, “more than 3,500 million dollars at the end of 2021.” But they all echo him.

Along these lines, Manco assures that the main responsible has been the State, for allowing facilities that should never have occurred, such as not reporting the cessation of the mining pipeline.

“There is a hard core with an anti-mining discourse, but they are in the minority. Most communities ask the company for what the Republican State has not given them in 200 years: citizenship, education, health, infrastructure and respect ”, he affirms.

Four presidents without solving the Las Bambas case

Four presidents have passed without resolving Las Bambas: Humala, PPK, Vizcarra and Sagasti. Castillo could be the fifth.

The change to the national route was made through a technical support report (ITS), created by the State, according to the communities, to benefit the mining company.

The request to use the road as a mining corridor was presented at the end of the evaluation of the EIA modification, when the stage of technical evaluations had concluded, he warns CooperAction.

The communities claim the right to pay a mining easement, in addition to compensation for environmental damage.

Las Bambas produces about 400,000 tons of copper per year, about 2% of world copper.


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