Peru’s environmental deregulation to spur more mining-related protests: analysts

Barrick Gold’s Pierina gold mine in Peru. Photo by Ausenco.

The Peruvian government might have to deal with more mining-related social protests in 2018, says a risk brief published today by Verisk Maplecroft.

According to the firm, if 2017 saw several projects slowing down or stopping due to the 171 formally registered conflicts that took place throughout the country, the approval of the supreme decree 042-2017 in December, which relaxes the environmental permitting process for medium and large-scale mining schemes, will only exacerbate the problem.

The reform, explains Verisk Maplecroft’s Senior Analyst Eileen Gavin in the brief, removes the requirement for projects to have formal environmental certificates in place before launch, so long as protection measures are put in place. Permitting for mining exploration activities was also loosened.

“I’m sure that next year we will see private investment in mining growing very fast … I want to simplify the permits,” said Peru’s Mining Minister Cayetana Aljovin back in November.

Previously, in October, the environment ministry updated the list of mining projects requiring environmental evaluation prior to start-up and did not include projects located in Indigenous territories. “In the view of activists, all projects in these territories should automatically require environmental evaluation. The MINAM list has thus created confusion, to which the government has failed to respond,” Gavin writes in her report.

Quoting the Observatory of Mining Conflicts, the analyst for Latin America also says that Peru’s northern regions will be the focus of conflicts moving forward, particularly due to long-running problems affecting Barrick and Antamina.

Although violent conflicts have taken place since the early 2010s, following Barrick’s announcement of the closure of the Pierina mine, located in the northern Ancash region, the world’s No. 1 gold producer has had to deal with communities demanding the restoration of water resources.

Antamina, which is owned by BHP Billiton, Glencore, Teck, and Mitsubishi and is also located in Ancash, will see contracts expire in July and August and experts say some social unrest may arise from new wage negotiations.