Peruvian Indigenous community wants to become a shareholder in Las Bambas mine

Las Bambas copper mine. (Image by MMG Las Bambas, Facebook.)

Representatives from the Huancuire community, located in Peru’s south-central Apurimac department, are considering the idea of applying the Indigenous concept of ‘waqui’ when it comes to their relationship with Chinese miner MMG and its Las Bambas copper mine.

Talking to local media, Romualdo Ochoa, president of Huancuire, explained that in the Quechua language ‘waqui’ refers to a principle of negotiation where “you win, I win, we both win, and everybody wins.” 

Ochoa said that, in other words, community members would like to become individual shareholders in Las Bambas to guarantee the financial stability of their families, as well as have their voices heard when it comes to protecting the natural environment that surrounds the operation.

The community leader pointed out that when the initial land negotiation with MMG took place in 2013, all documents were written in Spanish and not in Quechua and therefore, many community members were unable to truly understand what they were agreeing to.

Ochoa also said that, in particular, they were not properly informed about the mineral riches below the Chalcobamba pit, where Las Bambas’ expansion project is located. 

In his view, the approximately $66.6 million the Huancuire received between 2013 and 2017 from MMG for 1900 hectares of their land, is just a tiny fraction of what the company can actually make selling the area’s underground resources. 

In April this year, the Huancuire community joined forces with the Fuerabamba community and launched a series of blockades to protest against what their respective leaders deemed as unfulfilled promises, following the selling of their lands to MMG.

The blockades, which were later joined by another four communities, lasted for over 50 days and forced the Chinese miner to halt activities at its flagship operation.

Following government mediation efforts, a temporary working group was established to address community concerns and keep track of the commitments agreed upon. The group is expected to find a long-term solution to community grievances by December 31, 2022.