EXCLUSIVE: A controversial Canadian mining company in Peru

Ottawa has decided to keep an eye on Canadian companies abroad. In January, the federal government created an ombudsman position to protect the human rights of communities that receive Canadian companies at home. Native Spaces went to Peru, where the Canadian company HudBay owns the Constancia Mine, a $ 2 billion investment in one of the poorest regions of the country.

José Luis Vasquez does not hide his anger when talking about the Canadian mining company HudBay. His voice trembles when he speaks and he punctuates his words by striking the table with the palm of his hand.

The company’s commitments have not materialized, he says. “As long as the company does not meet the highest standards in terms of social and environmental responsibility, we can not recognize that HudBay, a Canadian company, is assuming all its responsibilities. No! He adds.

José Luis Vasquez is a child of the country. After studying at the city, he returned to Chamaca, a Quechua community, a seven-hour drive from Cuzco, where he is now secretary of the Environment Commission. According to him, the Canadian company Hudbay treats the population by “begging”.

His colleague Jaime Asencion agrees. It’s late and the two men come out of a HudBay meeting. Asencion, who is deputy manager of environmental protection in Chamara, says the company has sown division in communities, in families, between authorities in the region. An irreparable situation, according to him.

HudBay does not have an understanding with everyone and every community is fighting hard for its share of the pie. Jaime Asencion thinks that the tactics of the company is a maneuver of attrition and that the population is finally too patient with it.

“Perhaps we are a little too passive or quiet and the mining company takes advantage of this humility and patience,” he says.

However, Chamaca has a framework agreement with the Canadian mining company since 2013. The company has committed to invest $ 1 million a year in the small municipality. But in 2017, Chamaca did not receive anything, says Asencion. And nothing in 2018, because funded projects must be negotiated each year piece by piece, he adds.

The report of Guy Bois will be presented on the show Désautels on Sunday at 10 am on Ici Première.

Jaime Asencion is particularly concerned about the water issue, especially because the company is located at the source of the Macaray River. “The water they use will seep at some point. At this moment, it is visible to the naked eye, without analysis equipment, that there are fish that have malformations, injuries, “he says.

The Maracay River has its source in the Chilloroya River, which runs right next to the HudBay mine. He then goes down to irrigate the lowlands used for beef, sheep, alpaca and llamas.

The analyzes carried out by the National Office of Water of Peru, however, do not show any abnormal contamination.

Indigenous leader Sabia Bota, secretary general of the peasant federation, does not believe the government agency. “We have never seen such a thing, trout with malformations. There must be something that affects our river. I think the National Water Board favors the business, “she says.

Sabia Bota also denounces the slow negotiations with HudBay. A strategy that allows the mining industry to quickly extract the wealth of the region, she says, while the needs are great, especially those of children.

“We ask that we be supported with vitamins for children who suffer from anemia, undernutrition. And in this way, we may be able to improve the quality of our children’s health. We may be able to improve education as well, “says the indigenous leader, who is holding her four-year-old daughter Libertad (” freedom “in Spanish).

A few steps from the municipal hall, the Front for the Advocacy of Chamaca, which claims to be civil society, is gathered. It is 22 hours, the rain falls druely on the tin roofs. We serve the very sweet coca mate with a piece of bread.

“They are coming out of the almost pure copper of this mine beyond their capacity. Around 70 trucks a day filled with concentrate. But the level of contribution in the communities remains small. As they say, we take the resources out and leave you nothing. What we leave is pollution, and the problems here “, denounces Mauro Timoteo Castenada. Almost 30 years old, he is looking for ways to find a scholarship to pursue his university studies in Cuzco.

The young man says he is open to private investment that respects “the peasant communities, his collective rights, his rights related to the territory, his rights related to the environment, the right to a dignified life”.

Protected by the Peruvian National Police

The HudBay mine has been affected by four conflicts with the population since November 2014. The most serious crisis occurred in January 2016. Farmers in Vellile, another area in the area affected by the mine, occupied the facilities of the community. HudBay for four days. The crisis has resolved without violence. Thirteen charges were brought against the leaders, including the mayor of Vellile.

The HudBay mine is located at 3900 meters above sea level, an open mine, gigantic, carved into the mountain.

It is a mine protected by the Peruvian National Police, the equivalent in Canada of the Royal Gendarmerie. In all legality, HudBay has a service contract with the Peruvian police. Contract from which we obtained a copy. It details, among other things, the daily salary of the officers (around $ 50), the non-commissioned officers, as well as the responsibilities of the mine and those of the police officers.

The region has also been in a state of emergency since January, allowing arrests without a warrant or preventive detentions.

The mine is also taking advantage of the increase in copper prices over the last year to buy more mining concessions in the region, which is creating resistance.

Luisa Colqué is Mayor of Anawichi, where HudBay decided to expand her mine. She believes that the mining is practically owner of the whole territory of the community. “We have our resources, and these resources, [the mining] takes them for nothing. And if we ask for support, the company supports us miserably, forgive me the word, “she says.

Human rights support

The communities affected by the HudBay mine are supported by Human Rights Without Borders. The Cuzco office organizes workshops on indigenous rights in the area, denounces rights violations and provides legal defense for activists.

“If a Canadian company signs a memorandum of understanding with a community or district and promises to give work, build roads, promise a school, promise investments, the least people expect is that company tries to fulfill these agreements. Because when you do not respect the agreements, you have a conflict, “says Jaime Borda, the director of the organization.

He believes that creating an ombudsman position in Canada to promote the rights of communities abroad is a good idea. It is still necessary that his work be specified.

“What will be the mechanism for filing a complaint? How will a member of an affected community be able to use this mechanism to make a complaint to such a remote body in Canada? To understand conflicts, impacts, you have to be in the field, “he says.

The HudBay headquarters building in Lima, Peru Photo: Radio-Canada / Guy Bois
The mine Conctancia, the jewel of mining

HudBay has its Peruvian headquarters in Lima. Its Constancia mine is the jewel of the company. It produces three times more copper than the other HudBay mine in Manitoba.

The main shareholders of HudBay are pension fund managers. In other words, many individual shareholders may not know that they own shares in this company. The company’s management only owns 1% of the company.

At the headquarters of HudBay, in Lima, it is said that it is impossible to receive us. Everyone is in a meeting, even if we announce ourselves the day before. The response to the request will come later from the Toronto head office. Impossible, it is said, to grant an interview. Questions can be submitted in writing. What was done. Hudbay’s answers:

• Relationships with communities are generally friendly and productive, but as in any employment relationship, disputes may arise between the parties.

• Regarding allegations of pollution of the Macaray River, Hud Bay replied that it is true that some people made such allegations, but these were based more on perceptions than on proven facts.

• And HudBay finally points out that companies in Peru are often required to enter into contracts with the police to cover the costs associated with surveillance. These agreements are governed by a specific legal framework and are therefore valid.

The double Canadian morality?

For José de Echave, Peru’s former deputy environment minister, Peruvian environmental protection policies are lax. He accuses the Canadian embassy of conducting vigorous mining diplomacy so that environmental standards favor companies.

He even believes that Canadian cooperation deemed independent of economic interests primarily serves the mining industry. He refers to Canada as a country that applies a “dual morality”: “To say and recognize that we operate according to the best standards in other countries, and [at the same time] to feel very comfortable about operate with minimum standards. Not only to feel comfortable with these minimum standards, but also to put permanent pressure to ensure that a country like Peru does not raise its social and environmental standards … ”

The Canadian Embassy in Peru has declined our request for an interview.

Back to Chamaca

A saleswoman of coca leaves at the market of Chamaca in Peru
A seller of coca leaves at the market of Chamaca in Peru Photo: Radio-Canada
Meanwhile in Chamaca, just a few miles from the HudBay Constancia mine, the aboriginal leader of the Farmers’ Federation has one last message for Canadians.

“We demand only that we respect our rights. It is only for this reason that we do this and not to inconvenience anyone, “she concludes.

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About the Author: Randy Smith

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