Since 2012, Vancouver-based Candente Copper has been exploring for copper and gold in the community of San Juan de Cañaris, in the province of Ferranafe, a largely Indigenous, Quechua-speaking agricultural community.
The company’s proposal to construct an open-pit mine near the principal source of water for downstream communities in San Juan de Cañaris has given rise to local opposition for which the community has been criminalized.
– Rosa Humán, leader for women’s issues in San Juan de Cañaris
Resistance to Candente Copper and Resulting Criminalization of Dissent
Throughout continued community opposition to the mine, both Candente Copper and the Peruvian state have consistently collaborated to manipulate the legal landscape and use stigmatization, threat of imprisonment and violence to silence dissent.
This case is a glaring example of how the law and the justice system in Peru continues to work in favour of corporate interests. It shows how the state uses the language of protection and impartiality to protect corporate interests at the expense of the people.
A judge convened a local vote on the proposed mining project. This vote came out in favour of the mining company, but the vote was poorly attended and the process has been heavily criticized as designed to benefit the company.
A community convened consultation was held by secret ballot with national police and journalists observing. El Comercio reported that over 3,000 participated and the vote was 95% against Candente Copper’s proposed open-pit mine and other activities in the zone that threaten the water supplies of these principally agricultural communities.
Since then, the community has been demanding respect for the results of the September 30, 2012 vote and the annulment of a water permit granted by the National Water Authority, while the company continues to rely on the July 2012 results.
The community announced that it would begin demonstrations against the project, calling for fair dialogue and demanding that the results of the September vote be respected.
Protests began on January 20th, 2013.
Ongoing Conflict and Criminalization
San Juan de Cañaris has not rejected the idea of a state-led consultation process, if it is carried out in good faith. However, they reiterate that their consultation of September 2012 should be respected together with their right to free, prior and informed consent.
In May 2013, San Juan de Cañaris filed a complaint with the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights demanding that they be respected as an Indigenous community and that the persecution against community leaders who have been denounced by the company stop.