Lagunas Norte, Peru
Lagunas Norte is a mine owned by Barrick Gold Corporation. It is located in the Quiruvilca district, within the region of La Libertad, and sits 140 kilometers from the regional capital, Trujillo.[i] The mine’s activities have generated significant levels of conflict and protest since it opened in 2005. Environmental, community consultation, and labour concerns are some of the most prominent nodes of unrest. Lagunas Norte was expected to close in 2015, but has since announced the expansion of its operations for an additional two years.[ii]
The opening of the mine was a trigger for protest, sparking a wave of demonstrations and blockades by local community groups. These actions were subsequently met by a harsh crackdown by the authorities. The president of Peru at the time, Alejandro Toledo, stated that he “would not permit political interference in the mining industry” and declared the protests a serious matter of public security.[iii] Protesters expressed concerns over water use, contamination and lack of appropriate consultation.[iv] Concerns over water have come to the foreground due in part to the use of cyanide during the extraction process, which locals fear could pollute the water supply.[v] Local communities, which are primarily rural, rely on the lakes and rivers surrounding Lagunas Norte for drinking water and for agricultural purposes.[vi] These same communities have also protested the loss of their communally-held lands.[vii] [viii]
In 2010, local NGO Asociación Marianista de Acción Social (AMAS) and the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo conducted a study on the water quality of the surrounding lakes and rivers.[ix] AMAS had been monitoring water quality in the area since 2005.[x] The study found high levels of acidification and heavy metal contamination (including cadmium, mercury, and arsenic), concluding that the water was unfit for human consumption. [xi] Barrick rejected the study’s conclusions and methodology.[xii]
Concerns were also raised over the condition of five lakes which fall within Lagunas Norte’s mining concession, roughly three kilometers from the original mining site. In 2011, local media reported that Barrick had conducted exploratory drilling near these five lakes, with potentially damaging results.[xiii] This expansion, often referred to as “Lagunas Sur”, was opposed from the outset by local communities.[xiv] On February the 22nd, 2011 the Municipality of Santiago de Chuco declared the 84 hectares of the concession encompassing the disputed lakes a protected area, thereby prohibiting Barrick from operating there.[xv] Barrick has condemned the government’s decision and has attempted to win back the land in question[xvi], despite a Barrick representative saying that his company “has no plans of mining in that zone”.[xvii] Demonstrations against Lagunas Sur continued into 2012.[xviii]
On February 21, 2013, protesters launched a strike and blockade of Lagunas Norte. They expressed both labour and environmental concerns, demanding higher wages, an increase in the number of people hired at the mine, and the protection of their water supply.[xix] [xx]The strike ended after six days, with Barrick Gold agreeing to mediation efforts with its workers and with the surrounding communities.[xxi] [xxii]The company would later argue it had never attempted to expand beyond its “area of operation”, attributing the protest in part to a misunderstanding about permitting.[xxiii] Several months later, another report confirmed that many local community members still feared the environmental impact of the mine and sought its closure.[xxiv]
In December 2014, Peruvian newspaper La Republica reported water contamination in La Libertad near the site of Lagunas Norte, attributing it to illegal mining and the dumping of domestic waste.[xxv] Barrick Gold denied any responsibility, and a later report by Trujillo-based La Industria stated Lagunas Norte was complying with its environmental regulations.[xxvi]
Additional Information: International Politics and Lagunas Norte
The Lagunas Norte project has been criticized by groups in Canada as an example of the growing politicisation of aid by the Canadian government and the increasingly close relationship between aid, embassy officials, and multinational mining corporations. In 2009 the Canadian government reconfigured the Canadian aid budget to focus on 20 key countries, primarily in Latin America, including mineral-rich Peru.[xxvii]
World University Services Canada, Plan Canada and World Vision Canada will receive CIDA funding totaling $6.7-million for projects with Rio Tinto Alcan, Iamgold and Barrick Gold, respectively. For their part, the three mining companies will contribute additional support just shy of $2-million.[xxviii]
Lagunas Norte provides clear examples of the new corporate partnership model. New projects (such as Enhancing the Development Impact of Extractive Industries and Promoting Effective Corporate Responsibility) are combined with “sustainable growth programs” aimed at dissatisfied communities in Quiruvilca. As the organisation Mining Watch notes: “…the agency [CIDA] has set aside $499,445 for a corporate social responsibility project at a Barrick mine site in Peru. Barrick will contribute ‘approximately $150,000.’” [xxix]
Further, José de Echave from the Peruvian mining research NGO Cooperacion has noted the expanding relationship between the Canadian embassy in Peru and companies such as Barrick Gold. He cites a Wikileaks cable in which mining company officials met with embassy staff to discuss the rotation of teachers and priests that oppose mining projects and the expulsion of anti-mining NGOs.[xxx]
[i] Barrick Gold Corporation. “Lagunas Norte.” Barrick.com, http://www.barrick.com/operations/peru/lagunas-norte/default.aspx.
[ii] Grabski, Tiffany. “Lagunas Norte Social Conflict Due to a “Misunderstanding” – Barrick Gold.” BN Americas, http://www.bnamericas.com/news/mining/laguna-norte-social-conflict-based-on-a-misunderstanding-barrick-gold.
[iii] Diaz, Sheilla. “Toledo Anuncia Plan Para Frenar Bloqueos Y Violencia Social.” La Republica, http://www.larepublica.pe/20-08-2005/toledo-anuncia-plan-para-frenar-bloqueos-y-violencia-.
[iv] Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina. “Barrick Se Impone En Alto Chicama.” http://basedatos.conflictosmineros.net/ocmal_db/?page=conflicto&id=25.
[v] Vervaeke, Alison M. “”It’s Not My Story”: The Development Disconnect between Corporate Social Responsibility and the Narratives of Communities Impacted by Mining in Peru’s Andes.” Dalhousie University, 2013.
[vii] Working Group on Mining and Human Rights in Latin America. “The Impact of Canadian Mining in Latin America and Canada’s Responsibility: Executive Summary of the Report Submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.” Due Process of Law Foundation, 2014. http://www.dplf.org/sites/default/files/report_canadian_mining_executive_summary.pdf.
[viii]Solyom, Catherine. “Conflicts Surrounding Canadian Mines ‘a Serious Problem’.” Montreal Gazette, http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Conflicts+surrounding+Canadian+mines+serious+problem/7711072/story.html.
[ix] Asociación Marianista de Acción Social (AMAS). “Vigilancia Ciudadana De La Calidad De Agua: una Experiencia Desde La Sociedad Civil en El Departamento De La Libertad en El Perú.” Lima, Peru: AMAS, 2010.
[x] Working Group on Mining and Human Rights in Latin America.
[xi] Asociación Marianista de Acción Social (AMAS). “Vigilancia Ciudadana De La Calidad De Agua: una Experiencia Desde La Sociedad Civil en El Departamento De La Libertad en El Perú.” Lima, Peru: AMAS, 2010.
[xii] Hill, David. “Canadian Mining Doing Serious Environmental Harm, the IAHCR Is Told.” The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2014/may/14/canadian-mining-serious-environmental-harm-iachr.
[xiii] La Republica. “En Defensa De Las Lagunas.” larepublica.pe, http://www.larepublica.pe/12-02-2012/en-defensa-de-las-lagunas.
[xiv] Servicios en Comunicación Intercultural Servindi. “Se Inicia Protesta Contra Proyecto Minero Lagunas Sur Que Amenaza Cinco Lagunas De Quiruvilca.” servindi.org, http://servindi.org/actualidad/82784.
[xv] La Republica, “En Defensa De Las Lagunas”
[xvi] La Republica. “Ronderos Citan a Alcalde Por Denuncia De Barrick.” larepublica.pe, http://www.larepublica.pe/07-12-2011/ronderos-citan-alcalde-por-denuncia-de-barrick.
[xvii] La Republica. “Minera Barrick Asegura Que No Usará Lagunas En La Libertad.” larepublica.pe, http://www.larepublica.pe/01-12-2011/minera-barrick-asegura-que-no-usara-lagunas-en-la-libertad.
[xviii] La Republica, “En Defensa De Las Lagunas”
[xix] El Comercio. “La Libertad: Comuneros Desbloquearon Acceso a Campamento Minero De Barrick.” elcomercio.pe, http://elcomercio.pe/peru/lima/libertad-comuneros-desbloquearon-acceso-campamento-minero-barrick-noticia-1542992.
[xx] Reuters. “Peru Villagers End Protest at Barrick Gold Mine.” reuters.com, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/27/barrick-peru-idUSL1N0BR5TE20130227.
[xxi] The Globe and Mail. “Barrick to Start Mediation Effort at Peru Mine.” theglobeandmail.com, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/latin-american-business/barrick-to-start-mediation-effort-at-peru-mine/article8975304/.
[xxii] El Comercio. “Minera Barrick Iniciará Mediación Ante Protesta De Pobladores En Trujillo.” elcomercio.pe, http://elcomercio.pe/peru/lima/minera-barrick-iniciara-mediacion-ante-protesta-pobladores-trujillo-noticia-1540946.
[xxiii] Grabski, “Lagunas Norte Social Conflict Due to a “Misunderstanding”
[xxiv] La Republica. “Rumbo De Conflictos Mineros En El Norte Se Decide En Abril.” larepublica.pe, http://www.larepublica.pe/31-03-2013/rumbo-de-conflictos-mineros-en-el-norte-se-decide-en-abril.
[xxv] La Republica. “Minería Ilegal Y Residuos Domésticos Afectan Aguas De Tres Ríos En La Libertad.” larepublica.pe, http://www.larepublica.pe/09-12-2014/mineria-ilegal-y-residuos-domesticos-afectan-aguas.
[xxvi] La Industria. “Confirman Que Mina Lagunas Norte Si Cumple Con Ley Ambiental.” laindustria.com, http://laindustria.com/trujillo/regional/confirman-que-mina-lagunas-norte-si-cumple-con-ley-ambiental.
[xxvii] Freeman, Alan. “Third World Development: Ottawa to Re-Evaluate Foreign-Aid Priorities Fewer Countries Will Be Getting Lion’s Share of Spending.” The Globe and Mail, 2007.
[xxviii] Nutt, Samantha. “Should Ngos Take the Corporate Bait?” The Globe and Mail, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/should-ngos-take-the-corporate-bait/article1359759/.
[xxix]Miningwatch Canada. “CIDA Subsidizes Mining’s Social Responsibility Projects.” miningwatch.ca, http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/cida-subsidizes-mining-s-social-responsibility-projects.
[xxx] De Eschave, José. “Peru: Wikileaks, Empresas Mineras Y Embajados.” CooperAcción, http://www.conflictosmineros.net/contenidos/19-peru/6722-peru-wikileaks-empresas-mineras-y-embajadas.