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Water and Mining Conflicts in Peru

Photograph: Miguel Vera León, Flickr

Some experts calculate that over 50% of Peru’s peasant communities have been affected by mining activities. Alongside optimism that this will lead to significant economic growth there is concern that the environmental costs might be unac- ceptably high. There are major stakes in these conflicts, affecting everything from local livelihood sustainability to the sol- vency of national governments. Fears for water quantity and quality have triggered numerous and sometimes violent conflicts between miners and communities.

One particularly conflictive site has been the Rio Blanco Project in the Department of Piura, located along Peru’s

border with Ecuador (Figure 2). This con- flict involves a UK-registered company, Monterrico Metals plc; it has been moni- tored by various organizations, among them the Peru Support Group, a British civic association. Because of conflicting testimony in the British Parliament by the mining company and by local stakeholders in 2006, the Peru Support Group (PSG) agreed to form an independent delega- tion to visit the region and consider the nature of the conflict, its causes, and pos- sible ways forward. The delegation involved a member of the UK Parliament, a journalist, a social anthropologist and the authors: Anthony Bebbington led the delegation and Mark Williams was the expert hydrologist.

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