Peru Referendum: 98% of Cajamarca Residents Reject Gold Mining
With a majority voting “No” in a popular referendum Sunday, local communities in Peru's northern province of Cajamarca scored a landslide victory against transnational mining giant Anglo Gold Ashanti, likely putting a definitive end to the La Colosa project and setting a precedent for the whole country.
According to the preliminary results — 20 percent of the vote is still to be disclosed — almost 98 percent of local residents rejected the extraction project in the area, corresponding to more than 6,000 votes.
The result is now expected to force local authorities to prohibit mining in the town, according to lawyer Diana Rodriguez consulted by daily El Espectador.
However, Anglo Gold Ashanti's representative in Colombia Carlos Enciso told the daily that the consequences will be “minimal,” quoting a recent ruling issued by the state's council that the effects of the popular consult cannot be retroactive, but only applies to future projects.
Rodriguez responded that the ruling is not binding and can be appealed, while the government is entitled to question the mining company's right to exploit its territory.
Although popular and local support is not necessarily a requirement for this kind of project, the government and the companies have historically acknowledged its importance, and a correct and ethical firm should understand such a level of rejection as a sign to remove the project, said Rodriguez.
Between 2011 and 2014, there were 153 social conflicts based on problems with mining and access to water according to the state ombudsman — a high number of those cases occurring in the region of Cajamarca.
Mining companies in Cajamarca claim that they only consume 1 percent of the water resources but researchers show that such calculations correspond to official studies made in 1979, while today it actually uses 128 million cubic meters of water every year with agriculture only uses 68 million cubic meters, according to UNESCO.
Another problem is that current legislation lets mining companies use water resources before an official environmental impact study is finished. And once the study is finished, there are no institutions with the resources to enforce the resulting rules and regulations to protect the water.