After mining, what ...

After mining, what ...

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By Agustín Mamani Mayta

Peru is a mining country, occupying the first places in Latin America and the world regarding copper, gold, silver, lead, among others. Currently, mining comprises approximately 2% of proven reserves and 1% of possible reserves.

According to the specifications of the National Institute of Civil Defense (INDECI), due to its geographical characteristics, Peru is exposed to periodic earthquakes of varying intensity, 80% of the population is at risk of damage caused by earthquakes ( Source: Analysis of the situation Peru; PAHO / WHO, 2002). With an availability of water resources of 2 043 548.26 million m3 (4.6% of the volume of world runoff) of fresh water; distributed of 97.8% for the Atlantic slope; 1.7%, for the Pacific slope and 0.5% for the Titicaca slope ( Source: Agrarian Portal, MINAG, 2004). According to UNESCO, Peru is among the first 17 countries that have the largest amount of water available in the world, at the level of Latin America and the Caribbean, Peru is second after Belize ( Source: Aqua Vitae); However, despite this abundance, we are ranked 59th in water quality out of 122 countries.

Peru, mining country

Peru is a mining country, occupying the first places in Latin America and the world regarding copper, gold, silver, lead, among others. Currently, mining comprises approximately 2% of proven reserves and 1% of possible reserves.

The Peruvian state, through the Ministry of Energy and Mines, promotes investment in mining, at the same time acts as a supervisory body. As a promoter entity, it requires companies to submit a detailed or semi-detailed Environmental Impact Study proportional to their extraction capacity, or the Environmental Adaptation and Management Program (PAMA) for mining and metallurgical companies in operation; and, as an auditing entity, at least every six months it carries out its inspection work (auditing) through third party companies registered with state agencies.

Since pre-Inca times, metals and alloys extracted from mother nature were already obtained, as we can see in the different works of art that are admired in museums and exhibitions.

Currently, mining generates 56% of income from exports as concentrates and intermediate products; the growth is around 6.6% of GDP as metallic and non-metallic mining, it contributes to the treasury as income tax 30% of the proceeds, generating employment for more than 100,000 people directly and around 500,000 people indirectly. Mining investment is around 10 billion US dollars ( Source: Ministry of Energy and Mines, Mining and Development, June 2006)

Resources collected by Mining

Millions of new soles


Environmental passives

An inventory of mining environmental liabilities is necessary and important given the geographical conditions of risk that our country has, to avoid the level of contamination of the air, water, soil, flora and fauna; impacts on the quality of life of the communities and populations near the pollutant source and the most salient are the risks due to catastrophic seismic failures and the magnitude of their impact. According to estimates, the mining-metallurgical activity annually discharges 13 billion cubic meters of effluents into the bodies of water throughout the country (World Bank, 2000). In recent years, the mining sector has been progressively reducing its effluents to rivers, lakes, etc.

In 2001, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) created the "Project for Elimination of Environmental Liabilities" (EPA), to carry out studies and works for the rehabilitation of areas affected by liabilities. First approximations would determine that the Peruvian state should invest approximately between one thousand and one thousand two hundred million US dollars for its remediation. The economic valuation will determine the real amount that the remediation will cost to the Peruvian people and the compensation to the communities, populations affected by the contamination environmental. The question arises, what actions will the Peruvian state take against the mining companies that exploited the mine, and then abandoned them; It is inconceivable that these liabilities are assumed by the Peruvian people

Inventoried environmental liabilities

Source, MEM, June 2006

Mining environmental liabilities are facilities, effluents, emissions, remains or deposits of waste produced by mining operations, currently abandoned or inactive and that constitute a permanent and potential risk to the health of the population, the ecosystem and the property, according to the Law No. 28271.

Initially, through the Project for the Elimination of Environmental Liabilities, which was carried out years ago, 611 environmental liabilities were identified.

The environmental liabilities generated by traditional mining and inventoried by the Ministry of Energy and Mines indicate 850, which, according to the report, includes 133 liabilities in Ancash, 79 in Puno, 69 in Ayacucho, 67 in Huancavelica, 60 in Lima. 53 in Moquegua, 51 in Junín, 44 in Cusco, 43 in Apurímac, 42 in Arequipa, 40 in Pasco, 32 in Tacna, 31 in Ica, 23 in Huanuco, 22 in Madre de Dios, 20 in Cajamarca, 18 in Piura, 14 in La Libertad, 08 in Lambayeque and 01 in San Martín.

To update this inventory, the General Directorate of Mining, which has the Regional Directorates of Energy and Mines as operational entities, coordinated with the General Directorate of Mining Environmental Affairs and the National Institute of Mining Concessions and Cadastre.

Environmental damage

Searching, prospecting, exploration and exploitation of mining deposits (surface, underground, mixed) are generally being developed in the Quechua (2,300 to 3,500 masl), Suni (3,500 to 4,000 masl) and Puna regions ( 4,000 masl or more), far from reality with little presence of the Peruvian state, that is, they are the poorest rural areas of Peru; Furthermore, a good part of the mining projects occupy territories that belong to peasant communities or are located close to them. 55% of the peasant communities (3 126) are in environmental impact zones.

Environmental damage results in the loss, damage, significant impairment of one or more of the environmental assets and since the environment and its components are of interest to humanity, their injury reports a environmental public harm what generates responsibilities and the consequent obligation to repair, restore, compensate and indemnify the damages produced to the ecosystem as well as to health, quality of life, and property.

During the exploitation stage, using traditional or cutting edge technology; Mining will always generate environmental damage to the biosphere, where useless materials: waste, tailings, slag, etc., are collected in deposits or returned to tunnels as fill, depending on the volume, availability of physical space, technology, etc.

Tailings deposits prepared according to technical specifications using gravel, sand, clay, arable land and blankets (geomembranes, geotextiles), etc. The blankets according to their manufacture have an approximate life cycle of 150 and 200 years, in reality their useful life is less than expected, depending on the quantity and quality (corrosivity, reactivity, explosivity, toxicity, flammability, pathogenicity) of the tailings to be stored and the possible generations of polluting gases or leached by the effect of water, related to the law of mass action, generating contamination to the groundwater table, air and land and its exposure to the effects of earthquakes, huaycos and floods. If the Mine Closure Law (Law No. 28090 dated October 14, 2003) and its respective regulations (Supreme Decree No. 033-2005-EM dated August 15, 2005) are correctly applied, the law that regulates environmental liabilities of the mining activity (Law No. 28271 dated July 2, 2004) and its modifications, its regulations (Supreme Decree No. 059-2005-EM dated December 9, 2005) and the General Environmental Law (Law N ° 28611 dated October 18, 2005), its regulations are missing; regulates the responsibilities of mining companies for compliance with closure plans (3 to 4 years), as well as progressive closure measures, final closure and post closure of activities or facilities, prior commitment to the sustainable development of mining activities (Supreme Decree No. 042-2003-EM dated April 25, 2005).

Due to the geographical characteristics, the rivers run from the mountains to the valleys of the coast, until they flow into the Pacific Ocean; Also, in the rainy season that occur between the months of November to March, they accumulate in large aquifers in the mountains. Mining, considered as the most polluting activity of surface and underground waters, mainly with heavy metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic, copper, zinc, mercury, etc.), as a consequence of mining activities (tailings deposits, clearings, use of water in the process, etc.) can cause contamination both in the aquifers and by drag on their long journey to the ocean if they are not controlled properly.

On the other hand, the communities where the mining settlements are located, due to their magnitude and incidence, were and are currently affected in their way of life, culture, at the same time displaced by the methods of forced purchase at reduced prices due to the effect of purchasing through direct treatment (economic transactions) or via expropriation (servitude) by reason of Supreme Decree No. 017-1996-AG and its modifications, taking advantage of its naivety and poor academic preparation. The legal norms determined that the owner of the surface lands does not own the mining deposits found in the subsoil, so the state grants the concessions without having the consent of the owner of the surface lands.

Social responsability

Peru, the path to decentralization, requires a change of culture from the city to the countryside and vice versa to achieve sustainable development, where aspects of a social nature, economic growth and environmental protection, accompanied by the new conjunctural demands favor lines of conduct and the right to seek peaceful solutions.

It is important that there be coherence between the government (Central, Regional and Local), companies and the affected populations to seek a healthy environment in harmony and corporately. It is understandable for a company to invest in a business to win; but, the profits must be shared with social responsibility with their environment according to a concerted development plan and a responsible government that acted as a facilitator in accordance with its temporary function to achieve its objectives. Only then will these communities have validity. If the profits are not distributed fairly, inequalities within communities, populations affected by mining will be aggravated, causing displacement of natural inhabitants and the significant cause of resentment with the generation of conflicts.

Social responsibility approach

Old miningNew mining





· Reservation

Passive member

· Integral development




· Transparency

Proactive member

Source: MEM, June 2006

Social mine closure

Once the exploitation work has been completed, accompanied by a systematic mine closure program, the tailings deposits protected with a superficial seeding of native or imported plants will be unarmed for several years, technological matter not determined; that if; They will not be like before their exploration and progressive exploitation until their final closure, they will only remain as simple memories for future generations; as they say: "the mining companies took the meat and left the bones for the population."

What will become of those former owners of the lands, who wish to return to their vilely dispossessed properties in complicity with the government, will be able to sow staple products or pastures for their livestock!

Due to more legal regulatory and oversight standards in mining, companies, the central, regional or local government and the affected population will always generate conflicts in its various forms, with or without a solution. For this reason, it is important to seek agreement between the three levels for long-term solutions and not be short-term: It is the responsibility of the central government to promote and generate the creation of a fund for possible remediation and / or compensation that may arise in the future. when the company does not have a presence and protect the affected communities.

It would be necessary to define a social closure plan for the residents who will continue to reside in that mining area. Mining brought progress and development to the surrounding communities and altered their ecosystem and biodiversity, as were those social support activities that the mining company assumed at the time, who would continue with that social responsibility; I sincerely believe that the state should assume them; but, its presence is and will continue to be weak in those areas.

Finally, the development of mining will always be possible when the government, before granting a concession to a company and guaranteeing its investments, knows in situ the reality of those territories and the lifestyles of the communities, surrounding populations, and not define on a desktop centrally.

The development of Peru is in the hands of their children, without waiting or asking for handouts, this will be achieved to the extent that they act with responsibility, justice, commitment and equity. We have so much natural wealth and we are not using it properly.

* Agustín Mamani Mayta - Chemical Engineer - MSc in Environmental Management
Councilor of the Provincial Municipality of Yauli - La Oroya, Junín, Peru


* INEI-UNDP, 1997. Report on human development in Peru, Lima, Peru.

* S Charpentier, J. Hidalgo; environmental policies in Peru, Lima, October 1999;

* Emanuel Carlos, at the; final report on water management in Peru, world water association, Lima, 2000.

* Balvín, Doris. Environment, mining and society: a different look, Lima, Labor, 2002.

* Fernández, Rafael, Incidence of mining activities on the quality of groundwater, CEPIS-WHO, June 2005.

* Glave, Manuel, at the; Consultation processes in mining areas in Peru; IIPM-IDRC sponsorship, Canada; Lima, May 2004.

* Zegarra, Manuel; Market and reform of water management in Peru; CEPAL Review 83; August 2004.

* Leon, Camilo; Mining and communities in Peru - Social peace or sustainable development; International seminar on consensus-building and social development processes in mining areas; IDRC-CRDI

* IIED; Opening the gap: Mining, minerals and sustainable development; MMSD project; May 2002

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