Glencore Xstrata: Environmental Pollution, Tintaya Copper Mine, Peru

The Peruvian community of Espinar is engaged in an ongoing dispute against Xstrata´s Tintaya copper mine.[1] Inhabitants allege that the mine has contaminated local water and soil with heavy metals. People believe that this contamination is linked to a recent increase in farm animal deformities.[2] Multiple studies by private and state entities found elevated levels of contaminants including aluminum, arsenic, copper, iron, lithium, and manganese in water and soil samples.[3] A study conducted by Peruvian state authorities that included 12,500 samples concluded that 2.2% of the samples were severely contaminated and 52.71% contained at least one parameter that exceeded official thresholds.[4] In response to these findings, Xstrata cited the “natural background mineralization present in the region”.[5] Espinar´s mayor, Oscar Mollohuanca believes that the Tintaya mine is responsible for this contamination.[6] Anti-mine protests in May/June 2012 resulted in two deaths and multiple injuries. Mayor Mollohuanca was among those arrested for disturbing the public order. Peru´s prime minister, Oscar Valdes, labeled the protesters as extremists and declared a state of emergency in the region, stripping inhabitants of many of their basic rights for 30 days.[7]

Update January 2014:

The mining company Tintaya received a 84,000 USD fine for the pollution of pastureland near the copper mine. The company also did not report the incident to the authorities. The latter stated that the levels were 1,800 times higher than the natural concentration in the area. However, Tintaya claimed that the elevated levels of copper would occur naturally.[8] (see also: El OEFA impone multa de 62 UIT a Xstrata Tintaya S.A. por infracciones ambientales en la Unidad Minera Tintaya, 02.01.2014)

Update Juni 2015: 

The Swiss federal Council recognizes the importance of independet studies concerning the contamination of water sources with heavy metals around the Tintaya mine. The results of previous studies have been contradictory and fuelled the social conflict. Therefore, the federal Council is willing to commission a further study by an internationally recognized body, based on scientific methodology, under the condition that all parties would acknowledge the results of this study and that the Peruvian Government would agree to this procedure. [9]

 

[1] Multiwatch: Tintaya Peru, accessed 3.9.2013

[2] canal5espinar: compilation of videos, accessed 3.9.2013

[3] ejolt (2012): Environmental monitoring of Xstrata Tintaya copper mine in Cusco, Peru, 3 August, accessed 3.9.2013

[4] La Republica (2013): Contaminación grave por minería en Espinar solo se detectó en el 2.2% de muestras de monitoreo, 13 June, accessed 3.9.2013

[5] Xstrata Copper (2012): Letter to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 21 August, accessed 3.9.2013

[6] La Republica (2013): Alcalde de Espinar culpa a Xstrata de contaminación, 18 June, accessed 3.9.2013

[7] Guardian (2012): Peru declares state of emergency after two killed in mining protests, 29 May, accessed 3.9.2013

[8] Peru Support Group (2014): Xstrata Tintaya fined for pollution around mine, 14 January; accessed 7.2.2014

[9] L´Assemblée fédérale – Le Parlement suisse (2015): Réponse du Conseil fédéral du 08.06.2015; accessed 11.06.2015

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