Have NGOs taken a backseat to narco traders and terrorists in opposition to mining in South America? This radical question arises as I read the following from a much longer report that I recommend you read in full–it is part of Wikileaks at work:
The U.S. and Canadian Ambassadors hosted a meeting for representatives of international mining companies to review their operating difficulties in Peru and to coordinate efforts to improve the investment climate. Consensus among the companies is that radical forces (Communist Party-Patria Roja, drug traffickers and rural defense committees–ronderos) are increasingly active in rural communities, seeking to target mining operations throughout the country. Because of the electoral campaign, the companies do not expect the government to take a proactive role enhancing security in mining areas over the next 18 months. Ambassador Struble requested that each company develop a comprehensive list of their community projects (e.g., roads, schools, clinics, wells) to better publicize the positive impact of mining projects in Peru.
The report is scary on the topic of security and in its assessment of the dangers posed by drug traffickers and terrorists. Here is another extract from the report:
Santa Cruz observed that NGOs have taken a backseat in the campaign against multinational mining companies since the outbreak of violence against the Anglo-Australian owned, BHP-Tintaya copper mine (Ref C), a model mining project near Cusco. He opined that radical groups, i.e., local politicians and fringe political groups such as Patria Roja, have now taken on this role. Santa Cruz believes that the objective of these groups is to create serious problems by attacking the industry and economic system. Most of the company General Managers lamented they are focused on improving security rather than enhancing production.
It all makes sense: if you want to bring down the government, start by attacking the economy and the source of money that maybe supports the government. Thus mining companies will have to be even more socially responsible if they seek to counter the negative. As noted by one speaker:
Felipe Cantuarias, Vice President of Commercial and Corporate Affairs for Minera Antamina (copper and zinc producer), remarked that the companies are dealing with a new phenomenon: local politicians that promote violence and have ties to ronderos and coca growers. He stated that there is no solution in the short term; the GOP does not have the tools or desire to confront these radical politicians. To minimize future disruptions, Cantuarias indicated that the companies would have to take on more social responsibilities in the communities, providing jobs or visible infrastructure projects.
On Wikileaks we read a 2005 confidential US Embassy cable:
Violent protests against British firm Majaz’s exploration for copper near the Ecuador border have resulted in three deaths and several kidnappings. An unusual combination of anti-mining NGOs, the Catholic Church, leftist groups and narcotraffickers have marshaled protesters from the surrounding provinces. The Peruvian National Police have said publicly that they believe opium traffickers have also played a role in stoking the violence — an assertion the police have amplified in private conversations with Emboffs. Police report that they have destroyed over 70,000 opium poppy plants in Northern Peru since June 2005. Company representatives have also asserted that the Majaz exploration site lies along a foot track used by couriers who convey opium latex to Ecuador. This area of northern Peru is in fact a priority target of our efforts to collect intelligence on poppy cultivation and opium trafficking. We are working with both the police and company representatives to further develop the information they have. So far, however, the information is general. There have been past instances when non-U.S. mining companies have claimed unconvincingly that narco-traffickers were behind opposition to their operations in an effort to enlist our assistance.
So it all gets confusing. I would like to hear from you on this issue. namely to what extent the church is in cahoots with drug traffickers in opposing mining that disrupts their smooth control of the locals.