Uranium’s Chilling Effects: Community participation stifled as industry expands in northern Saskatchewan

Via Media Co-op:

uranium-other-colour-ver3-red-skyDale Smith’s worn nylon fishing net gradually untangles as it falls into the lake. Smith stands against an endless Saskatchewan summer sky, his hands gently guiding the gillnet over the starboard bow and then pulling the float line taught while the boat slides slowly sternway through the water, motor humming quietly.

The wind picks up, and gentle waves lap against the rocks and sandy beaches of the islands scattered around Pinehouse Lake. There’s not as much fishing as there used to be, says Smith, and the traditional land-based lifestyle has been waning in the community. But fishers, hunters, trappers, berry pickers, medicine gatherers and wild rice growers still use the lakes and lands in the boreal forest in northern Saskatchewan, at the edge of the Canadian Shield.

Not only is Dale Smith a soft-spoken fisherman and wild rice grower, he is also a dedicated community activist who is taking two of the world’s largest uranium mining companies to court. Smith recently filed a lawsuit together with 38 people and organizations to fight back against a $200 million agreement that he says will effectively muzzle opposition to future uranium mines.

“What I’m seeing and experiencing now is that there’s a silencing,” Smith, a lifelong Métis resident of the northern village of Pinehouse, told The Dominion. “I don’t think people really truly understand the significance of what happened to my community.”

The uranium industry is rapidly expanding its sphere of control in northern Saskatchewan, and the impacts of its widening footprint aren’t limited to the lands and waters. Residents of affected communities are speaking out against an increasing corporate influence that is altering local governance and diminishing opportunities for critical public participation.

All of Canada’s producing uranium mines are located in Saskatchewan’s Northern Administration District, a region of interconnected lakes, rivers and muskeg encompassing approximately half of Saskatchewan. Roughly 80 per cent of the 37,000 northern residents are Indigenous – primarily Dene, Cree and Métis.

In the far northwest, the effects of early uranium mining, begun in the 1950s by a federal Crown corporation with military contracts related to the production of atomic weapons, are ongoing. A July 2013 report by Saskatchewan Environmental Society Director Peter Prebble and board member Ann Coxworth highlights the serious uranium and selenium contamination in four watersheds in the area of Uranium City just north of Lake Athabasca, despite clean-up efforts. The contamination of water, plants and animals, and potential impacts on human health, continue to be of concern to residents in the north.

Canada’s uranium mining sector is poised to undergo a boom. Canadian uranium accounted for 16.7 per cent of global production in 2011, second only to Kazakhstan. In 2012, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced that uranium production, 10,785 tonnes in 2011, would nearly double by 2017. The Cigar Lake mine, the world’s second-highest-grade uranium project after McArthur River, will begin producing in 2014, according to uranium company Cameco. Also in 2012, Canada signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with India to permit the export of uranium, and a protocol with China to facilitate increased exports, both for nuclear power programs.

Saskatoon-based Cameco and French multinational Areva are adding new mines and infrastructure to their existing projects, creating an integrated uranium corridor spreading over 250 kilometers. Areva and Cameco both received long-awaited permits for new mines over the past 18 months. Along with the new mines come plans for long-distance uranium slurry transport, Cameco–Areva milling arrangements, tailings facility expansions and provincial funding for a road to connect the corridor.

Together with existing uranium operations, including the Key Lake mill, McArthur River mine, McLean Lake mine and mill, Eagle Point mine and Rabbit Lake mill, these new projects solidify the industrial occupation of the entire eastern edge of the Athabasca basin, a region in the Canadian Shield home to the world’s highest-grade uranium deposits. The industry’s increased territorial footprint in Treaty 10 lands has been accompanied by attempts to increase corporate influence in neighbouring villages and reserves south of the Athabasca basin.

“These people are very sneaky,” Canoe Lake First Nation elder and grassroots activist Emil Bell told The Dominion, denouncing the use of community dinners, door prizes and small grants to garner local support. “Cameco has been playing the role of Santa Claus in this last short while, handing out money.”

As if to underscore Bell’s concerns, the leadership of two communities just south of the mining region have recently taken their relationships with the uranium industry to the next level.

The northern village of Pinehouse entered into a Collaboration Agreement with Cameco and Areva on December 12, 2012. English River First Nation (ERFN) followed suit on May 31, 2013. The deals are estimated to bring $200 million in benefits for Pinehouse and $600 million for ERFN over the first 11 and 10 years, respectively. The benefits will be paid out by Cameco and Areva, but the vast majority of each amount is to come in the form of employee wages and business contracts. Many of the negotiated contracting opportunities included in the payouts are for specific areas of work at Cameco’s proposed Millennium project, which is still in the early stages of the environmental assessment process.

In exchange for signing agreements with industry, Pinehouse and ERFN have agreed to support Cameco and Areva’s existing operations and existing authorizations, as well as—subject to consultation terms laid out in the agreements—the companies’ proposed projects, proposed authorizations and exploration projects. If either community were to decide to take a formal collective position of outright opposition to any of the above, either in court or during regulatory proceedings, they would be breaching the agreements and risking the jobs, contracts and community investment payments contained therein. Two of three lump-sum community payments from Cameco are directly tied to future corporate activities: the start of regular commercial production at the Cigar Lake mine, and the beginning of construction at the company’s proposed Millennium project.

Some local authorities think the deal with uranium companies will bring positive benefits to their communities. “It allows us to expand on our strong mining culture and do it our way. We want to be accountable to ourselves,” Pinehouse mayor Mike Natomagan said of the Pinehouse agreement, according to a press release issued following the signing.

Accountability is also an issue for opponents of the agreement. The lack of transparency and consultation regarding the Pinehouse collaboration agreement is at the heart of a class action lawsuit in which Smith is a plaintiff, along with more than thirty other individuals from Pinehouse, Saskatchewan and elsewhere. In their statement of claim, filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench in June 2013 against Cameco, Areva, local officials, and the municipal, provincial and federal governments, Smith and his co-plaintiffs seek to have the collaboration agreement declared null and void.

Negotiations for the Pinehouse agreement between village and company officials and lawyers took place over two years. Residents only found out about its existence and content at a meeting in November 2012, the month before the signing. At that time, a draft summary term sheet was distributed. The draft included a commitment by the village to “make reasonable efforts to ensure Pinehouse members do not say or do anything that interferes with or delays Cameco/Areva’s mining.” The full text of the deal, which did not include the controversial clause, was only made available after it came into effect. Residents were left out of the process.

“No matter what you’re negotiating, come to the people. Let the people decide,” said Smith of the Pinehouse agreement. “For them to be put in a position, or put themselves in a position, to exclude the community as a whole was such a breach of the whole idea of community living that it was a devastating thing to betray that. It’s not so much the contents of the agreement. It was how it transpired.”

In the case of the ERFN agreement, the document is still confidential and has not been released to the public. Cameco claims community leaders were the ones who chose not to release the text.

“In both cases, we worked with the elected leaders and elders from each community and recognized that each political entity would decide how and when they would share information with their stakeholders,” Rob Gereghty, Cameco’s Manager of Media Relations, wrote in an email to The Dominion. “Pinehouse elected to post the final agreement on line, while English River First Nation, citing concerns about commercially-sensitive information, decided to share an executive summary with the community.”

The executive summary, though, does identify a crucial detail of the ERFN agreement—one that raised serious concerns when the document was handed out at a May 22, 2013, meeting in Patuanak, nine days before it was signed. As part of the agreement with Cameco, ERFN agreed to drop its lawsuit against the government of Saskatchewan over a claim to land located east of Cree Lake.

According to local prophecies, Cree Lake and the surrounding area is to be the place of refuge for the Denesuline of Patuanak in a coming time of dire need, when the animals are gone, the trees turn black, and the lands can no longer support the people. Cameco’s proposed Millennium mine is located on the land in question, now no longer tied up in litigation.

“Big decisions like this would generally go to a general band meeting and be ratified at a general band meeting. It would be put to the public and there would be a vote,” Candyce Paul, a member of the English River First Nation, told The Dominion. “It’s a big concern, especially because there’s a lawsuit involved, and the lands are involved, impacts are involved.”

One ERFN band councillor opposed the collaboration agreement. Michael Wolverine tried to tell people at the May 23, 2013, meeting on the La Plonge reserve why he did not think it was a good idea for the present or the future.

“[Wolverine] said he’s been attending these meetings and he has some very grave concerns about the impacts and he started to read out from a notebook that he had a list of concerns. It was more than a page long, and he got to about the second or third [point] and they jumped him, pretty much. Both the lawyers, the Cameco rep and other band councillors kind of just moved in towards him and stopped him from talking,” said Paul, who attended the meeting.

Wolverine was not permitted to proceed, and he did not attend the signing on May 31, 2013, held despite an ongoing wake for the death of a band member, in breach of community protocol.

“The impact on the community is ‘shut up and live with it.’ And that’s never good. It’s hurting people,” said Paul. “People are afraid to say anything, or discuss anything on Facebook. They’re afraid for their jobs.” She said the fear runs deep: “Others don’t speak out if they have a family member waiting for post-secondary funding or other opportunities dependent on decisions by the band administration.”

To the casual observer, it might appear that there are still a number of venues for community voices to be heard. There are community committees for that purpose, but their organization and activities are largely controlled by the provincial government and industry.

“Historically, if you go back to the Cluff Lake hearings—and that goes back quite a few years now—that was the hearing which opened up all the new mines that have been coming on screen in the last 20, 30 years. At that time, the northern communities did make various recommendations and briefs and statements at that time and one of the things they were asking for, for example, were some baseline health studies, which never really happened,” Jim Penna, a founding member of the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Education Co-operative (ICUCEC), told The Dominion. “History shows that they have not, in fact, honoured the concerns that were expressed at that time.”

Beyond ignoring concerns, the industry’s shift towards silencing dissent has been an intentional one, according to Penna. “They’ve been very strong in their efforts to win over the minds and the hearts of people. And so they think that they’ve done that job now. And I think the final nail came when they were able to go into those communities and say, look, let’s have an agreement here, in a final effort to silence any opposition.”

For now, after decades of uranium mining in the north and recent attempts to stifle dissent, many have trouble envisioning alternatives. “It makes it look like it’s the only opportunity in the area, and that it will be the only opportunity in the area for years to come,” said Paul. “It has created a sense of hopelessness in the community, like, ‘this is what there is and we don’t like it, but there isn’t anything else.’ And so, with the uranium [mining], the long-term vision has got tunnel vision now, because they know it’s hurting the lands, they know it’s impacting the people, and they just don’t want to see it anymore. They don’t know what to do.”

Participants in the ongoing provincial consultations on uranium mining in Quebec, and communities in Nunavut, Labrador, Alberta and the Northwest Territories facing possible future uranium mines, may have to scratch the surface to find a critical perspective on the experience in northern Saskatchewan. But when they do, they’ll find people making a powerful stand to defend their lands and communities.

“This is not just about Pinehouse now, and that’s why I put up a resistance,” said Smith. He doubles back to check the gillnets. They’re firmly anchored in place.

Massive Indigenous Rights Movement Launches Across Brazil

Hundreds of indigenous peoples converged on Brazil’s capital to decry growing attack on their rights and territories.
Hundreds of indigenous peoples converged on Brazil’s capital to decry growing attack on their rights and territories.

Today hundreds of indigenous peoples representing Brazil’s native communities converged on government buildings in the nation’s capital to decry unprecedented and growing attacks on their constitutional rights and territories. The historic mobilization coincides with the 25th anniversary of the founding of Brazil’s constitution with its groundbreaking affirmation of indigenous rights and aims to preserve these rights in the face of powerful economic interests behind a spate of pending laws seeking access to resources on native territories.

Brazil’s Articulation of Indigenous People’s (APIB) called the mobilizations – staged simultaneously in various cities across the country such as São Paulo, Belém, Rio Branco – to protest the attack against territorial rights of native peoples. Emanating from the Brazilian government and backed by a powerful congressional bloc representing agribusiness known as the bancada ruralista as well as large mining and energy interests, a series of new proposed laws seek to undermine Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution, which assures the indigenous right to an exclusive and permanent usufruct to resources on their ancestral territories.

“We are here because Congress wants to take our rights and extinguish our people,” said Chief Raoni Metuktire, a legendary Kayapó leader from the Amazon. “This assembly is important because it aims to unite our peoples against this threat.”

Hundreds of planned laws and constitutional amendments targeting the rights of indigenous and traditional communities are under debate in Brazil’s Congress and risk being passed this month before lawmakers go into recess, making this week’s mobilizations both urgent and timely.

Among the proposed changes are Proposed Complementary Law (PLP) 227 which would modify Article 231, eliminating the indigenous right to resources in cases of “relevant public interest,” clearing the way for industrial farming, dam-building, mining, road building and settlement construction on indigenous lands. Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 215 would roll back the demarcation of new indigenous territories by passing the authority to demarcate lands from the Executive to a Legislative branch that is increasingly hostile to indigenous rights.

Indigenous protesters gather at the encampment outside the National Congress in Brasilia
Indigenous protesters gather at the encampment outside the National Congress in Brasilia

“These amendments and new laws that the government wants to pass will destroy indigenous rights enshrined in the Brazilian Constitution and the international treaties of which Brazil is a signatory,” said Maíra Irigaray Castro of Amazon Watch. “If Brazil denies the rights of these traditional populations they risk extinction, something the world cannot afford. These are the guardians of the rainforests for the benefit of all humanity.”

“We’re not going to stand by and watch our territories being stolen, our houses being invaded and our rivers being destroyed,” said Sonia Guajajara, coordinator of APIB. “Rather than calling Congress the house of the people it should be called the house of agribusiness.”

In addition to presiding over this unprecedented assault on indigenous rights, the Rousseff government has demonstrated the worst record of indigenous territorial demarcation since the nation’s dictatorship era. Further undermining the integrity of these territories, the office of her Attorney General proposes Ordinance 303 in order to veto any expansion of demarcated lands while authorizing the construction of roads, energy transmission lines, and military installations within their borders when such projects are deemed relevant to “national security.”

These moves coincide with increasing government backing and finance for projects and industries, exemplified by Brazil’s dam-building boom in the Amazon, that are entirely at odds with indigenous rights.


Via Earth First Journal: http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/10/01/massive-indigenous-rights-movement-launches-across-brazil/

Peru: Andean Self-determination Struggles against Extractive Capitalism

Via Upside Down World:

conga4The region of Cajamarca, in the northern highlands of Peru, is no stranger to foreign invaders exploiting their natural resources. In the year 1533 when the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa – the last Inca, his people surrendered a room full of gold and two of silver in the hope of securing his release. Pizarro received the treasure, but executed the Inca regardless. Five hundred years later the invaders are back and demanding their gold and silver, and much more besides.

The financial crises that swept Latin America in the late 1980s-early 1990s left many economies in ruin. International financial institutions, led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), fell over themselves to lend money to the flailing governments. Peru, under the leadership of the authoritarian Alberto Fujimori, eagerly accepted. As is the custom with IMF agreements, the money came with a stack of economic conditions–conditions which included deregulation, privatization, and opening domestic industries to transnational corporations.

In Cajamarca, one of the first corporations to arrive on the doorstep was the mega mining company Yanacocha – majority owned by US-based Newmont Mining Corporation and part owned by Peruvian Buenaventura (a company owned by one of the richest families in Peru), with 5 percent financing by the IFC of the World Bank. Yanacocha is actually a native Quechua word meaning ‘Black Lagoon’ – and was a lagoon until Yanacocha (the company) set its sights on it – now it’s an open pit so huge it can be seen from space.

Yanacocha’s replacement for this lagoon that gave water freely to the surrounding communities was an artificial reservoir, a tactic they repeated for other lagoons they would come to destroy. These reservoirs are now dry – serving no-one, and the mainly agricultural communities below now experience severe water shortage. What water does flow from descending rivers is contaminated; the source of the Rio Grande, one of the largest rivers feeding Cajamarca, is now three huge tubes spewing waste water from the mine. As a result of this contamination, local farmers have reported high levels of animal deformities and death; there are numerous instances of trout deaths in the tens of thousands because of the presence of heavy metals, arsenic, and high levels of acidity in the water. The population in general have reported unusually high rates of cancer, skin diseases, and birth deformities.

conga1In one small town called Choropampa, 1,200 inhabitants suffered the effects of mercury poisoning due to a mercury spill at the fault of Yanacocha in 2000. The effects are still being felt to this day as mothers pass the heavy metal to their babies through their blood. Tests have also shown that many Yanacocha workers have dangerously high levels of mercury in their blood. However, once they are unable to work they are abandoned by the company.

Yanacocha itself admits its appalling record, “We are not proud of the current state of our relationship with the people of Cajamarca.” This admission came after a ‘Listening Study’ commissioned by Yanacocha, and showed the dismal state of public opinion about the company who, the study states, “suffers from an inability to listen effectively to the community.” However, the company continues to press ahead with wringing the earth dry despite an obvious lack of social license. Having extended into various satellites, and exhausting them, Yanacocha had planned to move swiftly into the neighbouring province of Celendin to execute a project that would dwarf all that it had done before – Minas Conga.

The Minas Conga project, projected to be three times the size of Yanacocha and the largest mega mining project Peru has ever seen, plans to consume 3,069 hectares of land. It would drain and exploit two mountain lakes to extract the gold and copper that lies beneath. The material extracted would be dumped on top of two other lakes – effectively beheading a complex hydrological system and the source of five rivers. Whatever water sources that would remain would most likely be polluted with heavy metals – as they plan to produce an average of 90,000 tons of toxic waste tailings per day, every day for 17 years. […]

At various stages, affected groups realized the extent of what had been planned for Celendin. Teachers, students, workers in the municipality, left-leaning political groups, and the Rondas Campesinas united to form a platform of civil society organizations (known as the Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendina) from which they would organize a campaign against the project. Resistance also formed in Bambamarca/Hualgayoc – a province affected by 200 years of mining and whose only remaining source of uncontaminated water is threatened by Minas Conga. On November 24, 2011 the campaign was officially launched with a mass mobilization at the mountain lakes where all groups involved pledged to protect their water source.

However, this day also marked the beginning of the repression of the protesters. The national government, desperate for a project that would generate $300 million from taxes, royalties and fees to move forward (8), sent in the national police to suppress the gathered masses. They fired live ammunition into the crowds leaving 19 protesters injured. One man was left paralyzed, another lost part of his leg, and another his sight.

As the protests continued over the next year so did the police aggression. On July 3 and 4, 2012 five protesters were shot dead by the state security forces. One of the deceased, Cesar Medina Aguilar, a 16-year-old boy and local youth leader, died from a direct shot to the head. The other four men died from shots to the head, throat and chest, while some shots were fired from army helicopters. To enshrine this state of war that the government had declared on its people, it enforced a state of emergency – suspending civil liberties and subjecting the three provinces of Celendin, Cajamarca and Hualgayoc to intense militarization for a total of 8 months.

Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the National Coordinator of Human Rights in Peru (CNDDHH) have all made statements on numerous occasions calling for an end to the excessive use of force by the state during the protests and have called for investigations into the deaths, injuries and allegations of torture of protesters. To date no such investigation has taken place.

Meanwhile the intimidation continues; community leaders are harassed by a barrage of legal allegations– an example of such a charge being “psychological damage to the mining company.” Human rights defenders are terrorized and beaten; such as when an ex-priest and environmentalist, Marco Arana, was arrested and badly beaten in police custody on July 4, 2012. When two lawyers went to visit him in prison they were also assaulted. Reporters are also targeted; most recently, on July 26, 2013 César Estrada, a local reporter, was visiting the mountain lakes when the police, after receiving a call from mine workers, came and verbally and physically assaulted him, confiscating his equipment.

One family who lives on land Yanacocha wants, but who have refused to sell it to them, have faced two years of violent intimidation. On two occasions the company entered the Chaupe family’s land with over a hundred heavily armed police in riot gear. They beat the mother and daughter unconscious, killed numerous animals, destroyed their house, and put their son in hospital for 3 months. When the violence didn’t work the mining company brought the family to court claiming the land was theirs. Without even looking at the document from the family demonstrating their rightful ownership the judge ruled in favour of Yanacocha – ordering the family off their land with a suspended jail sentence and damages to pay to the mining company. Due to a huge national and international outcry, and with the help of the local NGO GRUFIDES, this initial ruling was annulled on appeal. However Yanacocha plans to continue with this attack and so the investigation process will begin anew.

Yanacocha uses the argument that they will build reservoirs to replace the four mountain lakes they plan to destroy. They claim that the water in the lakes is unfit for human consumption and that they only provide water to the communities during the rainy season. Their reservoirs, they claim, will increase water supply to the communities all year round and the water will be artificially treated.

However, the company seems blind to the fact that the mountain lakes have been serving the local communities for centuries – for agricultural use, cattle rearing and human consumption. The mere presence of these communities contradicts the claim the water does not sustain life. Numerous animal life forms have also been documented surviving within and from the water of the lagoons. The water that reaches the rivers below also passes through a complex underground hydraulic system, thus when the water reaches the communities below it is considered amongst the purest in the region. This is unlike the water coming from the reservoirs which would need constant treatment, and the reservoirs themselves would need constant maintenance. Yanacocha proposes to carry out this function for 50 years; and the communities rightly ask `and then what?`

With regards to water supply, it is true that the area already has water shortage at certain times of the year – it is an area vulnerable to climate change, and has seen more dry periods in recent years. However, the answer is not to tear up the head of the water basin to destroy the remaining water supply. What is needed is more investment in agriculture and ways to mitigate the effects of the change.

Despite these objections, Yanacocha is due to finish its second reservoir by the end of this year. Once this happens they plan to drain the first mountain lake – El Perol. If this is allowed to pass, it will pave the way for the realization of the entire project. Similarly, the realization of the project will open the gates for mass exploitation of the entire region of Cajamarca; Conga is one mega mining project, the largest and most well-known, but there are others waiting on the sideline. According to a study by Yanacocha’s Andes Association Forum (ALAC) in 2006, 79 percent of the proven and probable gold within Peru is located in the provinces of Cajamarca and Celendin, as well as 30 percent of the copper reserves of the country.

This has resulted in an avalanche of mining concessions – 69.95 percent of the province of Cajamarca and 58.80 percent of Celendín is under concession to mining companies. Neighbouring Hualgayoc is 91 percent concessioned. Yanacocha has almost finished exploiting its primary and satellite projects, and after Minas Conga it has three other projects in the region at the exploration stage. A Chinese company, Lumina Copper SAC – part-owned by the Chinese government – is waiting to realize its 2,500 million copper project Galeno. British Anglo American are at the exploration stage of their Michiquillay project, La Granja project belongs to British/Australian Rio Tinto, and Canadian Sulliden Mining Corporation is hoping to progress with its copper and gold Shahuindo project. There are several other smaller projects also at the exploration stage. If all of these projects were realized Cajamarca would effectively be transformed into one of the largest mining districts in the world.

Apart from huge amounts of water and land, what these mega projects need is energy. Eva Arias, president of the National Mining Society in Peru (SNMPE) has stated that Peru needs to increase its energy supply by 40 percent if it is to meet its mining needs. To serve this demand, in June 2010, three months before leaving office, Peruvian president Alan Garcia signed the Peru-Brazil hydropower agreement with then-Brazilian president Inácio Lula da Silva. This laid the grounds for 20 mega hydroelectric projects to be realized along the Rio Marañon – one of the main rivers flowing into the Amazon. For Brazil, this meant construction contracts for the building of these projects, and the promise that a large portion of this energy would go to meet this emerging power’s own energy demands. The Peruvian government didn’t have the money to invest in these projects, so Brazil offered loans to its poorer neighbor through the Brazilian Development Bank. So a good deal for Brazil, and also a way to ease the energy worries of the mega mining sector as what is not sold to Brazil would be sold to the high-consuming mining projects.

For Celendin, to complement the would-be mega mining district dominated by Yanacocha, the Brazilian company Odebrecht has the rights to build the hydroelectric project Chadin II (Odebrecht coincidently has also been awarded the construction contract for the first stage of the Conga mining project – a contract worth more than 500 million dollars). Chadin II would affect over 1000 people living along the river valley; many would be displaced due to flooding, others would lose their livelihood as the river level rise would significantly alter the micro-climate of the area, making current forms of agriculture unsustainable. Engineers and environmental experts have also documented the rich biodiversity that exists in the region – many species are unique to the area, some are endangered – all of which will be negatively affected by the realization of this project. Once again, this is the first in a long line of mega hydroelectric projects waiting to be realized.

This capitalist dream of a mega mining district with energy on tap has been interrupted by desire of the local population to protect their livelihoods and their lives. Adding to that though, further obstacles have actually come from the capitalist system itself. Due to the economic crisis that shook the western world in 2008 people are now consuming less – either from a lack of buying power or from a deliberate effort to extract their power from the unrepentant machine that wreaked havoc on their lives. With people buying less the factory of the consumerist world – China, is finally showing signs of slowing.

From 1978 until 2011 the Chinese economy had maintained a rapid annual growth rate of 9.5 percent on average. Last year its GDP grew by only 7.8 percent, the slowest pace in 13 years. As many of the European countries remain in recession it is likely that Chinese growth will continue to slow. A direct result of this is that the Chinese industry does not need as much raw materials. China is the main buyer of Peruvian copper – counting for 41.5 percent of its sales, therefore a drop in Chinese demand means a drop in Peruvian sales. Gold sales have also dropped as a large percentage of the gold extracted ends up as jewelry in Western shop windows – the sale of which has taken a hit in the recession.

As a consequence of this falling demand, the price of metals on the international market has also fallen. In the last 6 months the price of gold fell by 29 percent, copper by 40 percent. All of this means that the extractors are not getting as much for their spoils and are struggling to keep their investors happy.

However what the elite is hoping for is for the people in the traditionally rich West to forget the day when the system’s belt broke and left it exposed. They’re hoping the years of indoctrination – propaganda permeating feelings of inadequacy and the need to fill the hole with things, will win over the desire for change – and that the people will return to borrowing more and spending more to fuel the earth-destroying machine.

Meanwhile, in Cajamarca, Yanacocha is eagerly awaiting this recovery of consumption. They’re not waiting idle however – they’re building their roads and reservoirs, and they’re doing their best to break the resistance through misinformation and repression. Roque Benavides, owner of Buenaventura and one of the main stakeholders in Yanacocha, recently stated ‘Neither Newmont nor Buenaventura are disposed to losing money’, but neither are the people of Cajamarca disposed to losing their water. So they will keep on resisting, and fighting for their right to determine their own future.

Read full article at: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/peru-archives-76/4438-peru-andean-self-determination-struggles-against-extractive-capitalism