The Rio Blanco project is now in its exploration phase, which means that the exploitation phase has not started yet.
The Rio Blanco project is located in the North of Peru, on the border with Ecuador. It is located in the Piura region, on the banks of the Rio Blanco. The mining concession expands to parts of the province Huancabamba, in El Carmen de la Frontera district, and to the neighbouring province of Ayabaca, in its district and on the territory of the Yanta community.
The downstream provinces of Jaen and San Ignacio, in the department of Cajamarco, will also be affected.
This region at the border of Peru and Ecuador is characterised by a unique ecosystem and a great biodiversity. These ecosystems are very important for the local water supply, and small-scale farmers and animal husbandry in lower areas depend on it. The dry coastal areas in Piura also depend on this water, which is collected and filtered by the Páramos. The area also constitutes a catchment for several rivers.
The concession covers over 6,000 hectares. The mining company would like to build a large open-pit mine of 400 hectares in this area. It is, according to the company, one of the largest unexploited copper reserves in the world, but if Minera Majaz (the name of the Rio Blanco copper project) comes to birth, it will provide 220,000 tons of copper, and about 2,500 tons of molybdenum. The ore will be extracted from the rocks through froth flotation. The open-pit mine will probably be the beginning of a larger “mining district” in the region.
After strong protests but also human rights violations, 89.9% of the capital owned initially by Moterrico Metals came in the hands of the Chinese corporation Zijin Consortium. The company is one of China’s largest gold and copper mine contractors. Zijin owns or is involved in five overseas mining projects and more than thirty mines in China. The company is internationally criticised for its dubious methods concerning human rights and the environment. The local farming population has organised protests against the planned mine. CATAPA conducted in 2010, along with several local and social organisations in the region, the campaign “Mining in Paradise – no-go zones for mining” – with Rio Blanco as its central case.
What are the demands of the protest movement?
- The social organisations and communities of the four provinces affected by the project (Jaen, San Ignacio, Ayabaca, Huancabamba) demand the establishment of a no-go zone for mining, extended to the four provinces.
- They want the recognition and respect of the outcome of the referendum. This implies the company has to withdraw its planned mining project in the region. The Ministry of Energy and Mining must revoke the license of the Rio Blanco project, as well as other licenses that go against the will of the people.
- They demand intimidations and human rights violations committed by the company and security forces to be punished and the victims compensated.
- They demand that their own development model, based on eco-tourism and organic farming, be respected and supported. They demand that provincial governments pump their energy resources in the ecological and economic zoning (ZEE) and for a regional arranging process.
You can find here the campaign video on the case (2010).
Find here a documentary from the English film maker Michael Watts.