Peruvian communities resolute about mine closures despite government shift

President Pedro Castillo came to power in July with the support of poor communities, who say the mines have deprived them of adequate water supplies and promised greater benefits.

The communities launched a wave of protests this month, telling Reuters on Thursday that they would resume their action unless the government sticks to its closure plans.

“The mines already have a closure plan and we want it to be implemented,” said Julio Guillermo Gutierrez, leader of the Parinacochas People’s Defense Front, one of the communities opposed to the mines.

“The mining companies can request an extension of their activities if they wish. But that’s not what we want,” Gutierrez said in a phone call.

He said the local protests were only suspended and would resume if necessary.

Che Bernaola, a representative of the Ayacucho Sur Fighting Committee, told Reuters the group will demand that the mines be closed.

“If the government does not comply with the signed agreement, we will activate the suspended protest,” he said. Most voters in Ayacucho and other mining areas voted for Castillo. “I doubt they will betray us now.”

On Wednesday, he released a letter calling on the region to join the defense of land and water resources he said had been “poisoned” by mining.

The companies in question say that they meet environmental standards and that their activities do not pollute the water supply.

One of them is London-listed Hochschild Mining’s, operator of the flagship Inmaculada silver project.

The threat of closure caused the company’s stock price to lose more than half its value before rebounding this week. Thursday saw a sharp rise after the government’s change of tone.

Hochschild said on Thursday that its Inmaculada mine and another in Peru’s Ayacucho region would continue to operate under current frameworks.

Peru is the world’s number 2 producer of copper and silver.

By law, all mines have a scheduled closing date, which can be changed if regulators allow. The four mines in question have a closure schedule that runs from this year to 2025, the government says.

(By Marco Aquino and Hugh Bronstein; adaptation by Barbara Lewis)

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