An insider view of the Conga protests

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An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby budley » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:00 am

Cajamarca
July 16, 2012

The protests against the Minas Conga mining project, for many of the actual campesinos participating, are a primal cry against thousands of years of crushing poverty, subjugation, marginalization, discrimination, malnutrition and early death. They haven't seen much economic improvement during Peru’s decade-long economic boom, or more importantly during Newmont Gold's 20-year management of the Yanacocha gold mine near Cajamarca. They have legitimate gripes and justifiable reasons for not wanting this project to move forward.

For the big 3 nominal leaders of the protest, it is a political platform high enough to potentially jump out of the cul-de-sac of Cajamarca and blaze a path onto the national stage. Wilfredo Saavedra, the ex-Tupac Amaru revolutionary once imprisoned for terrorism, now leading a radical anti-mining “environmental” group, and with political aspirations. Marco Arana, the leftist ex-priest turned environmental advocate and political candidate, thinking about changing Peru's mining culture and economic paradigm from the big stage of Lima. Gregorio Santos, the small-time socialist president of the Cajamarca region, who wants to re-write the constitution and turn left towards Bolivia and Venezuela, with his eyes suddenly on the Presidential elections of 2016.

For president Ollanta Humala and the economic and political elites in Lima, it's a 5-billion dollar dagger aimed at the heart of the current system. Humala, who won with a big majority of the campesino vote and as a candidate came to Cajamarca and threatened to shut down the project himself, backs it now from his new perspective as a tied-in global player, and struggles to know how to respond. He variously does little or moves incrementally away from the protesters and towards militarized law and order, while his popularity ratings dive and protesters carry “Humala Traitor” signs in the Plazas de Armas of Cajamarca and Celendin.

For Newmont Gold, the American global mining powerhouse developing the Conga project along with a Peruvian minority partner, it is the bitter harvest of 20 years of failed community relations, mismanaged social programs, and an arrogant, alienating disrespect for the local people that has destroyed all trust. The Cerro Quillish Project, their last attempt to move beyond the declining Yanacocha property, failed due to massive paralyzing protests. Watching 20,000 Cajamarquinos fill the Plaza de Armas on a sunny September day in 2004 to defeat Quillish, I thought, “Newmont will have to make serious changes now.” 8 years later, watching the same leadership have the same result with Conga, I am awestruck at their ability to kill the golden coppery goose with their poisonous ineptitude.

For the small businesses and normal residents of Cajamarca, like me, it's an impending economic disaster which could leave Cajamarca city a smoking Detroit-like wreck. When your economy is 97% dependent on 1 product and industry, and you tell that industry to get lost, the result is likely to be a local deflationary depression. Newmont, planning to transition workers from Yanacocha to Conga, was carrying an inflated payroll, and is now trimming as much as 30% of its workforce and canceling equipment orders for Conga. The fired Yanacocha workers are the drivers of the local economy, taking out mortgages on new condos, buying cars on credit, eating out, buying goods from local merchants, and filling the shiny new El Quinde shopping mall, with its Radio Shack and multiplex.

The tourism industry in Cajamarca, always weak anyhow, is off 75%. Hotels are empty, tourist class restaurants are empty, arts and crafts stores are starting to close, tour companies on the Plaza are closing. While the town is still bustling as you walk the streets, a shadow of worry is creeping in. Taxi drivers are concerned, if you ask them. People are talking about it while they eat lunch. My wife, who works at Yanacocha and expects to lose her job in the next 3 months, says 3 coworkers have offered to sell her a condo or land in the last week. The mood at the mine is fatalistic; her description reminds me of being let go as the company I worked for imploded in the tech meltdown of 99-2000.

The real-world issues around Conga are so tangled and complex, they may not be solvable. The environmental issues are real – mining is ugly and dirty, heavily polluting and water intensive, and this mine would be at the head of a complex watershed. But some of the campesinos who live in areas directly affected by Conga want the investment. The current system has meant they live in mud-brick houses, often with no running water or electricity, and walk hours in the mud and rain, wearing re-purposed rubber tire sandals to reach inadequate medical and educational services, barely subsisting on on a tiny plot of potatoes or alfalfa and a couple of bone thin cows.

The people downhill from the mine fear contamination and interrupted water supplies and will not accept its presence. Yet they currently have insufficient water for the 5 or 6 months out of the year with no rainfall, and the project promises to build 2 dams that will provide year round water supplies for the traditional local dairy industry downstream. The protesters chant “agua si, oro no” (water yes, gold no), and often say that you can't eat gold. But you can't eat water either, and at 3,500 to 4,000 meters above sea level (11,000 to 13,000 feet) with poor soil and cold weather, the water does not nourish highly nutritional or valuable crops.

Anything Newmont says about the treatment of water or contamination control is dismissed out of hand as a lie. In 20 years they have never formed any bonds with the campesinos, never educated any campesinos to be engineers eligible for high end salaries, never trained a smart local kid to be able to participate in the environmental impact studies and sell them to his own people. When the anti-Conga protests hit, the government commissioned an international panel to re-work the water and contamination plans, making them more costly and supposedly stronger. Newmont accepted the revised conditions. The protesters rejected them out of hand and continued to insist that Newmont is untrustworthy and the project is not viable.

With the local and regional economy so dependent on mining, and high-value exportable crops unlikely, there is no convincing Plan B that anyone is aware of. The 3 protest leaders / politicians offer platitudes about agriculture, but the current system has only led to thousands of years of bone-crushing poverty for the campesinos. No one in Cajamarca really believes that any of them care about anything but their own futures, excpet that Arana could be considered a genuine green. It seems likely that the 3, currently uncomfortably allied, will turn their knives on each other when they have finished killing Conga. While Santos plays chicken with the feds, and regional business goes undone despite billions of dollars of Yanacocha mining taxes in the bank, the city of Cajamarca is a regional capital with 130,000 residents that offers no municipal water service from 8.30 p.m. to 4 a.m. and has frequent blackouts.

Many people here think another company will step in and run the project. But it seems unlikely that the protesters would accept that. And would any company trust the local government or people to the tune of a multi-billion dollar investment? Would any banks finance it? Most Cajamarca city residents, dependent on mining in one way or another, are not so much pro-mining as they are pro-development, which is to say pro-survival. Many have taken on debt to invest in small businesses that depend, in the end, on the Conga project's viability. If it doesn't go forward, what can possibly take the place of the largest ever private investment in the history of Peru?

As a long time resident of Cajamarca, former contractor at Yanacocha, spouse of a current Yanacocha worker, currently working and living part time with campesinos in another part of the Cajamarca region, I see nothing that indicates an imminent solution. I think Conga is dead and Cajamarca is about to enter a disastrous downward spiral. The Feria Fongal, basically the Cajamarca State Fair, which takes place every year during independence week, the last week of July, has been canceled. The protests, which began in November of 2011, hurt businesses badly during the all-important 2011 Christmas season. With the Yanacocha downsizing rippling through the economy over the next few months, Christmas 2012 should be awful.

2013 could end up being a vicious and desperate year. If thousands of already poor, mostly young male waiters, taxi drivers, construction workers and day laborers are unemployed and unable to feed their families, what will happen to the crime rate? Gun sales are up in Cajamarca in the last few months.

Detroit topped out in population in 1950 at 1.85 million people. In 2010 it had about 700,000, a loss of 62% and about the same population as it had in 1915. When the steel industry crashed Pittsburgh lost 50% of its population. Will Cajamarca, a one-industry town which has doubled from about 65,000 people to about 130,000 in 30 years, solely due to mining, suffer the same fate? As we await the loss of my wife's job at Yanacocha, and envision the economic and security situation that could happen in Cajamarca, we're making contingency plans to leave, and we're not alone. But we're rich by local standards. What about the small business people that will lose everything while their customer base slinks away? What about the campesinos and the urban poor? They will probably suffer the most, as they always have, while the politicians stuff their pockets and big mining moves on to friendlier regions of Peru.


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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby tomsax » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:14 pm

Thanks for the post. It's great to hear from someone who actually has experience on the ground there rather than just a theoretical perspective. I've no way of checking whether what you are saying is correct but it seems you have thought about this a lot and have considered the conflicting issues involved.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby MarcoPE » Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:58 am

Yes, great post! Well written, well explained!
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby budley » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:41 am

thanks Tom and Marco, the numbers and factual stuff is all true to my knowledge, the opinions are obviously subjective.

There's a big lose-lose going on here. I like to think I'm a pragmatic realist but maybe I'm being pessimistic on this. But I just don't see the solution. I talk to a lot of shop owners, cab drivers, mototaxi guys, I've even gone down to the protest center in the plaza of the San Francisco church and talked with some of the campesino protesters, I'm probably the only gringo who's not with an ngo or the media to do so.

The campesinos are good people, suspicious of me, but just trying to protect something valuable to them. If they had seen the fruits of yanacocha's investment helping their lives over the last 20 years this problem would not exist. In fact mining can co-exist with the campesinos in the very area that Conga wants to work in. there's already 2 mines within a few miles and they have no social problems. the root of this problem is Newmont. as an American it pains me to say but Newmont is horrible, they have these problems everywhere they operate in the world. as a contractor to yanacocha i saw how they treat people from the inside and its not good enough.

anyhow i've never wanted to be wrong more than now, i hope this gets solved and Cajamarca retains this massive investment. we shall see......
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby richiecry » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:27 am

Good message and post. Santos to me is as unremarkable as they come. He criticizes the hand that feeds him (the mining industry) while at the same time offers nothing new. His actions in fact have affected other industries such as tourism which will hurt his city and region more. Why as well....would anyone in Peru want to follow Venezuela or Bolivia in any way? More needs to be done...but I think it is more to do with disemination of mining royalties than the mining royalties themselves....and NO company should be able to leave the mining location in worse shape after than what it was before they started.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby craig » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:43 am

budley wrote:The campesinos are good people, suspicious of me, but just trying to protect something valuable to them. If they had seen the fruits of yanacocha's investment helping their lives over the last 20 years this problem would not exist.

Considering your description of the situation it would seem that that is entirely a PR problem.

While the campesinos may not have "seen the fruits of yanacocha's investment helping their lives over the last 20 years" clearly those fruits have actually helped them enormously. Otherwise, the removal of continued investment would not pose the prospect of crashing the economy on which their very survival depends. Ignoring the self-promoting politicians, the sincere, common protesters must be taking the existing state of affairs for granted and without understanding where it came from. That is, the major problem is one of perception and appearance, not reality.

Perhaps Yanacocha could have waged a PR campaign, funded more charities, given people money, etc. and done other things aimed at creating a visible and convincing spectacle of benefiting the campesinos. However, none of that would have actually benefited the people of the region (if at all) a tiny fraction as much as the simple operation of their mine has, in fact, done.

budley wrote: the root of this problem is Newmont. as an American it pains me to say but Newmont is horrible, they have these problems everywhere they operate in the world. as a contractor to yanacocha i saw how they treat people from the inside and its not good enough.

What could Yanacocha have done better? I can see that they could perhaps treat people better, etc. However, I cannot see how they could have done much to make the local population understand that the local economy on which they depend is built on top of Yanacocha. That sort of economic understanding is beyond the comprehension of most of the human race, including the faculty of Harvard, so how could the campesinos of Cajamarca possibly understand it regardless of anything Yanacocha did?
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby tomsax » Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:01 pm

craig wrote:While the campesinos may not have "seen the fruits of yanacocha's investment helping their lives over the last 20 years" clearly those fruits have actually helped them enormously.


It's quite possible that for many people their lives have not changed greatly at all - that there lives were very hard and that they are still very hard 30 years later. This seems to happen where there are even very lucrative mines and be applicable to villages very close them, at least in my experience. Whether there were opportunities that they have not taken up will be a mute point to them, they will not see themselves as helped.

craig wrote:What could Yanacocha have done better? I can see that they could perhaps treat people better, etc.
Again in my experience this makes an incredible amount of difference. Amongst a significant number of people in many of these communities there is a tendency to be suspicous and jealous. It takes a positive effort in PR to make sure that things don't get on to a bad footing initially and then get steadily more poisoness as time progresses. On the positive side, if a little effort is made early on and then sustained then this can make a massive difference. Of course I don't know the specifics of this case and it may be different.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby budley » Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:16 pm

Good points Craig. We have to differentiate between the situation here in Cajamarca city, where I live, and the rural campo where the campesinos who are the folks with a legitimate complaint about this mine live.

In Cajamarca city, the mine has led to an undeniable boom which has elevated the lifestyle of a large portion of its citizens. not only mine workers and contractors, but those who provide secondary and tertiary services have all benefitted greatly, as you point out. Myself included. However, as in most places in the world where a very localized extractive boom takes place, the rising prices that accompany the boom have left many of cajamarca city's urban poor in worse conditions than before. this includes thousands of displaced campesinos who came here after mining rendered their lands untenable. I'm not anti-mining obviously, I worked there, but we should all admit the truth about this. mining communities are often in a state of pseudo-civil war between those who benefit from the mining activity and those who unintentionally suffer from the very same economic forces.

In the campo, the benefits have been much fewer. this is largely the fault of the provincial and regional governements and newmont often takes the hit. but the fact is that these campesinos have not seen much difference in their lives, except in many cases contamination and decreased water supplies, which IS the mine's fault, and when they have seen benefits they have not been proportional to their sacrifice or what has been promised to them. so its not by any means just PR.

But speaking of PR, newmont is famously bad at it, and of all the millions they have in fact spent here trying to do good while doing well, they receive almost no credit for it. Purely due to bad PR, a lack of listening ability, and not making their contributions ostentatiously visible. when i originally referenced the same team who failed at Cerro Quillish now failing at Minas Conga, i was referring specifically to Carlos Santa Cruz on the political end, and Violeta Vigo on the local PR end. mirserably incompetent would be putting it mildly.

Beyond just PR but pertaining to it and affecting perception is how the mine treats the locals. i will give 2 examples. 1, they tout the jobs they provide to local campesino communities. but these consist almost entirely of manual physical labor at middling salaries in the S/800 to S/1200 range. Very good money for the campo here. But why not identify some exceptional campesino kids, and create some indigenous engineers, and instead of handing them a shovel, give them a computer and a salary in the s/2500 to S/4000 range?? Maybe some hydraulic engineers who could take part in the Conga water studies and treatment plan and help sell it to their own people? this would be both socially just, and self serving for newmont. but they would have had to start doing this years ago and they never have.

2, many of the campesinos suffer terribly from the bad roads, muddy conditions, and large distances they have to walk to get basic services. here the custom when you are walking down a rural road and a pickup comes by is to try to flag it down to see if they will give you a ride, at least in the back. Newmont forbids its trucks to pick people up. so an empty truck flashes by poor campesinos struggling to take goods back to their house at 50km an hour, spraying mud on them, and sending the message that they are not even worth the simple act of human kindness and dignity to give them a ride in the BACK OF THE TRUCK! If they installed some benches back there and just gave people a ride, they could change the whole paradigm of how people view them. both bad PR practice, and a clear message of disrespect sent to the people all day every day.

I hope this clarifies some of what you referenced Craig. I respect that not everyone will agree with my views but i certainly enjoy hearing from anybody.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby craig » Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:08 pm

budley wrote: mining communities are often in a state of pseudo-civil war between those who benefit from the mining activity and those who unintentionally suffer from the very same economic forces.

I am sure such a view exists and provides real motivation, both on the part of campesinos who feel they are losing, or at least not benefiting enough, and outside observers.

However, think about what it means when an economic change takes place (such as the construction and operation of a mine) and as a consequence of the resulting "economic forces" someone "suffers" (assuming that the suffering is of a more substantial nature than envy). That means that person can no longer earn what he used to earn doing what he used to do because economic conditions have changed. Which means that the people he used to trade with are no longer willing to do so on the same terms. This will be because there are now other things they can do that they prefer to do, probably because they are more remunerative. Thus, to object to the changes amounts to a demand that all these other people be reduced back to their previous state of greater poverty. By your account, that seems to be what you expect to happen to Cajamarca. However, I doubt that that will relieve anyone's suffering.

Now, I think it would be nice if those who have been left behind could also advance. But, in order for that to happen, they must become more productive. There is no other way to advance economically. In order to do that they will probably have to change and do something different than what they have done in the past. It is not possible for them to advance by giving them "a share" of what other people are producing or by reducing other people to a previous state of poverty. In order to genuinely advance, they must themselves produce (the value of) what they consume.

However, as I previously said, it is simply inconceivable that Peruvian campesinos could understand the above ideas when the faculty of Harvard is not intellectually capable of understanding them. That seems to me to be the fundamentally intractable problem at the root of the situation you describe.

Now, as to the various ways you described that Yanacocha could have been nicer and cultivated more good will in the community, all you say seems very reasonable to me. But such things would not have addressed the fundamental problem above.

budley wrote:In the campo, the benefits have been much fewer. this is largely the fault of the provincial and regional governements and newmont often takes the hit. but the fact is that these campesinos have not seen much difference in their lives, except in many cases contamination and decreased water supplies, which IS the mine's fault, and when they have seen benefits they have not been proportional to their sacrifice or what has been promised to them. so its not by any means just PR.

I'm not sure just how the local government figures in. But those kinds of problems are things that result from the fact that the Peruvian state does not protect, or in the case of mineral rights even recognize the existance of, the property rights of the campesinos.

budley wrote:But speaking of PR, newmont is famously bad at it, and of all the millions they have in fact spent here trying to do good while doing well, they receive almost no credit for it.

How much of those millions do you figure went into the pockets of local big wigs?

budley wrote:But why not identify some exceptional campesino kids, and create some indigenous engineers, and instead of handing them a shovel, give them a computer and a salary in the s/2500 to S/4000 range?? Maybe some hydraulic engineers who could take part in the Conga water studies and treatment plan and help sell it to their own people? this would be both socially just, and self serving for newmont. but they would have had to start doing this years ago and they never have.

I think you make a particularly good point there.

Thanks for your information about the situation in Cajamarca. It is good to have some first hand information and perspective.

Craig
Last edited by craig on Wed Jul 18, 2012 6:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby renodante » Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:49 pm

Great post.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby budley » Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:45 pm

Craig, very interesting reply. you've understood some of what i mean by suffering. yes it is more than simple envy, although that is surely a factor at play in this situation. but when you say:

"That means that person can no longer earn what he used to earn doing what he used to do because economic conditions have changed."

Its not entirely right. in this case some people have literally lost their land, because as you say the laws here do not protect it for them, which goes all the way back to the property rights differences which in my mind underlay the differences between the subsequent success or failure of ex-spanish and ex-english colonies. that is part of the suffering of the campesinos. And those who find their creeks and rivers dry or no longer fit for use in farming or for livestock suffer a very concrete penalty not of their making. Also many people here have maintained their income level or seen it rise slightly while not keeping pace with astronomically rising local costs, which is more what i meant by the suffering of the urban poor. Not so much an earning issue as a purchasing power issue, similar but distinct.

I completely agree that at the most basic level, the rural poor can never catch up or advance if they do not increase productivity, which in their case (poor soil, intermittent water, bad weather, nonexistent infrastructure, bad governance) effectively only means mining. Which paradoxically implies the permanent loss of said land, as they must lose it for this economic activity to be pursued, and the destruction of their culture. so its a sort of catch 22 where they can't achieve 2 opposing goals: economic advancement and the preservation of their beloved culture. this basic and up to now unresolvable paradigm is what makes peru ungovernable. does Peru advance using what's available, knowing that it must in the end diminish or destroy native cultures, or emphasize cultural protection at the expense of macro economic advancement?

I'm agnostic about this although i tend towards pro-development when the environment can be protected. I say this because i talk to a of of campesinos and they have aspirations, at least for better basic services, and for their children to do better, like we all do. but i believe in the right of self determination so i am sympathetic to the primal needs of those campesinos determined to protect a lifestyle that i would not choose. either way it goes it will be fascinating and maybe tragic for one group or another to watch unfold.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby craig » Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:15 pm

budley wrote: ... some people have literally lost their land, because as you say the laws here do not protect it for them, which goes all the way back to the property rights differences which in my mind underlay the differences between the subsequent success or failure of ex-spanish and ex-english colonies. that is part of the suffering of the campesinos. And those who find their creeks and rivers dry or no longer fit for use in farming or for livestock suffer a very concrete penalty not of their making.

Yes, there is really suffering when private property rights are violated. And that necessarily occurs as a result of mining in Peru because mineral rights are socialized as a result of Latin governments inheriting the colonial perogatives of the Spanish Crown.

The Argentine writer Guillermo Yeatts wrote a very good book contrasting the Spanish and Anglos-Saxon mineral rights regimes and their consequences. It is available in both English and the original Spanish.
Subsurface wealth: The struggle for privatization in Argentina
El Robo del Subsuelo
It is ironic that Anglo-Saxon countries are gradually being converted to the Spanish socialized system.

budley wrote:Also many people here have maintained their income level or seen it rise slightly while not keeping pace with astronomically rising local costs, which is more what i meant by the suffering of the urban poor. Not so much an earning issue as a purchasing power issue, similar but distinct.

Actually, that is exactly what I described.
Which means that the people he used to trade with are no longer willing to do so on the same terms. This will be because there are now other things they can do that they prefer to do, probably because they are more remunerative.

That applies not only to earnings but to prices paid for goods, which are economically indistinguishable price phenomena.

budley wrote:I completely agree that at the most basic level, the rural poor can never catch up or advance if they do not increase productivity, which in their case (poor soil, intermittent water, bad weather, nonexistent infrastructure, bad governance) effectively only means mining. Which paradoxically implies the permanent loss of said land, as they must lose it for this economic activity to be pursued,

I do not agree that being more productive necessarily entails either mining or the loss of their land. If they had real property rights and the freedom to make their own decisions who know what innovations they might come up with. They might well choose to sell their rights to mining companies (if they had any rights), but in that case it would be their own choice.

budley wrote:and the destruction of their culture. so its a sort of catch 22 where they can't achieve 2 opposing goals: economic advancement and the preservation of their beloved culture. this basic and up to now unresolvable paradigm is what makes peru ungovernable. does Peru advance using what's available, knowing that it must in the end diminish or destroy native cultures, or emphasize cultural protection at the expense of macro economic advancement?

Nor do I agree that economic development necessarily requires the destruction of their culture, whatever they really want to maintain of it, if they had the choice.

I am, however, very skeptical of the indiginist ideology which appears to me to have been recently manufactured by NGOs, church groups and other leftist ideologs and taught to the locals. It is without real roots but very useful to politicians and various power lusters who aim to control and use poor and vulnerable people. I do not think that the native people should be forced to serve as living dioramas of "their beloved culture" for the smug self-satisfaction of "intellectuals" from more devoloped countries. I think each individual should be allowed to choose how he wishes to live. Some may choose to perform for tourists and others might choose to become engineers. None of them need to give up their roots if they don't want to, but it should be each person's choice.

budley wrote:I say this because i talk to a of of campesinos and they have aspirations, at least for better basic services, and for their children to do better, like we all do. but i believe in the right of self determination so i am sympathetic to the primal needs of those campesinos determined to protect a lifestyle that i would not choose.

Right. But to what extent do such "primal needs" really exist? And to what extent are they just being manipulated by NGO propaganda and used by ambitious power seekers?

Craig
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby budley » Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:45 am

All your points are well taken Craig, thank you for your insightful comments. Based on my time in the campo working directly with campesinos, albeit lower elevation campesinos and not the higher elevation groups where Conga would take place, I really do believe there is a primal desire among campesinos groups to salvage the culture they know and feel comfortable with. Farmers that I work with whose children are not interested in staying on the farm are very concerned with a loss of tradition and culture, while at the same time aspirational for their children's economic future. I have plenty of problems with the NGO's, but i don't think its fair to put the onus for that entirely on them.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby craig » Fri Jul 20, 2012 11:32 am

budley wrote:Based on my time in the campo working directly with campesinos, albeit lower elevation campesinos and not the higher elevation groups where Conga would take place, I really do believe there is a primal desire among campesinos groups to salvage the culture they know and feel comfortable with. Farmers that I work with whose children are not interested in staying on the farm are very concerned with a loss of tradition and culture, while at the same time aspirational for their children's economic future. I have plenty of problems with the NGO's, but i don't think its fair to put the onus for that entirely on them.

That is good first hand observation. It is one thing to have a genuine desire to cultivate one's local cuture and quite a different thing to be tricked into a foreign agenda designed to hide itself under that rubric.

My experience in this regard is in Bolivia, where the manipulation and deceit is massive. NGOs are not responsible for all of it. In Bolivia there are also long established Trotskiite groups who are happy to take advantage. However, NGOs, and the type of ignorant, meddling foreigners they attract, have played a major role for the last several decades.

It seems likely to me that there is similar activity in Peru. My question is: to what extent? In particular, Santos seems to be a typical ambitious product of such indoctrination who is exploiting and using the common people.

Craig
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chi chi
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby chi chi » Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:31 pm

They must give the protesters what they want. They are the majority and the majority wins.
budley
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby budley » Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:51 pm

That's just plainly incorrect ChiChi. what if the majority wants to institute slavery? what if the majority wants to insitute sharia law and begin stoning women for adultery? what if the majority of right handed people decide to execute left handed people? Democracy is about institutions, rule of law, and protections for minorities.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby stuart » Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:47 pm

I saw Benavides in Asia last year, if I saw him again I'd offer him my idea (in exchange for a handsome consulting fee) to get Conga off the ground by holding off protests for an entire year, a scheme that could only work in Cajamarca, and could be taken to his and Newmonts underlings (the govt.) to set up.

It's simple really. Allocate the funds for a year long carnival! How much could it cost to employ Grupo Pallay for 12 months inventing and singing new contrapuntos picantes? Much less than the current riots are costing. At least 20% of the avg Cajamarquino's life is spent thinking about and yearning for the next carnival, give it to them and they'd forget the protests and the evil foreign mining companies could do as they please (so long as they didn't have local workers, who'd never show up when a carnival is on). Simple.

Disclaimer: Stereotypes are funny, and I like Cajamarquinos.
budley
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby budley » Fri Jul 20, 2012 3:04 pm

Great Idea! We could even save some money and make it a yearlong gran pollada bailable, instead of a whole carnival. a hand lettered sign, some beer and a small stack of speakers is essentially all it would take.

this could work anywhere in peru although cajamarca is especially apt for it
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby amandahorne » Sat Jul 21, 2012 12:04 pm

I was wondering if the anti-mining sentiment is only local or if it affects other mines, too? Both my husband and I are mining engineers. My husband's mine (Sinclair - owned by Xstrata) is closing in a year and he's been encouraged to apply for a transfer to another site. We were thinking of applying for a transfer to a copper project in Peru.

As of 2 weeks ago I worked for Newmont at the Jundee gold mine in Western Australia (currently I've taken a job consulting in feasibility studies now). Newmont has a really good reputation for being responsible in Australia though they do waste a lot of money (think AU$600k for the stakeholders' dinner and I don't know how much they spent on Christmas but it would have been far more than that - and that was just for our site).

Really good posts on here, we got email updates sent to our work addresses but they read very much like press releases and didn't address what the problems were.

BTW, I would enjoy teaching some local kids the basics of different mining engineering disciplines. If asked I'm sure that the mining companies would cover a license for whatever design software they use or allow access to their licenses after hours (those licenses cost about AU$100K each) in order for training and probably offer some on the job experience.
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby chicama » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:44 pm

This is a good talk about Petro States, using the example of Alberta, Canada. It equally applies to mining states. It speaks of how the concentration of wealth from the extraction public natural resources in a few hands takes over the government and disenfranchises citizens. It does nothing for the local populations besides using the state to opress them, to pollute their environment, and thus to impoverish them. You can get it is as a podcast for free.

http://www.alternativeradio.org/products/nika001
falconagain
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby falconagain » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:32 pm

stuart wrote:I saw Benavides in Asia last year, if I saw him again I'd offer him my idea (in exchange for a handsome consulting fee) to get Conga off the ground by holding off protests for an entire year, a scheme that could only work in Cajamarca, and could be taken to his and Newmonts underlings (the govt.) to set up.

It's simple really. Allocate the funds for a year long carnival! How much could it cost to employ Grupo Pallay for 12 months inventing and singing new contrapuntos picantes? Much less than the current riots are costing. At least 20% of the avg Cajamarquino's life is spent thinking about and yearning for the next carnival, give it to them and they'd forget the protests and the evil foreign mining companies could do as they please (so long as they didn't have local workers, who'd never show up when a carnival is on). Simple.

Disclaimer: Stereotypes are funny, and I like Cajamarquinos.


Actually many Peruvian beer companies donate free booze for many Peruvian Parties in the provinces.
It is a way to guarantee a peaceful population. They get drunk, behave irresponsible, the next generation
inherits the same vices and corporations rake in more profits.
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craig
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Re: An insider view of the Conga protests

Postby craig » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:42 pm

craig wrote:
budley wrote:In the campo, the benefits have been much fewer. this is largely the fault of the provincial and regional governements and newmont often takes the hit. but the fact is that these campesinos have not seen much difference in their lives, except in many cases contamination and decreased water supplies, which IS the mine's fault, and when they have seen benefits they have not been proportional to their sacrifice or what has been promised to them. so its not by any means just PR.

I'm not sure just how the local government figures in. But those kinds of problems are things that result from the fact that the Peruvian state does not protect, or in the case of mineral rights even recognize the existance of, the property rights of the campesinos.

http://elcomercio.pe/player/1452093
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It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. -- Thomas Jefferson

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