Solidarity & Human Rights – Mining: The Case of Tambogrande Peru

Photo of Ulises Garcia

In the early days of mining in Canada, I wonder how much effort was required by local communities to safeguard proper mining practices by companies when the issue was a domestic one? 

Today, as mining has gone global, how much effort do you suppose is/will be required by local communities in the global south to ensure those same companies adhere to Canadian industry standard regulations far away from Canada. 

Do you think a Canadian public, with a vested interest in mining profits through pension funds and stocks, is keen to insist on proper mining practices down there, somewhere? 

This past Wednesday, July 18th, at the Mad Hatter Olde British Pub in Mississauga, Faith Connections organized a talk by Ulises Garcia, a former citizen of Tambogrande, Peru – an agricultural town known for it’s fruit harvests, especially mangos.  Ulises’ talk stirred many thoughts and questions. 

The following is a brief summary of the issue he brought to us: Manhattan Mining of Vancouver and the Peruvian government, under Fujimori, entered into a 75%-25% partnership to extract gold and copper, found under the homes of 70 000 inhabitants of Tambogrande, without local public consultation. 

By 2001, backed by the Catholic church, local democratic opposition to the proposed mine took the form of discussion, debate, letter-writing and public protest.  In a spark of genius, a unique type of demonstration was born as the people mobilized in the form of a colourful, fiesta-like cultural celebration march of solidarity.  The goal: To protect the town’s decision to continue on its agricultural path, saying NO to the Canadian company’s extractive intrusion.  It all seemed to fall on deaf ears. 

By 2002, pitted against a defiant Manhattan, an indifferent national government, and a biased national media, the peoples’ movement in Tambogrande was dealt a serious blow with the tragic murder of it’s leader (Ulises father). 

All this was enough to attract international attention and paved the way for an internationally monitored local referendum independent of the central government and Manhattan.  The people voted 95% to reject the mine.  Manhattan ignored this awesome display of local democracy; the referendum is the first of it’s kind. 

Manhattan has since pulled out.  A growing number of local jurisdictions in the global south are following the example of Tambogrande as a template for opposition to development that is unwanted on and under the ground.

Article By: Valens Wolfs     Photo By: Angela Bortolus