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Cablegate: Embassy Lima

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


Classified By: Ambassador J. Curtis Struble. Reason: 1.4 (b,d)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Violent protests against British firm Majaz,s exploration for copper near the Ecuador border have resulted in three deaths and several kidnappings. An unusual combination of anti-mining NGOs, the Catholic Church, leftist groups and narcotraffickers have marshaled protesters from the surrounding provincesXXXXXXXXXXXX The Mission continues its work with other Embassies and mining investors to promote conflict resolution. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Sporadic protests began a year ago in the Minera Majaz exploration zone along the Rio Blanco, on the Ecuadorian border in northern Piura. XXXXXXXXXXXX On 7/28 protesters began road blockages and confrontations with the Peruvian National Police (PNP). The GOP sent a negotiating team to the zone to lower tensions, but Vice Minister of Mines (MEM) Romulo Mucho was injured by a protester as he left a negotiating session in Cajamarca. Despite claims that police killed many protesters, only one death (gunshot from an unknown assailant) was confirmed during demonstrations. The PNP reported also that two locals died in their home when their explosive device detonated.

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3. (SBU) On 8/6 Ronderos kidnapped two Majaz employees and took them to villages where they were beaten. The two were released, but on 8/14 ronderos kidnapped ten other employees, releasing them only after the employees signed agreements not to work for Majaz. Ronderos have announced plans for more demonstrations on 8/18.

4. (C) Conversations between Mission officers, MEM VM Mucho, Majaz executives, NGO representatives and PNP officials yielded a common theme that the protesters have no negotiable complaints, but rather want to keep outsiders away. The forces overtly arrayed against Majaz are the local ronderos, mayors, several Catholic priests and some NGOs. Working behind the scene are a combination of the Peruvian Communist Party/Patria Roja, national teachers, union SUTEP and perhaps opium poppy traffickers.

5. (SBU) The Peruvian National Police have said publicly that they believe opium traffickers have also played a role in stoking the violence -- an assertion the police have amplified in private conversations with Emboffs. Police report that they have destroyed over 70,000 opium poppy plants in Northern Peru since June 2005. Company representatives have also asserted that the Majaz exploration site lies along a foot track used by couriers who convey opium latex to Ecuador.

6. (C) Comment: This area of northern Peru is in fact a priority target of our efforts to collect intelligence on poppy cultivation and opium trafficking. We are working with both the police and company representatives to further develop the information they have. So far, however, the information is general. There have been past instances when non-U.S. mining companies have claimed unconvincingly that narco-traffickers were behind opposition to their operations in an effort to enlist our assistance. End Comment.

7. (C) NGO XXXXXXXXXXXX has becomeXXXXXXXXXXXX frustrated XXXXXXXXXXXX in the Majaz community negotiations. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that Majaz and MEM VM Mucho were making reasonable efforts to mediate; here, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, the ronderos refused to negotiate and simply wanted Majaz to leave. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that other mediating NGOs XXXXXXXXXXXX were experiencing the same frustration with the ronderos.

8. (U) Minera Majaz is the Peruvian subsidiary of British firm Monterrico Metals. Majaz has spent $20 million exploring for copper for over a year, building roads and providing services and employment to area residents. Exploratory drilling has finished; surveying of a planned copper concentrate pipeline (the last step for Majaz,s feasibility study) ceased during protests but resumed on 8/11. Militants still deny access to most of the pipeline route. The planned $800 million investment in a deposit of 1.3 billion metric tons (MT) of copper ore could produce 220,000 MT of copper concentrate and 500 MT of molybdenum per year.

9. (U) Embassy Lima has recently stepped up efforts to improve coordination with the embassies of Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Switzerland and South Africa as well as with major foreign mining investors with an eye to reducing anti-mining violence (Septel/Reftels).

10. (C) Comment: The anti-mining forces in action in Majaz represent a strange group of bedfellows indeed -- the Catholic church, violent radical leftists, NGOs, ronderos and perhaps narcotraffickers. These organizations are competing for a leadership role but in some cases also cooperate. The extent to which the church is tied into the ronderos and radical left is both controversial and still open to question. Unlike recent conflicts in Southern Peru (e.g., Tintaya) the protests in Majaz are not aimed at forcing a redistribution of royalties or more generous economic support from a mine. Northern Peru has a reputation for being more anti-mining than the South, where the industry is better developed and more of the local populations see benefits from the activity. The objective of protesters in Majaz is to kill the project while it is in the exploration phase -- before, presumably, a pro-mine constituency can develop in the area. STRUBLE

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