In Peru, Distrust of Miners Remains, Even Amid Development – by John W. Miller and Ryan Dube (Wall Street Journal – January 4, 2015)

AREQUIPA, Peru—The China-led commodity boom has lifted Peru, now the world’s second biggest copper exporter, out of poverty, but mining companies say it is one of the most difficult countries to do business in.

Skepticism about foreign mining firms is deeply ingrained. This year alone, a dozen people have been killed in mining protests.

Economists say mining has been key to Peru’s robust economic growth during the past decade, helping reduce poverty from almost 60% in 2004 to just over 20% last year.

For lower- and middle-class Peruvians, the picture isn’t so clear. Mining “is not a good thing, but it gives us money,” said Daisy Araujo, 28-year-old mother of four whose husband works in an underground gold mine 12 hours away. She sees him for a few days every month.

Mistrust of mining dates back to the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors arrived on South America’s northern coast, driven by their lust for gold and silver. After capturing the Inca emperor Atahualpa, they agreed to let him go in exchange for a room full of gold and two rooms of silver. Atahualpa fulfilled his end of the deal, but the Spaniards backtracked on their word and killed the Incan ruler.

Since then, Peru’s volatile history has been closely tied to metals and mining. The country’s Andes, rich in gold, silver, copper and other minerals, have created vast wealth for governments and companies, but also fueled resentment, rebellion and conflict with the local, indigenous population.

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