Peru's Supreme Court ruled Aug. 16 that decrees on application of the Prior Consultation Law recently issued by the Energy and Mines Ministry are unconstitutional. The legal challenge was brought by the nongovernmental Legal Defense Institute (IDL), which argued that the Ministry's guidelines called for "informational workshops" rather than a decision-making process. The high court agreed that the guidelines failed to conform with the International Labor Organization's Convention 169, which outlines standards for the rights of indigenous peoples. Peru ratified Convention 169 in 1994. The guidelines, principally concerning oil and mineral development, are voided by the ruling. (Gestión via No a la Mina, Aug. 17; La Republica, Aug. 16)
Indigenous communities in Arauco province in Chile's central Biobío region have announced plans for a march on Aug. 2 to protest a proposal before the National Congress to extend Forestry Decree 701 for another 20 years. Community residents, who belong to the Mapuche group, Chile's largest ethnicity, say the forestry laws have allowed timber companies to take over traditional Mapuche lands starting in 1974 under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The most important of these companies are Arauco (Celulosa Arauco y Constitución), largely owned by the Angelini family, and Forestal Mininco, controlled by the Matte family. According to Mapuche activists, there is little chance that the forestry proposal will be defeated, since many of the congressional candidates from Mapuche areas in the upcoming Nov. 17 elections are being financed by these two powerful families. (El Cuidadano, Chile, July 27)
In a press conference on July 11 representatives of Argentina's indigenous Mapuche and of indigenous communities in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén announced plans to block the California-based Chevron Corporation from drilling for natural gas in their territories. In December 2012 Argentina's state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company signed an agreement for a $1 billion hydrofracking pilot project in the Vaca Muerta area, despite a November decision by an Argentine judge to embargo Chevron's assets in Argentina because of a $19 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador for environmental damage and injuries to the health of indigenous residents in the Amazon rainforest. YPF and Chevron are scheduled to sign an additional accord on July 15; the oil companies deny that the drilling will be on Mapuche lands.
Vladimiro Huaroc, head of Peru's National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS), weighed in on the controversy over the country's new Prior Consultation Law June 14, in comments published in the official newspaper El Peruano. "There are many sectors that want the government to execute these actions as soon as possible, and we do not understand the trouble," he wrote. Seeming to address assertions by President Ollanta Humala that the law should not apply in the country's sierras, Huaroc invoked Peru's responsibilities under ILO Convention 169 and stated, "Probably, there are sectors that are not adequately informed" about the government's responsibilities to indigenous communities. "Prior consultation means informing the population; the Executive must do everything possible so that communities know in detail the economic processes that will be realized."
Security guards shot and seriously injured an indigenous Terena, Josiel Gabriel Alves, on June 4 when a group of about 60 protesters tried to occupy the São Sebastião estate in Sidrolandia municipality in the southern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Doctors said Gabriel might lose the use of his arms and legs. This was the second shooting in less than a week in an ongoing dispute over lands claimed by the Terena: Osiel Gabriel, Josiel Gabriel's cousin, was killed by federal police on May 30 at a nearby estate. The Terena have been occupying several large estates in Sidrolandia since May 15; they say the estates are on land the federal government designated as indigenous territory in 2010. The 28,000 Terena live on just 20,000 hectares in Mato Grosso. (Adital, Brazil, June 5)
In its new annual report, Amnesty International charges that Ecuador is not respecting the right of indigenous peoples to prior consultation on development decisions impacting their territories, and that the government has used "unfounded charges of terrorism, sabotage and homicide" against indigenous and campesino leaders to "restrict freedom of assembly." The report on the state of human rights around the world in 2012 finds that Ecuador has not complied with UN recommendations to "guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent." (EFE, May 22)
National Police fired on protesters occupying the site of the Conga gold mining project in Peru's Cajamarca region on May 28, leaving one wounded in the leg and abdomen. Police, including elite troops from the Special Operations Divsion (DINOES), opened fire as some 1,500 campesinos were marching on El Perol laguna, to establish an encampement there. The Yanacocha mining company recently announced that it will begin pumping El Perol to divert the water into a reservoir and permit mining on the site—despite the fact that the project is officially suspended. A nearby reservoir dubbed Chaillhuagón has already been built, the company announced; the original laguna of that name is slated to become a pit-mine if the project moves ahead. The company says the new reservoirs will be made available for use by local residents, but Cajamarca's Unitary Struggle Command (CUL), which is coordinating the protests, pledges to resist any damage to the lagunas. (La Republica, Servindi, Servindi, CAOI, May 28; La Republica, May 23)
Peru's Yanacocha mining company—that seeking to develop the controversial Conga project in Cajamarca region—is appealing a ruling of the National Water Authority (ANA) barring expansion of its existing mine into new lands within its concession area. The lands, at a place called La Quinua Sur, lie within the headwaters of the Río Grande, which supplies water to the city of Cajamarca. Technically, the expansion, dubbed Yanacocha Oeste, was approved late last year by the Ministry of Energy and Mining (MINEM), but ANA denied approval to discharge effluent into local waterways that drain into the river. This effectively bars plans to develop a new open-pit mine at Quinua Sur.