Legal Proceedings Against Monterrico Metals Settled
20 July 2011
Legal proceedings against UK-based Monterrico Metals PLC by 33 members of a peasant community in northern Peru were settled earlier today by compensation payments, without admission of liability. The claimants allege torture by the Peruvian police after protesting at Monterrico's Rio Blanco copper mine in Piura in August 2005 (for a video outlining the allegations and background to the case please click here). The settlement means a hearing at the UK High Court, scheduled for October this year, will no longer go ahead. One consequence of this is that the full details of the events of August 2005 are unlikely ever to be established or publicly disclosed. Nevertheless, the Peru Support Group welcomes the payment of compensation to those who allegedly suffered mistreatment.
The Rio Blanco mine has been a key focal point for our organisation since March 2006 when we sponsored a meeting in the Houses of Parliament in which the project was debated. During the meeting, local citizens’ organisations and representatives from Monterrico Metals expressed radically different analyses of both the events of August 2005 and of the wider effects of the firm’s operations on development in Piura. To establish the veracity of their claims, PSG President Lord Avebury suggested we send an independent delegation to the region to visit the sites in question and discuss the project with local organisations and experts. With Monterrico Metals’s assent, the delegation travelled to Piura in October 2006 and its conclusions were subsequently published in our report entitled ‘Mining and Development in Peru, With Special Reference to the Rio Blanco Project, Piura’ (March 2007). We have also supported the legal proceedings subsequent to the report by providing UK law firm Leigh Day, who represented the claimants, with political context to the case, facilitating contact with Peruvian organisations and helping to coordinate translations of witness statements.
Today’s settlement represents a significant achievement for the claimants and communities affected by the events of 2005. However, it has not resolved all the outstanding issues related to the Rio Blanco project. Domestic attempts to prosecute police and private security officers who allegedly committed the abuses are yet to make much headway. Many in Piura also express concern over the likely environmental impact of the Rio Blanco project (now owned by Chinese firm Zijn) when it begins production later this year. As such, further tensions between the local communities and the mine operator cannot be ruled out.
Consequently, the PSG will continue to closely monitor developments around the project in Piura for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we encourage the mine’s new owner to engage in regular, participatory dialogue with the local communities in an effort to minimise the risk of renewed social conflict.