Closure of mines in Ayacucho: Was it arbitrarily announced by the Government?

Last Friday, the president of the Council of Ministers, Mirtha Vasquez, announced that there will be “no further expansion” for “exploration and exploitation” of four mining operations in the south of Ayacucho, where he went to talk with communities in conflict with the Ares, Apumayo and Sami companies. “We are going to demand that they finish and close,” said the minister at a public ceremony in Cora Cora, in the province of Parinacochas (Ayacucho) amid the applause of leaders and residents.

The meeting ended with the agreement to create a commission that will be in charge of negotiating the start of the closure plan – a legal mechanism that regulates the cessation of mining operations – of the mines Inmaculada, Pallancata (Ares), Apumayo and Breapampa (Sami).

Political and business sectors reacted to the announcement accusing the government of creating instability and going against investment with a measure that they described as “unilateral and arbitrary.”

What is the mine closure plan?

The former Minister of Energy and Mines, Luis Miguel Inchishategui, explained to RPP News that the mine closure plan “is a management plan that all mining operation in Peru it must have and is required to operate “.

He indicated that it consists of a work plan to carry out the closure of operations once the company concludes with the extraction and processing of mineral in a deposit.

This process has three stages: progressive closure, final closure, and post-closure. The first occurs during the life of the mine, while damage is being remedied in the extraction areas already exploited. In this period “the aim is to reduce the environmental impact without waiting for the life of the mine to end,” says Inchcastletegui.

The final closure begins when the process of mining extraction and “the remediation of the entire area that has been disturbed by mining activity begins.” This stage can last several years, depending on the size of the mine.

“It demands not only the replacement of soils but also the treatment of water, the closure of camps, plants and equipment that are in the area of ​​operation,” says the former minister.

The post-closure stage “consists of maintaining the components that necessarily require handling for many more years to achieve that the impact is eliminated or reduced to its minimum expression.” The objective of this management instrument is to ensure that the mines in Peru they do not generate new environmental liabilities.

The closure plan for mines was established with Law 28090 in 2003 and in August 2021 modifications were made with Law 31347. In 2005, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) created the regulations of the law and thereafter demanded the presentation of the plans closure to mining companies.

The actors involved in the process are the mining companies, the State through the General Directorate of Mining Environmental Affairs of the MEM and the Environmental Assessment and Enforcement Agency (OEFA), the latter with the task of supervising the mines periodically and unexpectedly to ensure the correct execution of the plan. closing.

In addition, as a guarantee to the State, companies have to present a letter of guarantee that covers the amount of the mine closure plan. The guarantee is updated as the closure plan is executed.

How does the closure plan work?

On the flexibility of closure plans, Inchishategui said that they are documents that are “updated over time based on new mineral discoveries” and are approved as long as the General Directorate of Mining Environmental Affairs “evaluates and gives technical approval to the requests of the companies. The changes that are considered in the update of the plan “must also go through a process of citizen participation,” explains the former minister.

Rómulo Mucho, former Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, said that all mines without exception “continue to search for resources” while they are operating and if they find them, “the closure plan is extended in time.”

For her part, Magaly Bardales, president of the SNMPE Mining Committee, told RPP that the closure plan “is not a static instrument” and as long as companies meet all legal requirements they can operate for longer. In this regard, he indicated that two operations of the Ares company – mentioned by Mirtha Vásquez in his closure plan – have submitted a modification of the environmental impact study and a modification of Closing plan, to extend the time of your activities.

Arbitrary Government Measure?

Unions such as the National Confederation of Private Business Institutions (Confiep), the National Society of Mining, Oil and Energy (SNMPE) expressed their “resounding rejection of the arbitrary and illegal measure carried out by the Prime Minister, Mirtha Vasquez“and for making decisions that would not correspond to it. Furthermore, Confiep regretted that” from the PCM a technical instrument is being used politically that must be handled in accordance with the laws that apply to the industry. “

About, Mirtha Vasquez He denied that he was assuming functions of other instances of the State, because, as he told an interview with the newspaper La República, he has received information from the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of the Environment, competent bodies on the subject. “There is no excess of my functions because I am not ordering anything or decreeing anything. What I do is report what exists in the resolutions,” he said and assured that the four mining companies located in Ayacucho “are already in the process of closure” and “does not have to be consulted” nothing.

“Legally there are stages of the mining and the closure plan serves to be certain and to plan. It is not true that it is a flexible thing and that the mining company can unilaterally decide to extend it as far as it deems appropriate, “he said.

Rómulo Mucho pointed out to RPP Noticias that with this announcement the head of the PCM “has broken the law, has acted in an illegal and arbitrary manner” due to “surely some pressure such as those experienced by almost all the mines“.

“There are groups that really oppose the activity, for blackmail and extortion, as we have seen in recent years in Peruvian mining […] We see here an ideological and political bias to unilaterally apply the closure of any mine, “he said and regretted that the decision affects the development of mining, the entry of foreign currency to the country and the generation of employment.

Bardales pointed out that the measure would be arbitrary because if all the requirements of the Closing plan of operations, which is flexible, “the competent authority is obliged to give approval.”

“Announcing and establishing that the operation is going to be closed based on an approved closure plan, is actually accepting and attacking the rights of a mining owner, which are rights granted by the concessions for the operation and expansion while there is life useful (in the mine), “he said.

In addition, he recalled that the mining It is the most regulated activity “with more than 200 administrative procedures before 29 State institutions” and that is why it is necessary for it to have predictability in its operations and legal certainty in its investments.

For the former Minister Inchuesetegui, the controversy over the announcement of the mine closure plan It has been generated by a communication problem. He explained that in the minutes signed by the president of the Council of Ministers and the Ayacucho leaders, he has mixed two issues: The closure of a mining operation and the supervision of the closure plan of a mine.

He indicated that at the beginning of the minutes it is stated that the mining operations must be closed and withdrawn, but then it is indicated that the closure plans will be reviewed and that meetings will be coordinated with the mining companies so that they inform about how the plan that each of them has approved will be fulfilled.

He explained that for this reason, the government has subsequently issued some communications and granted interviews in which they clarify that “they will respect the approved closure plans and that if the companies request an extension of the mine closure plan, it will be reviewed by the DGAAM and if it meets the environmental and social requirements, it will be approved. “

Along these lines, the Deputy Minister of Mines, Jorge Chávez Cresta, said on the eve that the mining companies Inmaculada, Pallancata, Apumayo and Breapampa can request the extension of the deadlines for the closure of mines, through the competent entities, within the framework compliance with the law.

He pointed out that these four mining operations have dates for progressive closure, final closure and post-closure and that compliance with those dates is in no way being violated.

Chávez Cresta indicated that he is calling for a meeting this week with the three mining companies in charge of these four operations, to address the issue of the mine closure plan.

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