Nearly 40 years of mining activity in Espinar, Cusco, has had a serious impact on the native populations (K’ana population) living near the mine, such as the loss of their territories and the loss of their customs and traditions. The expansion and growth of mining activity has been occupying communal territories that have been fragmented by the individual sale of land, a fact that is exacerbated by the expansion of the Coroccohuayco project, which directly involves three Quechua-speaking Andean communities, without clarification of the causes of contamination in the area and without a process of free and informed prior consultation in the communities affected by this new project.

In Espinar there are 13 communities living around the mining area and their rights have been violated for years. What rights are we referring to? The right to drink uncontaminated water, i.e., their right to health: let us remember that two studies by CENSOPAS (MINSA) and a study by Amnesty International show the same result: people with heavy metals in their blood, metals ingested through the water (cadmium, arsenic, manganese, mercury and lead).

But we are also talking about the right of the 13 communities of Espinar to preserve their culture. In these territories, this right is also being violated when the mining company Glencore buys hectares individually from the inhabitants without respecting the process established internally by the communities themselves. Let us remember that these are ancestral communities (recognised as such by the Ministry of Culture) and their way of life is based on their relationship with the land. In Espinar there have been too many States of Emergency, and the population is still unable to live in a healthy environment, that is the reality.

Ceferino Kanna Achiri is a member of the Huisa Community and his health and that of his family (wife and two children) have been affected by the presence of heavy metals in their bodies. “My children are contaminated, they have four times more arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. My wife and I have been affected by the kidneys, we are always suffering from headaches, that’s our concern. Ceferino also regrets that all the ancestral paths they have had have been closed: “Before the communities lived in harmony, the company bought half of the community and separated us, isolated us”. What she regrets most is that the visits that used to take place between communities in the mining company’s area of influence have been broken off. “When the mining company came, people changed,” he says, referring to the power of money, as some villagers have been convinced to sell their property. Suddenly, in the middle of the community, some hectares began to belong to Glencore, which immediately took possession, and logically closed the way and, according to Ceferino, “fenced off” the area and they cannot even reach their chapel or their cemetery. “The entire Cañipía basin is contaminated with heavy metals”, he concludes.

Esmeralda Larota Umasi, a member of the Organisation of Women Defenders of the K’ana Territory and Culture, is 36 years old and suffers the effects of the contamination in her body. “It hurts me to see my family also complaining about the pain and no one takes care of them, my father is sick and so is my mother”. In her community, which is one of the areas hardest hit by pollution, there is to date no comprehensive health programme to provide the population with medical treatment and thus give them a better quality of life.

“We don’t even have clean water, we have to keep drinking the same water, even though we know it is contaminated,” she says, tired, but without giving up. Esmeralda travelled to the European Union to tell the European parliamentarians about the reality of the people who live around the mining activity, who have seen their basic human rights violated, such as the right to water, health and a healthy environment. Esmeralda has taken the voices of those affected by heavy metals in Espinar to raise awareness and sensitise the European parliamentarians to vote in favour of the Due Diligence Law in the European Union, which could change the situation of impunity in which they live.

“We defend life, health and the rights of the native communities, we have lived in this community since our grandparents, we have lived by cultivating, sowing, harvesting our farms, raising our livestock. We used to live from our cattle and our farms, it used to be sustainable, but today we have heavy metals in our blood and this is deteriorating our health day after day. Neither the state nor the company pay any attention to us, I would like them to be responsible and to be more humane, we are human beings too, we have the right to live a healthy life”, she laments.

Agripina Magaño Cuti is a 71-year-old indigenous woman, originally from Ayllu Huisa, she lives in the Ccatautaña sector and longs for the times when, as she says, “she lived peacefully”, “she had 25 cows, 25 llamas and 70 sheep and with all that she worked”, she tells us that she bought her land and built her house, she says that the water “was crystal clear” and that she dewormed her animals only twice a year. “Raising animals gave us prosperity,” she adds, as she recounts that with these same animals, she was able to travel between communities to sell her products and at the same time buy others that she needed. Agripina recalls with emotion that she used to grow quinoa, potatoes and cañihua. Today, however, the smoke and dust from the mine, which produces environmental pollution, have put an end to her prosperity, as the mineral conveyor belt of the Glencore company is only 400 metres from her house, from her field, where she still grows her crops for her own consumption.

She is an elderly woman who loves her land, “I am working in an artisanal way with the chaquitaclla, with pick and shovel”, there is no more Ayni, or reciprocity, there is nothing. For her there is one person responsible: “since the mine arrived and the construction of Antapaccay took place on this hilltop, all production has decreased”. Agripina wants to talk to the company, she says, but she cannot find any responses; her four children were born in Ccatautaña, and when she dies, she says, she hopes that the company will respond to them and her grandchildren. Her charge is also the heavy metals in her body; in 2013 she was given her results in an envelope without anyone explaining to her that she had arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury; unfortunately, like the others affected, she has no medical attention.

This is the reality of the native communities of Espinar, and they are certainly not anti-mining, but they do consider that a great injustice has been done to them, above all due to the abandonment and inconstancy of the Peruvian state, which has left them with no choice but to confront the mining company, in many cases.

Thus, the Espinar campaign cannot wait, it seeks justice for the population. In this context, it aims to advocate that the European Union’s proposed law on due diligence should include clauses guaranteeing the rights of the population in the areas where European investment takes place. The campaign seeks to ensure that the causes of pollution and damage to human health are identified with transparency and scientific rigour, that access to clean water and specialised health services with a focus on gender and cultural belonging is guaranteed for the entire population. It also seeks the definition of binding mechanisms for compliance with the international human rights framework, such as prior, free and informed consultation, with international standards, respecting ILO Convention 169 and the United Nations Universal Declaration on the rights of the indigenous population, within the framework of the extraterritorial responsibility of companies with capital in the European Union or that invoice in it, as is the case of the Swiss Glencore, a mine that has been operating in Espinar for nine years.

It should be noted that the Espinar cannot wait campaign is promoted by three European networks: EU-LAT Network, CIDSE and PEP, which bring together more than 60 international solidarity organisations from 15 different countries, as well as 50 Peruvian organisations belonging to four national platforms: Plataforma de la Sociedad Civil sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos, Red Muqui, Campaña Nacional Permanente Defensores y Defensoras and the Mesa Técnica de Salud Ambiental y Humana; networks promoted by Peruvian organisations such as: CooperAcción, Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras, Instituto de Defensa Legal-IDL and Perú Equidad.

Video. Espinar demands social and environmental justice.