NGOs question Swiss links to Peru police contracts

Police monitor people protesting a mining project in Peru in 2012 Keystone

Non-government organisations have accused the Peruvian police of signing secret contracts with mining firms – some of them Swiss – offering special paid protection. Commodities giant Glencore Xstrata expressed concern over the allegations on Monday.

This content was published on December 2, 2013 - 18:23

In exchange for special services, the contracts provide the police with vehicles, housing, food and equipment, as well as cash for individual police officers, declared a report released on Monday by the Bern-based Society for Threatened Peoples and three Peruvian human rights organisations.

According to the NGOs, these arrangements undermine states and their responsibility to properly protect citizens and make it more likely that local people protesting mining activities may suffer from police brutality.

Anti-mining protests are fairly regular occurrences in the mineral-rich South American state. In 2012 eight demonstrators were killed and dozens injured while protesting gold mining in the Cajamarca region (Yanacocha/Conga mines) and copper mining in Espinar (Xstrata Tintaya mine).

Glencore response

The Swiss-based commodities giant Glencore Xstrata, which owns the Tintaya mine and part of the miner Antamina, allegedly signed such contracts, the authors say.

Glencore Xstrata spokesman Archie Soames told swissinfo Monday that the company is “deeply concerned by allegations that our Tintaya-Antapaccay operation is in collusion with law enforcement agents (National Police of Peru).”

The company uses the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights to guide its use of private security forces and its interaction with public security providers such as the police, according to a statement sent to swissinfo by email.

“We are implementing the Voluntary Principles at our Peruvian operations and human rights training has been undertaken by all leaders and management of the private security contractors used in our projects and operations. We have also engaged with representatives of the Peruvian police force in neighbouring areas to provide them with information about our approach to human rights,” the statement said.

Glencore Xstrata is “committed to engaging in constructive two-way dialogue with all our stakeholders and we respect their rights to voice their concerns regarding the project in a non-violent way,” said the statement.

“We have in no way acted to prevent demonstrations taking place at any of our operations.”

The company will “continue to work with the local, regional and national government to promote and implement processes that protect human rights,” the statement said.

Addressing conflicts

The Ticino-based gold refinery Valcambi, which is owned by the US firm Newmont, which also controls the Peruvian mining firm Minera Yanacocha, is also implicated in the report. The NGOs say Switzerland is a major export destination for Peruvian gold – 50% of gold exports in 2012 – and Valcambi was responsible for refining gold worth $1.5 billion (CHF1.36 billion) from Minera Yanacocha the same year.

In addition to demanding that the Peruvian authorities find a peaceful solution to the conflicts surrounding mining, the NGOs behind the report are calling on the Swiss authorities to ensure that Swiss firms respect human rights as well as the environment.

Switzerland is currently presiding over the international Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative, where the report-writers say there is also room for reform.

The Peruvian government considers mining vital to the country’s prosperity. Foreign investment in Peru mining projects has reportedly risen significantly over the past ten years. One third of Peru’s 30 million people are said to depend directly or indirectly on the mining economy, and mining accounts for almost 60% of exports, according to the government.

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