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Bear Creek threatens investor-state challenge against Peru

Vancouver-based Bear Creek Mining has been pushing for its controversial Santa Ana silver mine despite massive protests in 2011 against it and concerns that the mine could pollute the sacred Lake Titicaca.

Now they have issued a media release stating, “Bear Creek Mining announces that it delivered to the Peruvian Minister of Economy and Finance, on February 6, 2014, a Notice of Intent to Submit a Claim to Arbitration, under the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Peru. The dispute arises out of the enactment by the Peruvian government on June 25, 2011, of Supreme Decree 032 rescinding the Company’s rights to operate the Santa Ana Project and which resulted in a complete stoppage of activities at Santa Ana and significant damages to the Company.”

In terms of timelines, “The filing of the Notice of Intent also initiates a six-month consultation period between the parties during which time they are to continue to attempt to amicably settle the dispute. If no amicable settlement is reached in that six-month period, the Company may then initiate international arbitration proceedings against Peru in accordance with the Canada-Peru FTA.”

That means arbitration proceedings may be initiated by August 2014.

Background

In June 2009, we issued an action alert opposed to the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement stating, “It gives Canadian resource companies new legal powers to challenge what few Peruvian laws stand in their way, while paying only lip service to labour rights and environmental protection.” Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew commented, “Canada’s main development interests in Peru are mining and resource extraction.”

Then in May 2011, Aljazeera reported, “For weeks, a group of about 10,000 protesters blockaded streets in the country’s southeast in an effort to convince Peru’s government to revoke the license already given to Bear Creek Mining Corp, a Canadian company planning to mine silver in the area. …Protesters fear that the company will pollute the water (when using toxic cyanide) to separate silver, and an environmental impact statement is under government review.”

By late June 2011, Agence France Presse reported, “The Peruvian Mines and Energy Ministry said Peru’s government withdrew Bear Creek Mining Corporation’s concession to develop a silver deposit… (The decision came after) an estimated 1,000 protesters attempted to occupy Inca Manco Capac International Airport near Lake Titicaca. The protest followed a wave of anti-mining demonstrations (led primarily by Aymara Indians) that began last month.”

That article also noted, “(Bear Creek CEO Andrew) Swarthout said the company will wait to get more details from the ministry, and depending on how the concessions are affected, it will decide which legal possibilities to pursue. ‘There’s a free-trade agreement between Canada and Peru which is very regulated, so there’s avenues there’, Swarthout said. ‘We will go through the free trade agreement … and also, we have legal recourse here in Peru’, he said, referring to the Peruvian constitution.”

And that same month, Trew wrote in a letter to the editor published in the Globe and Mail, “Canadian mining firms behave as if they had a right to mine. In fact, under the free trade deals Canada negotiates with developing countries, they do have that right. They are not afraid to use it to bully communities and countries opposed to their projects. …(Bear Creek) can claim expropriation of future profits. …The water and ecosystems that would be destroyed by gold and silver mining have no recourse to international trade law. We desperately need to reform trade agreements to correct this gross imbalance between democratic and corporate rights.”

And in February 2012, Prensa Latina reported, “The March for Water (in Peru) is demanding a ban on the use of mercury and arsenic in mining, to stop mining in the basin headwaters and the declaration of the access to water as a basic human right.” Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan and organizer Claudia Campero Arena sent this message of solidarity that was read when the march reached Lima: “The Council of Canadians stands with the more than 200 communities and civil society organizations in Peru who are demanding an end to mining injustice and calling for water to be recognized as a human right within the Peruvian constitution.”

The Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project call on Bear Creek to drop their threat of an investor-state challenge through the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement and respect the local and national opposition in Peru to their proposed mine.

Further reading
Council expresses solidarity with ‘The March for Water’ in Peru
Trew challenges Bear Creek’s ‘right to mine’
Mining company CEO warns of Canada-Peru FTA challenge
Puno resists Canadian company threatening Lake Titicaca
Anti-mining protests in defense of water continue in Peru