Environment Ministry must be able to regulate mining activities

The head of the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law, SPDA, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, sat down for an interview with daily El Comercio to discuss the creation of Peru’s future Environment Ministry and its relation to the country’s mining industry, one of the largest in the world.

Pulgar says the Environment Ministry must be able to regulate the environmental impact of mining. “A ministry that overlooks a widespread topic like mining has to be able to regulate, if not it becomes a coordinator,” says Pulgar.

Without the ability to regulate, the ministry would have the same powers as the National Environmental Council, Conam, which he says “has lost credibility and become unmanageable.”

“Citizens are demanding an entity that will be able to provide answers to mining,” he said.

In November 2007, the Observatory of Mining Conflicts, OCM, reported that more than 50 percent of Peru’s social conflicts were due to the expansion of mines. Peru’s national ombudsman added in early January this year that nearly half of the country’s 78 social conflicts were related to environment issues.

Pulgar-Vidal says the Environment Ministry would help resolve mining conflicts in communities, although “it can’t be the life jacket that will solve the conflicts. You have to take into account that, many times, behind social demands connected to mining, the topic isn’t simply environmental.” He adds that resolving mining conflicts requires “each sector to accept their responsibility.”

President Alan García proposed the creation of an Environment Ministry in late December to meet the environmental provisions included in the free trade agreement with the United States, which was ratified by President George W. Bush on Dec. 12. Environmentalist Antonio Brack is currently leading a commission that will determine the ministry’s role.

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