“To work like ants” is a colloquial expression defining a certain way of achieving a goal: a way that is patient, thorough and disciplined. At Las Bambas, that’s how they describe the engagement process between the company and local communities. Farming communities within the mine’s area of direct influence are scattered throughout the irregular landscape. These communities were barely developed at the beginning of the 21st century. From its start, Las Bambas has dedicated itself to building solid links with people in the surrounding areas.
Within the framework of the bidding process for Las Bambas, 17 social requirements were defined to grant the mining concession. It was “very much a challenge, and many asked themselves what investor would be willing to take it on,” according to the text of Las Bambas, un modelo de desarrollo sostenible (Las Bambas: A Model of Sustainable Development), published in 2005 by the Agency for Promotion of Private Investment (ProInversión).
Las Bambas committed to those requirements for which the option holder (successful bidder) was responsible. The Peruvian government has responsibility for the remaining terms.
In 2004, thanks to the Las Bambas Mining Project Social Contribution Trust Fund, development projects were funded in Cotabambas province and in the Progreso district in Grau province. By 2006, 21 projects associated with electrical power, water, sanitation, roads, education and health were under way.
Domingo Drago, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Las Bambas, recalls the first problem was that many people did not have a DNI, the Peruvian national identity card, making them, in effect, invisible to the government. “We had to continually work with RENIEC (the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status in Peru) to promote enrolment campaigns for people,” he says. “We started to provide training opportunities in various jobs, mainly unskilled labour and temporary employment.” At the time, most of the people found themselves living at either poverty or extreme poverty levels.
The region has taken a giant step forward. Since 2007, Las Bambas has directly made a large investment into community projects in its area of influence. This investment is visible in roads, schools, buildings opened to the community and health centres in the provinces of Cotabambas and Grau. It can also be seen in community houses and churches, infrastructure for water treatment, support for new businesses, work training courses for youth and programs for reforestation and promotion of local culture.
One example is the work done by the Las Bambas Educational Resources Program (PREB), established in 2006. In a region where illiteracy abounds, it’s an ambitious agenda that seeks to increase education levels of local children. In fact, according to the Peruvian National Institute of Statistics and Information (INEI), as of 2007, over 33.2 percent of the people in Cotabambas could neither read nor write. The PREB offers access to tools and information/ communication technologies and trains local promoters, complementing and strengthening classroom teaching, as well as social skills of participants.
“We had no idea about computers, and now we’re all familiar with them,” says Hilario Sueldo, ex-President of the Choquecca community in the Tambobamba district. “As far as education, there was nothing - but now we’re betting on it - and we’re winning,” he adds.
By the end of 2015, the PREB was developed in 19 communities and neighbourhoods around the mine. These programs have benefitted more than 3,000 children and adolescents. Roger Escalante, head of PREB in Challhuahuacho, said that the teachers are also being trained. “The program also focuses on the active participation of teachers and parents so it can be sustainable over time.”
The PREB is particularly popular with primary school children, who spend afternoons in rooms equipped with computers, supplies, furniture and books, and who get help in courses such as math and comprehensive communication.
Markaphuchunku, Huancuire, Hachayocpata and Muyucorral are names of archaeological and colonial sites of historical significance. Las Bambas has participated in preserving them. These places are found in the Fuerabamba basin, within the Las Bambas area of influence. In 2014, the very first topographical surveys were performed, followed by archaeological excavations and conservation efforts. In the excavations, professional teams from Las Bambas participated alongside members of the surrounding communities. The work uncovered prehispanic ceramic and copper objects, proving that mining has an ancestral presence here. “This entire region is essentially a mining region,” said historian Claudio Vilca.
Works like these are a part of the Las Bambas policy of culture preservation.
A chullpa (burial site) in Markaphuchunku, a pre-Hispanic archaeological site in Amayccasa. From this site, the city of Challhuahuacho and the Las Bambas mining complex are in view. The doors to the chullpas face east to catch the first rays of the morning sun.
Don Hilario says that his daughter, a high school student, “has received a lot of help with difficult math.”
Don Hilario is the father of seven children. The youngest is seven and the eldest is twenty-three, all of whom have participated in PREB programs. “Teachers support them, the students find the information needed for their homework; they have books and computers,” he says. The programs serve not only children and teens but also the parents, helping to improve their literacy skills. All have learned to use word processing programs. Another goal is to keep the culture alive and to bring yachaq (sage men) closer to parents and children, to pass on their ancestral knowledge and customs.
Surphuy Radio is a major player in the process of community engagement and promotion of local culture. It’s the most popular media outlet in Cotabambas, and is also a Las Bambas initiative. With contests such as Canto a mi Cotabambas (Singing to my Cotabambas), first aired in 2012, they have captured the attention of the PREB children, whose voices are broadcast via radio to many communities. In 2012, the PREB of Choaquere won first place in the contest.
In 2013, Surphuy Radio organised the first edition of Llaqtanchis Takiynin (The Singing of Our People), a contest of traditional songs and music to promote and disseminate traditional native tunes from Cotabambas and Grau. An appreciative audience was treated to performances from twenty-four groups.
“From the very beginning, we used the radio in service to the community without mentioning the company,” says Juan Cari, Communications Superintendent for Las Bambas – and the word “service” is key, as listeners frequently get in touch with the station. Until 2010, for example, there was no telephone service. The exception was one small area in Challhuahuacho, which locals referred to as “the phone exchange.” “You had to stand in a very specific part of the main plaza to even get a signal. We could get in touch with Cusco, Arequipa ... and there was always a line to make calls,” remembers Cari, one of the founders of Surphuy Radio. With support from Las Bambas, cellular service came to Haquira in June of 2010. Then, in September, cellular service also came to Challhuahuacho. This greatly facilitated communication and contact between Surphuy Radio and its listeners.
The appearance of Surphuy Radio created an interesting phenomenon: local residents no longer had to leave home to use community radios to send greetings or make announcements. Says Cari, “They rang us up and we called them back. They would say to us, ‘Inge, I want to speak through the radio.’ Of course, we let them. And they would say, ‘Inge, I have no balance left, call me.’” (“Inge” is a slang nickname for “engineer,” a common form of address in the area.)
Other notable examples of work by Las Bambas are the training programs T’ikariy Wiñaypaq and Yachay Watakunapaq, implemented between 2008 and 2014. These programs benefitted, amongst others, young Cotabambas residents who received career training in operations and technical maintenance, sewing and embroidery, weaving, carpentry, hospitality and cuisine, agricultural development, construction, driving, surveying, welding, and computers.
Benigno Casani from the Haquira district experienced the benefits from Yachay Watakunapaq. He currently operates a crawler dozer with a capacity of more than 100 tonnes. “What I like most about working at Las Bambas is that I have the opportunity to keep learning. The instructors and workers guide our training,” he says. “My biggest motivation to continue working is to change the face of poverty that exists in this part of the country.”
The name of the station — taken from the Andean flower that adorns the hats of Cotabambas residents during the busy festival of t’ikapallana— also speaks to the method of communication. Surphuy has always been a community radio rather than a “corporate one.” Its signal is “a catalyst between business and community,” says Juan Cari. “People know that the station is a part of the company, but they also know the station is at their service.”
In fact, a large part of the programming functions under an “open telephone” policy where all calls are answered. Broadcasts in both Quechua and Spanish cover themes such as agriculture, family interest, news and music, and are an essential part of many Las Bambas initiatives. Music contests and preservation of the region’s myths and legends, as well as the Las Bambas campaign of values, have made the station the most popular medium in Cotabambas.
Surphuy’s motto is “The Voice of All” and Guillermo Recharte, one of the best -known announcers, appreciates the help the station offers to listeners who want to “say hello to people, make themselves heard ... and there are also local officials who want to speak. There is news, whether it’s the police chief or the governor, the health centre, or even a listener who needs help or who has lost his animals. It has even helped find a missing child.” The station wants to serve, and it does so in an exemplary way.
“The company has followed through on promising that we will all have the opportunity to work - young people, senior citizens, and widows.”.
Milagros Sanabria Aguilar, Chila resident.
Las Bambas created the literacy program called Kuska Yacharisun Wiñaypaq – Kuyawi (Learning Together for Life). In the photo, two adults learn to read and write in Pumamarca community, Tambobamba district.
Some 2,450 young people from different districts have received training free of charge through these programs. Some work today at Las Bambas or for our various contractors. Others have started their own businesses.
“I’ve been working at Las Bambas since 2007, and I’ve seen so many changes - so many. I close my eyes and remember the extreme poverty here among the residents,” writes Gerardo Pomar, a former Las Bambas employee, who won the “History of Progress” contest that was organised at the end of 2014 by MMG at the corporate level. “We got around on horseback. Some people had only their legs for transportation,” he continued. “But then something interesting happened and the locals started to ride bicycles. Those gave way to motorcycles and now they have cars.”
Another major change is that now there are roads. This infrastructure has made it easier to use these new transportation options. “We’ve already forgotten about the horses,” says Adriel Saldívar from Arcospampa in the Mara district. “With the improvement of the roads, the number of cars and trucks and buses has grown,” he says. This has also led to a significant improvement in communication between the local communities and other places, and brings new opportunities for residents.
“Before the mine, there was so much poverty and neglect,” said Carlos Peñalva from Haquira. “There was no communication; the sector was completely underserved. That’s why it took two days to get to Arequipa and to Cusco, for example, and local products really didn’t have much value.” Today, the situation is different. A better and expanded highway joins Las Bambas with Espinar province in the Cusco region and creates value.
“To improve the highway, we had to get the local communities’ agreement, and acceptance,” says Luis Rivera, former Vice President of Operations for Las Bambas. “Ground transportation creates immediate value chains in surrounding towns and communities,” he adds.
There can be no development without infrastructure. These last few years, through FOSBAM, 16 road projects have been completed, including building and improving roads and bridges. The Colca-Kutuqtay highway, for example, was finished in 2014. It includes a bridge that connects Cotabambas to Cusco in just four hours. The so-called “Apurímac Transversal” connects Challhuahuacho, the district closest to the mine, with the capital of the region, Abancay.
A clear example of these changes can be seen in Challhuahuacho. Before bidding began on Las Bambas, Challhuahuacho was essentially a rural district with relatively few inhabitants. In the 1950s, a trip from Cusco took four days. “It was quite a journey,” says Teófilo Silva Farfán, a professor and musician from the district. Today, a trip from Challhuahuacho to Cusco takes eight or nine hours by bus or truck. A trip to Arequipa is about the same.
Just a few years ago, electricity in Challhuahuacho was available only in the urban area itself, and basic services were extremely limited. Today, it’s a growing city that attracts workers from across the country. In fact, it might be called a boom city where “the best merchants of Cusco, Puno, Peru itself” might be found, notes journalist Ángel Villafuerte. “Over the last ten years so many people have come and bought land,” adds professor Silva Farfán.
Gerardo Pomar writes the following in his Las Bambas: sinónimo de progreso (Las Bambas: Synonymous with Progress): “I used to see very humble folks that, without any technology, worked their fields. And then along came Las Bambas - and they were transformed. And with amazement and pleasure, I was witness to how some of my humble friends became entrepreneurs.”
Las Bambas contributes to the growth of entrepreneurs in Cotabambas through rural and urban initiatives. In the Production Chain Program and the World-Class Entrepreneurs Program, Las Bambas helps participants — close to two hundred businesses in its area of influence —insert themselves into a virtuous cycle in which opportunities are identified, local businesses are connected to markets, and are then promoted through fairs and business roundtables.
Luis León, Superintendent of Local Entrepreneur Development at Las Bambas, says that a pilot project to commercialise and export maca, a medicinal plant native to the Peruvian Andes, as well as white chuño or moraya (a product made from potato), is underway with the assistance of Peru’s Commission for Promotion of Exports and Tourism (PromPerú).
“It has been very rewarding to work with the farmers because they’ve realised that some business issues can at times require an effort that is beyond their reach,” said León. “So business advice is extremely important.” He mentions the case of the Native Potato Producers Association Qhachun Waqachi (literally, “the potato that makes the daughter-in-law weep,” a variety that is used in traditional marriage rituals) in the Yuricancha community in Mara district. In 2013, the association signed an agreement to supply eight tonnes of canchán potatoes each month to the contractor responsible for supplying food to the camps at Las Bambas. “We had to prepare them. They understood the way business interviews worked, and that has led to a sales increase,” he said. In fact, in May of 2015, they reached agreements to supply chaska and canchán potatoes to various restaurants in Challhuahuacho. “Just three months earlier, they didn’t have televisions, and now they have televisions with satellite dishes for cable and internet access so they can review their weekly purchase orders,” he added.
Surphuy Radio is a part of these efforts. The program Compitiendo (Competing), which is transmitted on Thursdays (and re-broadcast each Sunday), promotes agricultural business as well as businesses related to metalworking, woodworking, transportation, hardware and carpentry. Many of these businesses have become suppliers to the mine. By 2016, there are plans to incorporate fifteen new businesses to that list.
Those who live here understand this feeling, this wave of change. And it’s not only the changes in infrastructure and economic opportunities, but also in issues such as animal health, the first programs for which began very early, in 2006. The Las Bambas Animal Health Program sought to increase the lifespan of livestock as well as the quality and quantity of production and to improve fertility rates. Between 2006 and 2009, farmers dewormed 22,000 sheep, 8,000 cattle, 2,000 camelidae (llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and related livestock) and 1,800 horses. Nine veterinary first aid kits were implemented and wool production hit 12 tonnes each year. The ultimate aim, of course, was to improve the economic status of the residents.
There is a clear effort to promote local culture, arising from one of the commitments made by Las Bambas to show “respect for local culture and customs and, fundamentally, for human rights,” a promise kept at all times.
In addition to the singing and music contests and cultural promotion via Surphuy Radio, Las Bambas has organised dance competitions such as Hamuy Tusumusun (Come, Let’s Dance) that began in May of 2008. In the first-ever competition, 36 communities took part. Teams came from Challhuahuacho, Tambobamba, Coyllurqui, Mara, Haquira, Progreso and Huayllati, and ten troupes went to the finals. First place went to Callao, in the Haquira district, and second place was awarded to Cconccacca, in the Progreso district.
These competitions are a part of the cultural policy promoted by Las Bambas.
The role of Las Bambas in the region is clear. Its initiatives play a vital part in contributing to economic and cultural development. These efforts are carried out not only through direct action but also by working with other institutions. Such is the case with the Catholic organisation, Cáritas, that works with Las Bambas in the Kuska Llank’asun (Let’s Work Together) program, seeking to improve the quality of life for residents in the Chila and Choaquere communities in the Challhuahuacho district. Funded by Las Bambas, the program works toward improving sheep husbandry, strengthening leadership and organisational skills, infant health and nutrition, as well as afforestation and environmental issues. In Choaquere alone, “they have planted between 30,000 and 45,000 pine trees,” says Simeón Peña Gómez, who lives in the community with his wife and a daughter. The work of planting was done entirely by the community, he says with obvious pride. “Every achievement requires sacrifice,” he says.
When the pines reach maturity, the forest will energise the local economy. The wood will be used in crafts and carpentry, and even the waste can be sold to paper mills.
In Choaquere and in many other towns, these new opportunities contribute to the return of those who once left. This is evident in the buildings - new houses made of brick and corrugated metal stand alongside adobe houses with straw roofs. The more traditional homes, like that of Don Simeón, have sheep hides hanging from the ceiling. “Our goal is to turn this area into a forest,” he says. The idea is to transform the space into a “small Porcón,” referring to the successful community in the Cajamarca region in the northern Peruvian highlands where the forest has generated economic development. The pine trees, for instance, encourage growth of mushrooms that are highly sought by the kitchens of Lima.
It’s clear that change has begun. To date, through direct action from Las Bambas, 1.4 million trees have been planted in over 649 and 257 hectares, respectively, under the afforestation and agro-forestry programs. And there is a commitment to plant a total of 6 million trees during the operational life of the mine. Between 2010 and 2015, more than 11,000 residents of 34 communities in Challhuahuacho have benefitted from the afforestation programs fuelled by Las Bambas. The amount invested has exceeded US $6 million.
“Challhuahuacho and Nueva Fuerabamba are the protagonists in this search for a more promising life,” says journalist Ángel Villafuerte. A clear example is Nueva Fuerabamba, the newest town in the province.
As a result of the resettlement of the Fuerabamba community due to the construction of the mining pit, its residents moved to Nueva Fuerabamba and received various benefits over the last few years. New houses built with high-quality materials - three story houses with balconies, designed by common agreement - replaced the old adobe structures. Residents agreed to the design of the town, including its location between the Chila and Choaquere communities.
The resettlement from Fuerabamba to Nueva Fuerabamba is one of the most complex tasks ever managed in Peru by a mining company. At one point, Las Bambas had a great team of community relations specialists who were working exclusively to reach agreements and run workshops with this farming community living in extreme poverty and doing business mostly by bartering.
Almost all of the specialists spoke Quechua and had prior experience in development projects.
Nueva Fuerabamba has a nursing home for senior citizens, a central plaza, a chapel, a school, a community centre, a market, an arena for bullfights and a stadium. The town also has a health centre that is free for residents. Services at the clinic include X-rays, laboratory services, ultrasound, dental, psychological, nutritional, child growth and development, paediatrics, vaccines, obstetrics and gynaecology - and more, using state-of-the-art equipment.
The opening of the Nueva Fuerabamba Health Centre in August of 2014 also marked the beginning of a campaign of medical and dental exams for the young and old, among other programs. The new building has delivery rooms where women can give birth vertically, which is the ancestral custom, or horizontally, according to their wishes. About three babies are born each month in Nueva Fuerabamba.
“We’re in a place that’s like a city, a real town ... and this motivates us to be much better than we were before,” says Juan Carlos Huamaní, a resident of Nueva Fuerabamba. Together with his wife, Carmen Roque, he owns Azucena, one of the first stores to appear in town. He also manages a personnel transportation business. His six-year-old daughter comes over and says, “Where we lived before was just mud. And I didn’t like it.”
She’s a happy girl now. The electricity stays on, and, in her words, “the water doesn’t fall inside the house like it was a shower.” Once, in her old house, it started to hail violently and the house began to fill with water and ice. They had to use shovels to remove the ice. Today, her home has hot water, and, in the streets outside, “everyone walks around really clean,” her mother says, smiling.
Currently, community relations specialists from Las Bambas advise Juan Carlos and Carmen - and their neighbours - regarding personal issues (including, for example, cleaning tips and learning to live together as good neighbours) and financial planning.
“I feel comfortable,” says Carmen. “I came with the idea of looking for something better for my children because there (in their former village), it was a bit uncomfortable.”
It makes sense. Amongst other improvements, Nueva Fuerabamba has a good school that her two children attend. “Life has given us a great opportunity that we have to take advantage of and that we should be thankful for,” she concludes.
It is indeed a great opportunity.
Ms. Natividad Paniura Alccahua standing among her quinoa, radishes and other vegetables in the garden of her home in Nueva Fuerabamba.
Marcelo Bastos, Chief Operating Officer of MMG, says that a woman from the region once told him that in the old Fuerabamba community, when it rained, “it rained outside and it rained inside, too - and the kids played in the mud.”
In Nueva Fuerabamba, however, the children are no longer at risk. The resettlement of Fuerabamba from a village in precarious conditions to a town with all the basic services is “a significant event in the history of Peruvian mining,” says Gustavo Gomes, Las Bambas President.
The process began in 2005. It was so complex. There were many proposals and counterproposals. Thirty-six workshops and various assemblies gave way to a joint initiative in which the company promised to begin development projects in the new town and to compensate the residents for resettlement. Residents chose the models of their homes.
In 2013, livestock began moving to the Yavi Yavi farm in Colquemarca district (Chumbivilcas province in the neighbouring Cusco region), where advisors from Las Bambas helped Fuerabamba residents to improve the genetics of their animals. The resettlement agreement included construction of 441 earthquake-resistant homes for the same number of families as well as access roads, green spaces and a nursing home for the elderly, among many other improvements to infrastructure.
Alcoholism and domestic violence have declined significantly, and the quality of life has increased.
By the end of 2015, the PREB was developed in 19 communities and neighbourhoods around the mine. These programs have benefitted more than 3,000 children and adolescents.
A cheerful group of children from Cotabambas in front of the Choquecca PREB in the Tambobamba district.