The Quellaveco copper and molybdenum mining deposit is located in the bed of the Asana River between 3 and 4,000 meters above sea level, 37 km northeast of the city of Moquegua. The Quellaveco mine envisaged the diversion of the Asana river, one of the Moquegua’s largest tributaries, in order to dispose waste from its mining operations, causing contamination of aquifers and land. The Anglo-American company intends to begin copper and molybdenum extraction at its Quellaveco deposit in 2022.
The Mineria Quellaveco's first Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA), approved by the Peruvian national government in 2000, triggered various civil society actors’ critics, from local groups such as Asociacion Civil Labor but also from international NGOs such as Friends of the Earth International . Resident farmers opposed the project, refused to sell their land to the company and demanded respect for their rights. The area is very arid and water resources are crucial for local agriculture production. The company would use 700 liters per second of water from those reserved for the Pasto Grande Special Project. According to the EIA of the year 2000, it was proposed to use groundwater from the Chilota basin (a tributary of the Tambo basin). The company's proposal to use groundwater mobilized the 28 high Andean communities. The use of groundwater could in fact cause the drying up of the wetlands of the high Andean areas where communities raise camelids.
The use of water for mining would also aggravate its scarcity in the Tambo (Moquegua and Arequipa regions) and Locumba (Tacna) basins with serious impacts on agriculture and human consumption.
Added to the scarcity of water is the risk of contamination. 80% of the waters of the Asana River is for human consumption by the population of the city of Moquegua, which is at risk of being contaminated by the drainage of acidic waters .
The protests against the mining project were led by the Carumas, Cuchumbaya, and San Cristobal Defense Front and CORECAMI Moquegua. In 2002, the protest against the exploitation of groundwater and the low metal prices led the IFC, a member of the World Bank and partially financing the project of AngloAmerican company, to postponement of the mining project.
In 2008, the Moquegua Regional Environmental Defense Front and farmers from the 28 Andean communities of Moquegua began new protests against the mining project . All the different stakeholders, from civil society, corporate sector and governmental, settled a round table of dialogue between 2011 and 2012 . In this context, the company submitted a request for modification of the EIA .
By the end of 2012, the round table of dialogue of Moquegua reached 26 agreements with Anglo-American. During the first half of 2013, the United Nations Office for Project Services, along with the United Nations Environmental Programme, led a process of revision of the hydrological assessment of the open-pit copper mine project .
In the district of Torata there was a public consultation in 2011 that ruled against the Quellaveco project . The neighborhood consultation convened by the local government and the organizations of the Torata district concluded with a resounding 79.95% who said NO, against 16.00% who voted for the YES, when asked "Do you agree with the activity proposed by the ANGLO AMERICAN QUELLAVECO SA Mining Company?". Regarding the use of water resources, 81.32% said NO against 10.77% who said Yes to the question "Do you agree with the use of GROUND AND SURFACE WATER, for mining activities in the ANGLO-AMERICAN QUELLAVECO SA mining project and other mining projects in the district of Torata?"
In July 2012, the Regional Government of Moquegua and the company signed an agreement whereby the company will allocate 1 billion soles (about USD 400 million) in a social investment fund. This agreement allows the project to be put into operation. The company will modify the EIA of the project, which was approved in 2000 and 2001. The changes refer to the water supply and the location of the concentrate plant, and also to the concentrate export port that will now be Ilo (Moquegua) instead of Matarani (Arequipa).
The leader of the Moquegua Defense Front, Zenon Cuevas, announced that the agreement with Anglo-American was not accepted by society.
Institutions such as Labor have submitted observations on the modification of the Quellaveco EIA. Labor considers that for calculating the use of surface water from the Titire (the main source of supply) and Tambo rivers, the company would not have taken into account the trend of the water resource in the future, in a climate change scenario, nor does it consider the flow ecological minimum for the sustainability of the ecosystem.
In the same way, the Regional Government of Tacna presented observations on the modification of the EIA, since the EIA omits the impact on the Cortaderas creek. The tailings plant (mining waste) is located in that area, and there is a risk of contaminating the river basin Locumba. The regional government suggests that the project to install the plant in that area should be re-examined. Finally, it highlights the eventual collapse of the tailings dam due to a possible earthquake or flood due to climatic phenomena .
The Regional Government of Moquegua, through Regional Ordinance CR / GRM, declared the execution of the Quellaveco Mining Project of necessity, usefulness and regional public interest. The Ordinance also establishes that the company prioritizes the training and recruitment of regional labor and the use of the productive capacity installed in the region such as road, port, area, smelter, refinery infrastructure, etc. .
In January 2013, the company exercised violence. The National Police of Peru and security members of the Anglo-America Quellaveco company violently repelled the heirs of the Alto Coscore pastures, in the Samanape Torata sector of the Moquegua region, when they tried to go to their daily meeting. Both the police and members of the mining company prohibited the free movement of the residents. On January 20, 2013, the police, on alleged orders from Quellaveco, began firing into the air and throwing tear gas canisters attacking residents, including the elderly and pregnant women .
In 2015, residents of Moquegua affected by the activities of Quellaveco and Southern requested the withdrawal of the mining companies . After multiple protests and conflicts, the government decides to install a monitoring committee to supervise the mining company's compliance . After protests in October 2020, the mining company restarted its activities with 10,000 workers .
During the pandemic in 2020-2021, the mining company, protected by the decree that designated mining as an essential activity continues to work, there were cases of personnel infected by Covid-19 .