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Quellaveco copper mine, Peru


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 [1]. 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 [7].

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 [8]. All the different stakeholders, from civil society, corporate sector and governmental, settled a round table of dialogue between 2011 and 2012 [3]. In this context, the company submitted a request for modification of the EIA [4]. 

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 [4]. 

In the district of Torata there was a public consultation in 2011 that ruled against the Quellaveco project [9]. 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 [10].

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. [3].

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 [10].

In 2015, residents of Moquegua affected by the activities of Quellaveco and Southern requested the withdrawal of the mining companies [11]. After multiple protests and conflicts, the government decides to install a monitoring committee to supervise the mining company's compliance [12]. After protests in October 2020, the mining company restarted its activities with 10,000 workers [13].

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 [14].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Quellaveco copper mine, Peru
State or province:Moquegua
Location of conflict:Torata, provincia de Mariscal Nieto
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Mining exploration and/or ore extraction
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Copper

Project Details and Actors

Project details

En su inicio la mina fue operada por Minera Quellaveco S.A.(MQSA).

La propiedad mayoritaria de MQSA estaba en manos de Mantos Blancos, con sede en Santiago, en un 80%, con un 20% en manos de International Finance Corp., el brazo del Banco Mundial que invierte en proyectos del sector privado / comercial. Mantos Blancos es un holding de la empresa minera sudafricana Anglo American "[1].

Today (as of 2021):

Capitals: ANGLO-AMERICAN 60%, MITSUBISHI 40%. Open-pit mine 30 years useful life. Use of groundwater 300,000 tons of copper per year in the first 10 years. 3,400 tons of molybdenum. Reserves of 7.6 million MT. The project constitutes the fifth-largest copper mine in the world. It is divided into 5 areas of operation:

Area 1000:

At 4,500 meters of altitude, the catchment of the waters of the Titere River for the processing plant (Area 3000) and the Vizcachas dam of 60 million m3, (a part for the mine and a part for the community, according to AngloAmerican)

Area 2000:

At 3,500 meters, open pit mine

Area 3000:

Papujune processing plant with a capacity to process more than 127,500 tons of ore per day.

Area 4000:

In the Cortadera area, a tailings conduction system that will go from the Papujune plant to a start-up dam.

Area 5800:

Facilities in the port of Ilo [15]

Project area:39,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,300,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:20,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2000
Company names or state enterprises:Anglo American from United Kingdom
Mitsubishi Corporation from Japan
Relevant government actors:Gobierno Regional de Moquegua, Gobierno Regional de Tacna.
instituto Nacional de Desarrollo (INADE), Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA), Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MINEM)
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of IFC (CAO)
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
United Nations Envrionmental Program (UNEP)
International Finance Corporation (of World Bank) (IFC) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Frente de Defensa de Carumas, Frente de Defensa de Cuchumbaya, Frente de Defensa de San Cristobal, Labor, CORECAMI Moquegua (miembro de la CONACAMI), Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), Global Green Grant - USA

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Public consultation in district of Torata


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Air pollution, Noise pollution
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Negotiated alternative solution
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project has received all permits and favors from governments and plans to start extraction in 2022.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Friends of the Earth - Angloamerican plc: financing the summit, plundering the earth

[6] Friends of the Earth - Water justice for all global and local resistance to the control

and commodification of water


[15] Anglo-American

Proyecto Quellaveco

The Quellaveco Mine: Free Water for Mining in Peru’s Driest Desert?

An environmental impact assessment

Report prepared by: Robert E. Moran, Ph.D.

March 2002

Quellaveco Open Pit Copper Mine client of FLUOR co.


[3] El Comercio, 13 de julio de 2012

Aprobaron ejecución de proyecto Quellaveco de US$3.300 millones

[4] Anglo American Quellaveco S.A. Proyecto Quellaveco Modificación del Estudio de Impacto Ambiental Informe Final Setiembre 2008

[7] Diarios SIn Fronteras - Denuncian contaminación de aguas de río Asana

Publicado el 5 Abril, 2021



Consulta en Torata

[11] Piden cancelación de proyecto

[11] La República - 12 May 2020

Moquegua: Seguirá vigente comité que vigila acuerdos con proyecto minero QuellavecoComité de Monitoreo creado por el gobierno

[12] La República - 06 Oct 2020

Moquegua: pobladores de Tumilaca retuvieron a ministro de Energía y Minas hasta que firme acuerdo

[13] Quellaveco reinicia labores y anuncia inicio de la extracción en 2022

[14] Covid-19 entre los trabajadores de Quellaveco

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Radio Pachamama, noticias sobre Quellaveco

Meta information

Contributor:Patricio Chavez y JMA
Last update08/04/2014
Conflict ID:808



Proyecto Quellaveco

Foto La República

Pobladores contra actividad minera en Moquegua

Foto Diario Correo