Disputes between mining companies and surrounding communities over the access to, control of and distribution of water form an important part of the socio-environmental conflicts that large mining operations in Peru are producing. In order to mitigate environmental impacts, solve conflicts and deal with opposition to mining operations, governmental actors and mining companies make use of a combination of legal and technical strategies. This article questions the effectiveness of these strategies, focusing in particular on the longer-term sustainability of water resources, water-based ecosystems and livelihoods. Based on research carried out in the surroundings of the Yanacocha gold mine in Cajamarca, the article shows that although legal and technical conflict resolution strategies are effective in temporarily diffusing tensions, they do not address the underlying political causes of conflicts. Instead of these seemingly objective, neutral and quick solutions, the analysis suggests that solving environmental conflicts around large-scale mining operations requires explicitly admitting and dealing with the fact that these conflicts are always inherently political, situated, complex and power-laden.
- conflict resolution
- socio-environmental conflicts
- Water governance