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Making Matter: Aquifers, Sacred Mountains, and Other Challenges to Mining in Peru | Engaging Resources
New Anthropological Perspectives on Natural Resource Environments

Making Matter: Aquifers, Sacred Mountains, and Other Challenges to Mining in Peru

Fabiana Li, University of Manitoba

In 2004, more than 10,000 protestors gathered in Cajamarca, in Northern Peru, to protest against the expansion of the country’s largest gold mine into Cerro Quilish (Mount Quilish). Quilish entered the campaigns against mining as an aquifer (a store of life-sustaining water) and an Apu (“sacred mountain” in Quechua). Its role as a water source and an important entity for local people helped form alliances between city-dwellers, peasant farmers, and sympathetic supporters from other parts of the country. Countering corporate claims that modern mining is “clean” and environmentally responsible, anti-mining campaigns helped to materialize the threats of the mine, and in the process, Quilish itself came to matter. By presenting Quilish as something more than a contested territory with valuable resources, protestors influenced larger debates around mining in Peru and succeeded in halting the proposed mining project.