Moving Morococha

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28 Nov 2012 13:00

Chinese company relocating Peruvian town

Residents of Morococha, a mining town in the Peruvian Andes, are in for a big change. The century-old village is being relocated to make way for a massive open-pit copper mine being developed by Chinalco, a Chinese-owned company. Named Project Toromocho, the mine, is expected to yield 865,000 tones of copper concentrate per year by 2015. Most of it will be shipped to China, one of the world’s largest commercial buyers.

In an effort to make the make the move more equitable, Chinalco has rebuilt an entirely new town for residents about 6 miles away. A 15-minute drive from Morococha, the Chinese-funded rows of empty, identical houses couldn’t be further from the poverty-ridden and derelict town that will soon be demolished. The new town is entirely unused and includes schools, churches, a clinic and playgrounds. Houses are supplied with running water, including showers, toilets and a water purification system, essentials new to many Morococha residents.

Despite the improved conditions in the new town, many residents are less than happy about the upcoming move. Many feel that essential parts of their identity and heritage will be destroyed along with their original homes. Others yet complain that while overall living conditions will be improved in the new town, that may potentially be named ‘Nueva Morococha,’ the size of the new houses themselves, limited to 430 feet, is not sufficient to comfortably fit families.

Mayor Marcial Salomé has gone on a minor building spree in Morococha, in protest of the push to move. He maintains that while he is not entirely against the move, he feels that more should be done to compensate town residents. Among other things, residents want Chinalco to pay the $300 million in exchange for their land. They also want the company to guarantee residents jobs in the new mine.

Mining represents the single biggest sector of Peru’s economy, bringing in millions of dollars a year.

Policeman have lined Morococha streets following brief protests as residents moved out in January, however no violence has broken out in the town since.

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