Tag Archives: Peru Support Group

Interview: Mikey Watts on Mining & Human Rights in Peru

19 Feb
All photos:  Mikey Watts 

On March 14, LAMMP (the Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme) is holding an international conference on ‘Mining, Women and Human Rights in Guatemala’. One person who’ll be filming there is young British documentary maker Mikey Watts, who I caught up with last week to talk about his last film and forthcoming projects.

I’d first heard about Mikey’s film Laguna Negra back in October. Perusing The Guardian, I noticed a video and article about alleged torture in the province of Piura, northern Peru, linked to a mining company called Monterrico Metals. It was a British company, and yet there was barely a whisper of news about it in the UK. In 2003 Monterrico had pressed ahead with a copper mine project that the local population had not agreed to. The mine was going to occupy vital agricultural land and would pollute the valley’s water sources. Monterrico had a legal requirement to obtain the consent of at least two thirds of the population. They didn’t, but were supported by the government nonetheless and so went ahead with the mine. In 2005, locals, including children and the elderly, made their way to the mining site in a last attempt to have their objections recognised. They were tear gassed, arrested and allegedly tortured by police and the mine’s security guards.

It was a Peruvian photographer friend, Adrían Portugal from the collective Supay Fotos, who first sent me a link to Mikey’s video on VimeoLaguna Negra is a 20-minute study of how mining has affected people in the Huancabamba valley, northern Peru. The film follows two people, Servando and Cleofé, as they describe their lives, land, protest, how they are perceived, and question the purpose of environmentally and socially destructive ‘development’. It has won a series of awards, including: Grand Jury Prize World Cinema Student at the Amsterdam Film Festival 2010, Best International Documentary (Festival Internacional de Cine de Lebu 2010), and the Rights in Action International Award (Bang! Short Film Festival 2009). I met Mikey last week to discuss how it all started, his stay in Piura, Huancabamba, the impact of and inspiration behind the film, and the projects he’s working on now.

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