The referendum to voice approval or disapproval of a mining project on community land was carried out in Peru on Sunday, September 16, in the districts of Carmen de la Frontera, Ayabaca, and Pacaipampa. Voting was peaceful—without violence that could have inhibited public willingness to express an opinion.
According to published figures, of the individuals qualified to vote in the referendum, there was a turnout of 50.9 percent in Ayabaca; 59.1 percent in Carmen de la Frontera; and 70 percent in Pacaipampa. Consulta Vecinal reported that of 31,388 registered voters, 18,107 cast ballots—a turnout of roughly 60 percent overall. Of these votes, 17,033 said NO to the mining company and 285 said YES. There were 239 blank ballots and 460 disqualified votes.
"Participation has been successful and voluntary," said Fernando Romero, coordinator for Oxfam International. "We believe that the referendum has succeeded in allowing the people of these three districts to voice their opinion regarding the Rio Blanco project."
The referendum has brought to light the issues at the heart of the Majaz case. First, there is a weak or nonexistent state apparatus in Peru for dealing with such issues—making plain the need for an environmental authority capable of regulating and supervising corporate conduct. Second, there is an urgent need for a land-use plan that would identify sites suitable for mining projects.
After explaining that this is a non-binding referendum that would not translate into law, Romero went on to say that "the inhabitants of mining areas are interested in voicing their opinions and being heard by the authorities."
"This is a call for attention and a reminder that these communities are part of the country and should participate when decisions are made that affect their way of life and their future," Romero said.