So today this story is hitting the wires in Peru, all about how the government SUNAT tax office is launching a big campaign to get back taxes paid by those that have dragged their feet at the moment of paying their dues to society. Chief among debtors is a mining company called “Media Naranja” that owes the state a cool two hundred and twenty-three million, eight hundred and seventy-nine thousand, four hundred and fifty-four Nuevos Soles…and 40 cents. To give context, at today’s exchange rate that’s U$76.93m in greenbacks. A lot of cash.
So what’s the connection between paragraph one and paragraph two? Well, Winchumayo is owned by three entities who then rent out its operation to the hundreds (even thousands) of artisanal miners who work the seams and get the gold. The typical system in the Andean Amazon basin region where Winchumayo is located is to get the miners to work five days for the owners, then on the 6th day anything they produce they keep (other areas use different ratios of days). Here are the three owners:
- APRA Congressman Alfredo Tomás Cenzano Sierralta (33%)
- The mayor of the Ituata district, Roger Saya Tapara (34%)
- Foreign private mining company Oro Vega S.A.C. (with offices in Lima) (33%)
In other words, a private miner and two politicians have been making their millions via the ethically dubious, clearly dangerous and almost totally unregulated world of the South American artisanal miner. But the interesting one is Alfredo Tomás Cenzano Sierralta, and for two reasons:
- Members of Congress are prohibited from being involved in this sort of business under the Peru parliament’s ethical standards and, more importantly, it contravenes Peru’s mining law. Thus Cenzano is violating the rules of Congress and the law of his land to make himself rich, not just getting rich on the backs of the artisan miners paid their pittances under extremely dangerous and unhealthy work conditions.
- Alfredo Tomás Cenzano Sierralta is the 45% owner of ‘Media Naranja’, the mining company mentioned above that owes the taxman nearly U$77m. Media Naranja is exactly the same kind of set up as Winchumayo, as it owns and mines gold concessions in the Andean amazon basin via the same abusive labour agreements with artisanal miners, the same bad practices, the same get-rich-at-all-costs attitude of the owners. Same, same , same.