Documenting Accountability: Environmental Impact Assessment in a Peruvian Mining Project

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Abstract

Over the past two decades, practices of accountability have acquired a new presence in neoliberal governance and resource extraction in Peru. In the context of mining activity, accountability generally refers to public mechanisms of evaluation and record-keeping through which citizens can make corporations and governments answerable to them. However, I argue that these practices often prioritize mining interests by enabling corporations to define and ultimately enforce standards of performance. This article focuses on a key process in the making of social and environmental accountability in mining projects: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). I show that the form of the documents produced for the EIA (i.e., their required components, as established in legal frameworks) and the process of making them public (participatory meetings and public forums) can take precedence over their content. I examine two aspects of the EIA that make this possible. First, the risks that are identified in the EIA are those that a company deems to be technically manageable based on the solutions and interventions that it has to offer. Second, the participatory process of the EIA creates collaborative relationships among state agents, corporations, NGOs, and communities that strengthen the EIA's claims of accountability while circumscribing the spaces for opposition to a proposed project.

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