Peru - One killed at protests against Tia Maria copper project in Peru

Date of publication: 
23 April 2015

One person was killed and 12 others seriously injured Wednesday in Peru as police opened fire on a group of farmers protesting against Southern Copper’s $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project.

The victim, identified as 61-year-old Victoriano Huayta, died at the local hospital after receiving several bullet fragments in the lower abdomen, local paper El Popular reports.

For years farmers, anti-mining activists and local leaders have opposed the project, which they argue will pollute key waterways for Arequipa, the southern state where the Tia Maria mine will be built.

In response, Southern Copper, one of the world’s biggest producers, has reworked its project several times to gain approval. The goal was finally reached in August 2014, with the Peruvian government declaring the miner’s EIA complied with all the demands brought forward by locals and environmentalists.

Earlier this month, Peru’s Energy and Mines Ministry issued a statement saying that the company has guaranteed that it won’t touch water to be used for farming, and that dust from the mining process will also be controlled. The announcement followed Minister of the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal’s declarations affirming that Tia Maria was “safe for the environment.”

“Anti-mining Terrorism”

Fresh demonstrations at the end of March pushed Southern Copper’s spokesman in Peru, Julio Morriberon, declare the company was cancelling the project, as it has grown tired of ongoing “anti-mining terrorism” in the area.

Chief Executive Officer Oscar Gonzalez Rocha, however, promptly dismissed such comments, telling Bloomberg the company would use “its greatest efforts” to advance the debated project.

The protests against Tia Maria echo other fights between anti-mining groups, farmers and mining companies over the last few years over who gets to use precious water supplies in bone-dry areas of Peru.

Southern Copper estimates that Tia Maria will produce 120,000 tons of copper cathodes a year, for an estimated 20-year lifespan.

Peru’s government forecasts the country will produce 2.8 million tons of copper a year by 2016, about double its current production as a number of new projects come on stream.


Peruvian foes of Tia Maria copper mine expand month-long protest

By Mitra Taj, Reuters –

22 April 2015

AREQUIPA, PERU – Opponents of Southern Copper Corp’s proposed $1.4 billion Tia Maria mine in Peru expanded their month-long protests against the project on Wednesday with rallies in several towns in the region.

Demonstrators called on the government to cancel the copper project, stalled since protests turned violent in 2011, over fears it will pollute nearby agricultural valleys.

The protests on Wednesday were scattered throughout Peru’s southern region of Arequipa, where Southern Copper hopes to start building Tia Maria this year.

The government approved the project’s revised environmental impact study last year and a construction permit is pending.

But renewed demonstrations have threatened to further delay the project, which is expected to add 120,000 tonnes of copper to the company’s annual output.

Unions, university students and local political groups marched in the regional capital of Arequipa on Wednesday while farmers rallied in surrounding valleys.

“Yes to agriculture! No to mining!” protesters chanted in the main square of the city Arequipa.

Organizers said the demonstrations were the biggest so far, with tens of thousands turning out across the region.

About 800 marched against Tia Maria midday in downtown Arequipa, according to a Reuters witness.

Clashes between demonstrators and police broke out in the Valley of Tambo where the latest round of protests kicked off a month ago, said Jesus Cornejo, the head of the local farmers’ group and a chief opponent.

President Ollanta Humala has defended Tia Maria and urged its detractors to give it a chance.

But talks earlier this week between his government and project opponents, including four local mayors, yielded no agreement.

“The solution is to cancel the project,” said Cornejo. “No matter what they say we know it will hurt agriculture.”

Southern Copper, controlled by Grupo Mexico, made several revisions to its first environmental impact study to allay those concerns, including agreeing to build a desalinization plant.

The company operates two other mines in the region, Cuajone and Toquepala.

Past mining pollution and poor communication of the technical aspects of Tia Maria have fostered mistrust in local communities, said Manuel Ricardo Amat, the Arequipa head of the country’s ombudsman office.

Conflicts over mining projects in Peru, the world’s third-biggest copper producer, have held up billions in potential investments in the past decade.

In 2011, Newmont Mining Corp indefinitely suspended its proposed $5 billion gold and copper mine, Conga, after protests by communities turned violent. (Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


Peru Mining Protests Leave One Dead, More Hurt

Opponents say they will keep protesting until Southern Copper’s Tia Maria project is canceled

By Robert Kozak – Wall Street Journal –

23 April 2015

LIMA, Peru—Widespread protests in Peru’s southern province of Arequipa against a proposed copper mine on Wednesday left one dead and many more wounded, police said, as opponents say they will keep protesting until the mine project is canceled.

A coalition of farmers, anti-mining activists and local politicians want Southern Copper Corp. to cancel the $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project, saying it will harm farming by using water and creating dust in a nearby valley known as Valle de Tambo.

The National Police said late Wednesday that Victoriano Huayna Mina, 61, died of an injury to his right leg but said it wasn’t caused by the police.

Thousands of people marched and blocked roads Wednesday as part of a month-long series of protests in the southern province. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

“The protests are going to continue and things are going to get worse with this death,” Jose Ramos Carrera, mayor of the town of Punto de Bombón, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

“There is no way the mining company has the permission from the local communities for a mine,” he added.

Interior Minister José Luis Pérez Guadalupe said in a statement that the police had orders to avoid using any lethal force against the protesters.

The government of President Ollanta Humala has supported the project, sending thousands of police officers to keep order. Newspaper El Comercio said Thursday the government is considering declaring a state of emergency in the areas around the conflict.

Southern Copper plans to dig out 120,000 metric tons of copper a year from mid-2017 once a license for construction is granted by the government. The company says it plans to use desalinated water from the ocean and that the mining won’t cause any dust that would harm crops.

The long-stalled project was originally put on hold in 2011 after protests then led to three deaths. The company reworked its environmental impact study, or EIA, and the government approved that study last year. Southern Copper unofficially announced a halt to the project recently then went back on that and said it would continue.

Mexico’s Grupo Mexico is the majority owner of Southern Copper.

Other disputes have caused delays in mining projects in recent years in Peru, most notably the $5.0 billion copper and gold mine project known as Minas Conga, majority owned by Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. Most work there was suspended in 2011.

Peru is one of the world’s largest producers of gold, silver, copper, zinc and other minerals.

Write to Robert Kozak at robert.kozak [at] wsj [dot] com