Peru - Tia Maria Copper Project: At the Negotiation Table Again

Date of publication: 
6 May 2015

Farmers and government officials are attempting to sit at the bargaining table again today in Arequipa, following the death of a second protester in Mollendo, in the most recent violent protests against Southern Copper’s Tia Maria mining project.

Those meeting for dialogue, led by the People’s Ombudsman, include the minister of Energy and Mines, Rosa María Ortiz, Arequipa’s governor, Yamila Osorio, the Agriculture minister, Juan Manuel Benites, and the mayors of the towns of Islay, Cocachacra and Punta Bonbon.

The strike began in early April, led by farmers from the towns along the Tambo River basin, who are convinced that the Tia Maria copper project — just 2.5 km up the road— will pollute their water supply and their land.

The Tambo Basin covers a farming area of some 14,500 hectares, on which over 3,500 farmers work in small plots, growing rice, sugar cane, garlic and potatoes.

Tia Maria —which Southern Copper, owned by Grupo Mexico, has decided to postpone until 2017— was first shelved in 2011 after violent protests broke out in the Islay province. Three activists died in the protests then, but unrest began as early as 2009.

At the time, the mining company’s environmental impact study, initially approved by the government, was evaluated independently by UNOPS, the UN project services office, and the office made 138 observations to the report.

In 2014, the government approved a new environmental impact study, which includes a water desalination plant project that Southern Copper in 2009 rejected as too expensive.


Second protester killed in clashes over Peru copper project

Reuters –

5 May 2015

LIMA – A man protesting Southern Copper Corp’s $1.4 billion Tia Maria project in Peru was killed in clashes with police on Tuesday, the second death in two weeks as government talks with opponents remain thwarted.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez said authorities were investigating how the protester was killed and two others wounded in Peru’s southern region of Arequipa.

Tia Maria has the potential to add 120,000 tonnes of copper to Nasdaq-listed Southern Copper’s annual supply, but the project has been stalled since three people died in similar rallies in 2011. Opponents say they fear the project will pollute surrounding agricultural valleys.

Helar Valencia, one of four local mayors calling for Tia Maria’s cancellation, said the death of another protester further eroded trust in national authorities.

“This is going to anger people even more,” Valencia said. “If before only some were against Tia Maria, now I think it’s the whole valley.”

Perez, who said he had ordered police not to use lethal weapons, replaced local law enforcement chiefs after another protester died from a bullet wound April 22.

Southern Copper said last week that the protests might delay the project’s 2017 start date and that progress hinged on talks between opponents and the government of President Ollanta Humala, who supports Tia Maria.

Valencia said talks broke down more than two weeks ago and had not resumed since.

Construction on Tia Maria was poised to start when the protests broke out more than 40 days ago.

Southern Copper, controlled by Grupo Mexico, received an environmental permit for Tia Maria last year after it agreed to build a desalinization plant to ease pressure on local water supplies.

Conflicts over mining projects in Peru, the world’s third-biggest copper producer, have held up billions in investment and left several protesters dead in recent years.

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Ted Botha)


Peru: Troops deployed after deaths in Tia Maria mine protests

9 May 2015

Peruvian soldiers have been deployed near the Tia Maria copper mine after the deaths of a protester and a policeman over the past week.

The government says the troops will “help maintain law and order” following weeks of violent protests.

Local residents say the mine will ruin the environment and damage agriculture in the area if it becomes operational.

The company, Southern Peru, says the mine will be compliant with the highest environmental standards.

Local residents in the southern Arequipa region have opposed the mining project since 2009.

A new set of protests began in March and three people have died since.

The latest fatalities are construction worker Henry Checlla, injured during clashes on Tuesday, and a policeman who died on Saturday after being hurt in a protest on Wednesday.

The Peruvian government has not ruled out declaring a state of emergency in the southern province of Islay, where the copper reserves are located.

“We haven’t lost hope that dialogue is resumed. Meanwhile, we are taking measures to help maintain law and order,” President Ollanta Humala said.

The Mexican owned-company which has been given mining concessions in the Arequipa region of southern Peru, says it will invest approximately $1.4bn (£900m).

“Tia Maria project will use state of the art technology which would be compliant with the highest international environmental and sustainable development standards,” the company says on its website.

The project was put on hold several times over environmental issues, but was given final approval last year.