Peru - Two killed in protest at $7.4-billion MMG copper project in Peru

Date of publication: 
29 September 2015

LIMA – Two protesters were shot dead and eight police officers wounded after a group of activists broke into MMG Ltd’s $7.4- billion Las Bambas project in a remote Andean region in Peru, the government said on Monday.

Peru, the world’s third biggest producer of copper, is expected to nearly double output of the metal in coming years, but is rife with conflicts over mining. Many towns near big projects fear pollution or seek more benefits.

The unrest in the highland town of Challhuahuacho comes as MMG has been wrapping up construction of a massive mine that is expected to add 400,000 tonnes of copper to global supply each year.

Protesters were demanding that MMG revise part of its environmental plan and hire more locals, authorities said. About 1,500 police officers and 150 military officers had been sent to the zone ahead of rallies that started on Friday.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez said radical groups from outside the area had provoked the clashes.

“Police used non-lethal weapons at the start, and then, to defend themselves, had to use lethal weapons,” Perez said in a televised interview.

Police fired tear gas and live bullets at crowds during rallies that had been largely peaceful, said Uriel Condori, a councillor with the government of Challhuahuacho.

Ten people had bullet wounds, a doctor, Jeronimo Roque, told broadcaster RPP.

Residents of nearby areas were upset over a change to the mine’s environmental plan they feared would lead to processing of more mineral concentrates and threaten the environment, said Condori.

A sudden drop in employment as work linked to the mine winds down has also fed frustration, Condori and Perez said.

President Ollanta Humala called for talks to settle the disputes.

MMG said it remains open to dialogue and that communities near the mine did not participate in the protests.

“Las Bambas has demonstrated through the years its vast capacity for working with communities in the area of influence,” the company said in a statement.

Commercial production should start in May or June, MMG said last week.

Protesters in Challhuahuacho were not calling for Las Bambas to be canceled, Condori said.

Las Bambas will make up 1.5 percent of gross domestic product next year, Perez said.

“This will not stop the mine from going forward,” Perez said.

Earlier this year, deadly demonstrations derailed Southern Copper Corp’s $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project as construction was set to start.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj, Marco Aquino and Teresa Cespedes; Editing by Leslie Adler and Clarence Fernandez)


Peru Copper Mine Protests: At Least 2 Killed, 18 Hurt In Clashes With Police In Las Bambas

By Vishakha Sonawane –

29 September 2015

At least two protesters were killed and 18 wounded after police opened fire on demonstrators protesting the construction of a $7.4 billion Chinese-owned copper mining project in Peru’s southern province of Cotabambas.

Police and protesters clashed in the mining zone of Las Bambas where Chinese company MMG Ltd. is constructing a mine that could add 400,000 tons of copper to the global supply each year, according to Reuters. Protesters have demanded that MMG change part of its environmental plan and recruit more locals, authorities reportedly said.

“The two men died of bullet wounds. One was age 30, the other age 24,” local surgeon Percy Jeronimo said Monday, according to the Associated Press (AP). He added that four others were in critical condition.

About 1,500 police officers and 150 military officers were sent to the area ahead of protests that began Friday. Police reportedly opened fire after demonstrators stormed a part of the mine. Jose Soplopuco, the local health director, told the AP that police also shot at a vehicle carrying doctors, keeping ambulances away from the area.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez said fundamentalists from outside the mining area had instigated the protests. “Police used non-lethal weapons at the start, and then, to defend themselves, had to use lethal weapons,” Perez reportedly said, in a televised interview.

Peru is the world’s third largest copper producer and mining comprises about 60 percent of the country’s export earnings.