MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru: Tia Maria copper project put on hold

Published by MAC on 2010-04-24
Source: Reuters, EFE, Bloomberg

Protesters end six-day strike after government concedes

See previous article "Peruvians don't like the taste of Southern's Tia Maria" -



Southern Copper project on hold in Peru for 3 months


20 April 2010

AREQUIPA, Peru - Work on Southern Copper's Tia Maria project has been put on hold for three months, government officials said on Tuesday, after the company and local farmers agreed to prepare a revised environmental impact plan for it.

Southern Copper, one of the world's biggest producers of the metal, has encountered stiff resistance to the project. Farmers have protested that the future copper mine will affect their water supplies. "We have reached a point of compromise to solve the problem," said Juan Manuel Guillen, president of the region of Arequipa.

Peru's government has assured farmers the mine would not sap their water resources, but on Tuesday said a reservoir could be built to help allay their concerns.

Police used tear gas last week to disperse protesters, who set up a roadblock on a key highway near the town of Islay, some 620 miles (1,000 km) south of Lima, the capital.

As the protests persisted, representatives from the company, farmers and the government sat down and agreed on a three-month cooling off period.

The Tia Maria project, which needs $934 million in investments, would produce 120,000 tonnes of copper per year starting in late 2011. (Reporting by Miguel Zegarra; Writing by Terry Wade and Marco Aquino; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Peruvian Government, Residents, Reach Accord on Mine Project


22 April 2010

LIMA – Protesters in the southern Peruvian province of Islay ended their six-day general strike after the government agreed to temporarily suspend a controversial mining project.

After several hours of negotiations in the town of Cocachacra, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Lima, an accord was reached that includes the suspension for at least 90 days of the Southern Copper Corporation’s $949 million Tia Maria project.

The project was halted so that an environmental-impact study can be performed by an expert commission whose members will include both representatives of the company and the local inhabitants.

The government also agreed to build a dam in the region to guarantee an adequate supply of water for local farmers.

The residents of Islay, a province in the southern region of Arequipa, launched their general strike last Wednesday by occupying a stretch of the Panamericana highway, one of the country’s most important roads.

The protesters, who on Tuesday agreed to talks with the government, were demanding the cancellation of the Tia Maria project, which is expected to produce around 120,000 tons of copper per year; an end to existing mining operations in the region and the construction of the dam.

After the accord was reached, Prime Minister Javier Velasquez, who presided over the talks, hailed the fact that a solution to the strike was found through dialogue.

“The government has made every effort to ensure peace is restored; with the technical roundtable there will be space to conduct a successful dialogue and reach definitive accords,” he told reporters.

For his part, Interior Minister Octavio Salazar, who also traveled Wednesday morning to Cocachacra to take part in the talks, announced that the police who had been sent to that part of the country to clear the highway will be sent back to their home regions on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the president of the Arequipa region, Juan Manuel Guillen, who served as mediator between the central government and the protesters, said Wednesday’s accord ensures that the mining project will not proceed without the approval of local residents.

Southern Copper Corporation has extracted copper from the Toquepala mine in the Tacna region since 1960 and the Cuajone mine in the neighboring Moquegua region since 1976.

Two Hurt as Police Clash with Protesters in Peru


18 April 2010

LIMA - Two people were hurt when police fired pellets at people occupying a stretch of the Panamericana highway in southern Peru to protest a vast copper-mining project spanning parts of the Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna regions, authorities said.

But one of the leaders of the protest, Ricardo Quispe, told Efe the police fired bullets, not pellets, in the operation to clear the protesters from the highway.

While police said they arrested five people during Thursday's incidents, Quispe put the number detained at 22.

One of the wounded, identified as 19-year-old farmer Pedro Taipe, was said to be in serious condition.

The CNR radio network reported police helicopters were hovering over the scene of the clash and that most of the protesters had retreated to nearby hills.

Earlier Thursday, the government issued a statement condemning the occupation of the highway, while offering to negotiate with the residents if they would end the blockades.

Residents have called a general strike in opposition to Southern Copper Corporation's $949 million Tia Maria project, which is expected to produce around 120,000 tons of copper per year.

Area farmers fear the mining project will take water they need to irrigate the rice and sugar they grow for export.

The farmers, backed by other residents, are demanding the cancellation of Tia Maria, an end to existing mining operations in the region and the construction of a dam to guarantee an adequate supply of water for agriculture.

Peru's government says Southern Copper will only take a fraction of the region's 160 million-cubic-meter water reserves and emphasizes that the Tia Maria project will generate 300 million soles ($104 million) in royalties for public coffers.

Southern Copper began mining in the region 50 years ago.

Peru's Southern Copper asks to cancel key meeting


17 April 2010

LIMA - Peru's Southern Copper has asked the government to postpone a public meeting over its Tia Maria project, which has sparked protests by villagers who fear the mine will affect water supplies.

Southern Copper, one of the world's biggest producers, had planned to hold the meeting on April 19 to present its environmental plan.

The meeting was already delayed from February. Last year, the presentation of the environmental plan had to be abandoned when protesters started hurling chairs and tables.

The company said it had asked the mining ministry to cancel the event due to "continuing illegal acts."

Peru's government assured farmers this week the mine would not sap their water supplies but blamed the miner for failing to win community support to avert protests against the project.

Farmers and ranchers, worried they will lose access to water on the dry western slopes of the Andes, have blocked Peru's main highway to try to derail the meeting.

Southern Copper must make the public presentation to get approval for its environmental impact study.

Police have used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who set up a roadblock on Wednesday near the town of Islay, some 620 miles (1,000 km) south of Lima, the capital.

The Tia Maria project, which needs $934 million in investments, would produce 120,000 tonnes of copper per year starting in late 2011. (Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Peru's Farmers Fight Police Over Southern Copper Mine

By Alex Emery


15 April 2010

Peruvian farmers fought with police and blocked highways today to protest Southern Copper Corp.'s $900 million Tia Maria copper mine project, said Energy & Mines Minister Pedro Sanchez Gamarra.

The protests, which left dozens of protesters arrested and thousands of car and bus passengers stranded in the southern Andes, seek to prevent a public hearing on the project's environmental impact study scheduled for April 19, Sanchez told reporters in Lima. Phoenix-based Southern Copper has twice pushed back the estimated startup of the mine.

"The company didn't do a very good job of explaining that farmers won't be hurt by this project," Sanchez said. "The mine won't use their water or hurt agriculture in any way."

Southern Copper's project is part of $35 billion in mining investment expected over the next decade, according to the Energy & Mines Ministry. Environmental protests have delayed mine developments by companies including Anglo American Plc and Newmont Mining Corp.

Southern Copper Chief Executive Officer Oscar Gonzalez Rocha didn't immediately return telephone calls or an e-mail seeking comment.

Southern Copper dropped 2.2 percent to $34.34 at 2:48 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has climbed 63 percent this year.

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