MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru's Tintaya In 'chaos' After Break-in

Published by MAC on 2005-05-24
Source: Reuters

Peru's Tintaya in 'chaos' after break-in

Tue May 24, 2005


Lima, Peru - More than 2,000 people with a series of social demands broke into BHP Billiton's Tintaya copper mine in southern Peru on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of offices and sparking chaos, the mine's vice president said.

"We don't know exactly what's happening. We can't get in, the situation is chaotic," Lucio Rios told RPP radio, adding protesters had clashed with and stoned police and started small fires on grassland inside the mine camp.

Police had responded with tear gas.

It was not immediately clear whether production at Peru's No. 3 copper mine had been affected. The company said it was preparing a statement.

"The people spread out in a cordon around the whole camp, then started to set fire to the grass," Rios said, adding he was worried about workers who were resting from overnight shifts.

"We hope this can be resolved without serious consequences," he added. Rios said he was speaking from a different part of the mine camp.

Tintaya was Peru's third biggest producer in March, producing around 12.1 percent of the country's output, behind Antamina and Southern Peru, which had 39 percent and 33.5 percent, respectively, according to Energy and Mines Ministry data.

Antamina is owned by BHP Billiton , Noranda Inc., Teck-Cominco Ltd. and Mitsubishi Corp.

Tintaya's March production fell 11.2 percent because of mineral conditions.

Protests against mining are common in mineral-rich Peru by residents who fear their agricultural livelihood will be jeopardized or locals who say they are not seeing enough of the benefit from the vast investments by rich forign mining firms.

Tuesday's protests came after around 500 people broke into the camp on Monday, Rios said.

Oscar Gonzalez, vice president of the private National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy, said the protesters accused Tintaya of seeking to backtrack on social agreements made two years ago -- a charge he said the company denied.

Among other things, they were demanding a 125-mile (200-km) stretch of road be paved and other works worth $20 million, way beyond the current agreement to invest $1.5 million, Gonzalez, who is also president of Southern Peru, told CPN radio.

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