US miner Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO) is likely to restart work at its controversial $1 billion Tía María copper project near Arequipa, Peru, within the next 90 days, a top government official said following a public meeting with local residents Friday.
Peru’s Mines and Energy Minister, Jorge Merino, told Andina News agency (in Spanish) receiving support from the local community is “a big step forward," adding it shows that “dialogue and coordinated efforts from national, regional and local authorities can make megaprojects happen.”
The proposed mine has faced ongoing opposition from anti-mining groups, but SCCO worked on reaching a compromise with locals, a key factor to obtain a social license to operate.
If the successful talks are followed by Tia Maria’s resuming operations as expected, Peru’s government expects investors to come back. “It will show we have made inroads to resolve conflicts that have delayed several mining projects in Peru over concerns by communities about their environmental impact,” he was quoted as saying.
Although the production capacity of most countries has flat-lined in recent years, Latin America’s clout in the copper industry has risen exponentially. Led by the likes of SCCO, Peru alone is expected to attract $15bn worth of copper mining projects between now and 2015. They, says the country’s minister of energy, will increase Peru’s overall copper production from 1.5 million tonnes to 2.8 million tonnes by the end of 2015.
The Phoenix-based mining company has the highest copper reserves of any publicity traded mining company worldwide and one of the best cash cost in the industry.
Established in 1952 and listed on the New York and Lima Stock Exchange’s since 1996, SCCO is the largest single entity of Grupo Mexico, Mexico’s No. 1 mining corporation and the sixth largest worldwide, accounting for 67% of the group’s total sales.
Tía María is expected to generate 120,000 tons of copper a year.