State of emergency in Peru as anti-mining violence leaves 4 dead, dozens arrested

State of emergency in Peru as anti-mining violence leaves 4 dead, dozens arrested

Opponents began protesting in late March and have continued to hold demonstrations and block roads even though the company announced a 60-day "pause" in the project to allow time to allay opponents' concerns.

Peru's government declared a state of emergency for 60 days in the southern province of Arequipa Saturday after ongoing protests against Southern Copper Corp.’s (NYSE, LON: SCCO) $1.4 billion Tía Maria project claimed a fourth life.

Armed forces will help police restore order in the area and some constitutional rights will be suspended, including freedom of transit and the right to hold meetings, local newspaper El País reports (in Spanish).

Opponents began protesting in late March and have continued to hold demonstrations and block roads even though Southern Copper, a unit of Mexican mining giant Grupo Mexico, announced a 60-day "pause" in the project to allow time to allay local farmers' concerns. They fear a new copper mine in the region will pollute land and water and hurt their crops.

Last month Peru’s Energy and Mines Ministry issued a statement saying that the company has guaranteed that it won’t touch water to be used for farming, and that dust from the mining process will also be controlled. The announcement followed Minister of the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal’s declarations affirming that Tia Maria was “safe for the environment.”

Southern Copper, which has two mines and a smelter in the South American country, is awaiting a construction permit from the government so it can restart work on the project.

The protests against Tia Maria echo other fights between anti-mining groups, farmers and mining companies over the last few years over who gets to use precious water supplies in bone-dry areas of Peru.

The company estimates that Tia Maria will produce 120,000 tons of copper cathodes a year, for an estimated 20-year lifespan.

Peru’s government forecasts the country will produce 2.8 million tons of copper a year by 2016, about double its current production as a number of new projects come on stream.