Blockade at Las Bambas copper mine in Peru puts output targets at risk

Las Bambas is considered the world’s ninth-largest copper mine with an output of about 400,000 tonnes of the industrial metal per year. (Image courtesy of MMG.)

An ongoing road blockade on Chinese miner MMG’s Las Bambas operation, one of Peru’s largest copper producers, is likely to affect output targets, the company said on Thursday.

Operations at the mine have been disrupted since Sept. 22, with roadblocks stopping supplies from getting through and preventing transport of concentrates to port facilities.

Las Bambas copper mine has been disrupted for more than 100 days this year

“While there has been no impact to copper concentrate production to date, mining operations will begin to progressively be impacted unless inbound logistics can be restored within the next few days,” the company, controlled by state-owned China Minmetals Corporation, warned

The blockade is not the first one affecting Las Bambas this year. Overall, the mine has been disrupted for more than 100 days so far with many of the more than 70 communities along the 450 km. road to the Port of Matarani, demanding action from MMG and the national government.

Protesters claim, among other issues, that their farmland has been cut by Peru’s national highway CU-135, known as the Southern Runway and that emissions from trucks are beyond permitted limits.

Environmental concerns

A three-month-long environmental assessment carried out by Peru’s Environmental Assessment and Control Agency (OEFA) and community members, recently concluded that Las Bambas’ trucks are contravening regulations when it comes to air, noise, land and water pollution. 

The company was asked to install dust suppressors in the towns that surround the road used by its trucks and to spray water on the way prior to the trucks passing to reduce the spread of dust particles. 

Operations at four of Peru’s top copper mines, accounting for about 50% of the country’s metal production, have been affected by local opposition

The miner was also urged to stop using the road that connects the towns of Velille and Ccapacmarca between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m., a measure that will be monitored by the environmental authority in real-time through GPS devices installed on the vehicles. Satellite technology is also expected to allow OEFA staff to verify whether the trucks are compliant with speed and load limits.

The regulator asked Las Bambas to incorporate its demands into the company’s environmental assessment either by updating or modifying it, an order that can be appealed by the miner. 

MMG noted it’s working with local communities and authorities to resolve all issues.

Las Bambas is considered the world’s ninth-largest copper mine with an output of about 400,000 tonnes of the industrial metal per year, or about 2% of global production.

Operations at four of Peru’s top copper mines, accounting for about 50% of the country’s metal production, have been affected by local opposition. Other than Las Bambas, those mines include Freeport-McMoRan’s Cerro Verde, Glencore’s Antapaccay and Hudbay Mineral’s Constancia.

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