Las Bambas blockades affect Peru copper shipments

Las Bambas operation. (Image courtesy of MMG).

The Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines (Minem) expressed Tuesday its opposition to the blockades taking place on the Southern Runway (Corredor Vial del Sur), which are hindering the transport of copper concentrate and personnel to and from MMG’s Las Bambas mine.

The activists launched their protest action two weeks ago in the Velille district, Cusco region, some 200 kilometers from the mine.

In a communiqué reproduced by state-owned news agency Andina, the Ministry said that the blockaders are being intransigent and, thus, are obstructing mediation efforts led by the government to tend to their needs and restore public order.

According to the Minem, a committee that included its own personnel, as well as officers from Peru’s National Police and Cusco’s Public Order Attorney, visited the site of the blockade on December 27, hoping to start a conversation with the protesters about opening the road. Despite the effort, they received a negative response.  

The Ministry said that blockaders are being intransigent and obstructing mediation efforts

The activists from the Velille district demand the review of an agreement signed in September between Las Bambas and the Velille-Chumbivilcas District, which stipulates that the company has to finance sustainable development projects for up to 1.25 million soles ($348,000) over the next two years, as well as make spot payments to families impacted by the covid-19 pandemic.

People in Velille, however, want the sum to increase to about $1.3 million.

“The current leaders [of the blockades] want to ignore the agreement and are demanding a much higher financial contribution without providing reasons for this increment or justifying how such resources would be spent,” the Minem’s communiqué states.

The Ministry reminded blockaders that, ever since they launched their action, the General Office of Social Management set a permanent presence in Velille and, in coordination with the Presidency of the Ministers’ Council and MMG Las Bambas, it has worked to facilitate a peaceful dialogue between the parties. 

“The economic and sanitary crisis that our country is going through demands unity amongst Peruvians, instead of positions that do not lead towards the common good,” the statement reads.  

On December 24, MMG issued a press release saying that the company is “deeply frustrated” by the blockade.

“Las Bambas has been fulfilling its commitments with all communities along the haul road. This includes additional commitments to support sustainable development projects that were made to Velille district authorities and two Velille communities in September and November 2020,” the brief states.

The miner warned that due to the impact on personnel and supply logistics, production was likely to be progressively curtailed and delays to some concentrate shipments were to be expected. 

Las Bambas is the world’s ninth-largest copper mine. For 2020, it was expected to produce between 350,000 and 370,000 tonnes of copper concentrate or about 2% of the global projected production. However, back in April, MMG withdrew the mine’s guidance due to the covid-19 pandemic and did not provide new full-year output guidance.