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Misstep could reignite blockade against Las Bambas copper mine in Peru

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 Minera Las Bambas.)

Any miscalculation from the Peruvian government in the proposal to be discussed with mining communities on December 30, could reignite protest actions against MMG Ltd.’s Las Bambas mine, activists say.

In recent declarations to local media, the president of the Fighting Committee for the Mining Corridor, Luis Huamaní, said the communities that surround the world’s ninth-largest copper mine expect an agreement to be reached between the Peruvian president, its prime minister, and the ministers of transportation and mines and energy. 

Huamaní said such an agreement should be in line with the Constitution and be reasonable, otherwise, a new blockade will be launched against Las Bambas and, this time, 18 farming communities from the southern Chumbivilcas province will take part in it.

Residents of Chumbivilcas have been blocking the road used by Las Bambas since November 19, 2021, as they demand jobs and economic contributions from the company, which they allege generally fails to benefit residents despite its great wealth. 

On December 22, the activists agreed to lift the blockade until the meeting with the country’s prime minister and company representatives takes place at the end of the month. 

“We have called a truce for the holidays and plan to resume our fight on the 30th. We cannot accept the proposal of Mirtha Vásquez [Peru’s Premier], as she has asked us to negotiate a constitutional right, a value chain and a series of projects, but we demand jobs and respect to the Political Constitution and the environment. There cannot be more abuses from Las Bambas MMG,” Huamaní told La República newspaper on Sunday.

Citing sources from the Cabinet, the publication said that prior to meeting community representatives, the prime minister, the ministers of energy and mines and transportation and company executives will get together to refine a proposal that increases their chances of reaching a deal with the people of Chumbivilcas.  

La República said the issue has created tensions within the government to a point where the permanence of some ministers in their posts depends on the resolution of the conflict, as President Pedro Castillo is performing a balancing act trying to tend to both communities and mining investors.

MMG is a unit of state-owned China Minmetals. At present, Las Bambas accounts for 2% of the world’s copper supply and produced about 290,000 tonnes of copper concentrates this year to December 18. The company had already said in July that in 2021 that production at the mine was expected in the low end of its 310,00-330,000 tonnes forecast.

Prior to shutting down on December 16, stockpiles on site were already 60,770 tonnes of copper in concentrate.