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MMG suspends shipments from 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 MMG.)

Chinese miner MMG has once again halted copper shipments from its Las Bambas operation, one of Peru’s largest copper producers, following a road blockade by local community members protesting against alleged ongoing pollution of their lands.

The preventive measure, aimed at protecting trucks to and from the mine, has stopped supplies from getting through and suspended the transport of concentrates to port facilities, but is not expected to affect production volumes, local paper Diario Correo reported.

The blockade and consequent shipment suspension has been a common issue affecting Las Bambas since its 2015-16 ramp-up. Overall, the mine was disrupted for more than 100 days last year, with 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.

The preventive measure seeks to protect trucks to and from the mine amid fresh protests against alleged pollution

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. 

The miner was also urged to stop using the road that connects the towns of Velille and Capacmarca between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m., a measure that’s being 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.

Las Bambas is 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 in the past few months. Other than Las Bambas, those mines include Freeport-McMoRan’s Cerro Verde, Glencore’s Antapaccay and Hudbay Mineral’s Constancia.