MMG’s Las Bambas copper mine threatened with new blockade

Members of the Nueva Fuerabamba community at a town hall held at Las Bambas on April 11. Photo by the Ministers Cabinet of Peru.

Less than a week after agreements were signed and protesters lifted a blockade impeding trucks from bringing copper into the markets from MMG’s Las Bambas mine, there are threats of a new rally just outside the mine.

On Saturday, the president of the Nueva Fuerabamba community, Gregorio Rojas, told local media that he is willing to organize a new blockade if the government doesn’t archive the criminal complaints filed against members of his community taking part in the protests against Las Bambas.

Rojas said that about 500 people from his own town and others in the southern Cotabambas province are subjected to such complaints. He noted that even though the Chief of Cabinet Salvador del Solar said he would try to find a solution to the issue, the time has passed and nothing has been done yet.

During a town hall held on April 11, 2019, the Chief of Cabinet Salvador del Solar, and the Minister of Development and Social Inclusion, Paola Bustamante, reiterated the commitments agreed upon by the parties in conflict on April 6, 2019. Photo by the Ministers Cabinet of Peru.

In response to Rojas’ declarations, the Minister of Development and Social Inclusion, Paola Bustamante, told RPP Noticias that she was stunned because she has continued to foster the dialogue between the farming community, the miner and state authorities. She also said that the government is fulfilling the terms of the accords that have been signed, among them the establishment of a human rights round table.

Bustamante mentioned that her office even filed a request, on behalf of the Nueva Fuerabamba community, to have officials from the Judicial Branch and the National Prosecutors Office join the roundtable.

The minister also said that she expects the dialogue to go on between all the parties involved in the conflict and she reminded Rojas that he and other community representatives signed a dossier agreeing to meet again on April 24th. “The conversation should continue without resorting to forceful measures,” she said.

Background

From early February to mid-April, a blockade had been taking place on Peru’s national highway CU-135, known as Corredor Minero del Sur, which is used by to carry copper concentrate from Las Bambas to the Port of Matarani.

The protesters were members of the Nueva Fuerabamba community, whose farmland is cut by the road. They were accusing the government of illegally turning the road into a national highway to be able to ink a deal with MMG and its partners.

Following a series of meetings that involved MMG executives, national and regional government officials, and community leaders, an agreement was signed on the first week of April. Activists committed to allowing free transit to be restored on the highway, a promise they fulfilled a week later; the government vowed to guarantee that local communities’ rights are respected and protected; and the company said it would employ workers from the community and honour unfulfilled promises established in a Compendium of Agreements signed on December 29, 2009.

Las Bambas is a joint venture project between MMG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of China’s Guoxin International Investment, and CITIC Metal Co. Ltd. MMG owns 62.5% of the project and is in charge of operations at the massive copper mine that spans the provinces of Cotabambas and Grau.

The mine has an annual nameplate throughput capacity of 51.1 million tonnes of copper and, since 2016, has generated some $226 million in royalties for the Peruvian treasury.

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