Nexa Resources halts Peru zinc mine due to blockade

The Atacocha mine is in the province of Pasco, Peru. (Image courtesy of Nexa Resources.)

Latin America-focused Nexa Resources (NYSE: NEXA) has halted production at its Atacocha San Gerardo open pit zinc mine in Peru due to a road blockade by a local Machcan community in place since December 27.

The zinc producer, controlled by Brazilian holding company Votorantim SA, said the obstruction of the road to access the mine has not have a material impact on Atacocha´s production to date.

Nexa noted that, on a weekly basis, Atacocha produces about 200,000 tonnes of zinc — less than 3% of the company’s total zinc production.

The company also said that current activities are limited to critical operations with a minimum workforce to ensure proper maintenance, while it engages in an active dialogue with the community and authorities.

Mining conflicts in Peru have risen over the past two years as empowered local communities increased demands under the administration of leftist ex-President Pedro Castillo, who was impeached in December and replaced by vice president Dina Boluarte.

Nexa itself faced two road blockades at Atacocha last year. The first one in March, which cost the miner 300 tonnes of lost zinc production, and another one in August.

A wave of protests hit Peru’s major operations in early 2022, including Glencore’s (LON: GLEN) Antapaccay, the country’s sixth largest copper mine. Other operations affected were Southern Copper Corp’s Cuajone mine and MMG’s giant Las Bambas mine, which is the nation’s fourth-largest copper mine and the world’s ninth-largest.

Nexa currently owns and operates five underground mines — three located in the Central Andes of Peru and two located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.

The company is developing the Aripuanã project as its sixth underground mine in Mato Grosso, Brazil.

It also owns and operates three smelters, two in Brazil and one in Peru, Cajamarquilla, which is the largest in the Americas.

Peru is the world’s no. 2 copper producer after Chile and an important producer of zinc.