Peruvian authorities urge people to stop blockading road used by Las Bambas

Peru’s deputy minister of Territorial Governance, Raúl Molina Martínez (left), accompanied by the minister of Transport and Communications, Edmer Trujillo, and the deputy minister of internal order, Esteban Saavedra. (Image courtesy of Peru’s Presidency of the Council of Ministers).

Peru’s Deputy Minister of Territorial Governance Raúl Molina Martínez urged people in the southwestern Chumbivilcas province to stop blockading the Southern Runway (Corredor Vial Sur) and to return to the dialogue table so that their demands can be resolved within the country’s legal framework.

Since September 22, 2019, different communities along the runway have been protesting and carrying out roadblocks so that Minera Las Bambas cannot transport its copper concentrate to the port of Matarani for shipment.

Protesters claim, among other things, that their farmland has been cut by the highway and that emissions from trucks are beyond permitted limits.

The continuous protest actions have led Las Bambas to announce that probably “within a week” it will have to halt production at its namesake mine, which accounts for 16% of Peru’s entire copper output. Las Bambas is a joint venture project between MMG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of China’s Guoxin International Investment, and CITIC Metal Co. Ltd. 

Call for dialogue

The ongoing turmoil is what led the Minister to host a press conference where he regretted that an agreement wasn’t reached during the last meeting between the company, authorities and the communities.

According to Molina Martínez, it was impossible to negotiate given that the demands of towns of Colquemarca y Ccapacmarca contravene Peruvian laws.

“It is not possible to prevent the free movement of vehicles through the runway, including the miner’s trucks, because it is a public road. Similarly, we cannot abolish a Supreme Decree because such a decision might affect all national roads,” the minister is quoted as saying by state-owned news agency Andina.

Molina Martínez was referring to a decree that turned the Southern Runway -whose technical name is CU-135- into a national highway. In the view of those protesting, the legal document was issued so that the government was able to ink a deal with Las Bambas.

Despite the impossibility to attend to protesters’ demands, the official said that he hopes that a new negotiation table can be installed in the next few hours. The minister added that the Presidency of the Council of Ministers is working together with the government of the Cusco region -to which Chumbivilcas belongs-, as well as with the Subprefecture of Ccapacmarca to try to achieve such a goal.

“But community leaders need to show that they are willing to listen and to understand others’ positions, instead of just asking for things that are not legally viable,” he said.

Blockade at Las Bambas copper mine in Peru risks output targets
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.)

The minister indicated that even though the blockades are illegal and authorities could take action to open the road again, the government always tries to negotiate with the parties involved and works towards finding joint solutions to people’s demands.

He reminded the communities protesting that part of that concerted approach was the environmental assessment carried out by Peru’s Environmental Assessment and Control Agency, which concluded that Minera Las Bambas has to change the way it transports copper concentrate through the Southern Runway to mitigate air, noise, land and water pollution. The miner was also asked to updated and accordingly modify its Environmental Impact Assessment.

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, or about 2% of global production. For 2019, its production guidance has been set between 385,000 tonnes and 405,000 tonnes of the red metal.

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