Fresh opposition to Southern Copper’s billion-dollar project in Peru

Tia Maria mine is forecast to produce 120,000 tonnes of copper a year, for an estimated 20-year lifespan. (Image courtesy of Southern Copper Corp.)

Southern Copper Corp (NYSE:SCCO), the world’s fifth largest producer of the red metal in terms of output, is once again facing community opposition to its long-delayed $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project in Arequipa, southern Peru.

Tia Maria has been derailed twice – in 2011 and 2015 – because of deadly protests by farmers

Farmers from the Tambo Valley in central Arequipa began an indefinite strike on Monday to protest the imminent construction of the open-pit copper mine. They also blocked a portion of the country’s main coastal highway to obstruct access to the mine site. 

While the blockade has now been lifted, opponents continue to press the government to revoke the construction permit awarded to Southern Copper only a week ago, local paper El Comercio reports.

Tia Maria has been derailed twice – in 2011 and 2015 – because of deadly protests by farmers who fear the proposed open-pit mine will damage crops and affect water supplies in the southern region of Arequipa.

“Agro yes, mining no,” was chanted by hundreds of local farmers who took to the streets to defend about 1,300 hectares of cropland they think will be affected by the mine.

The protests against the massive project echo other fights between anti-mining groups, farmers and mining companies in Peru over the last few years. Most of them centre around who gets to use precious water supplies in the country’s bone-dry areas.

Southern Copper estimates that Tia Maria will produce 120,000 tonnes of copper a year during an estimated 20-year lifespan.

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