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Southern Copper’s $1bn Tia Maria mine to begin production in March

U.S. miner Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO) may be able to restart work at its controversial $1 billion Tía María copper project near Arequipa, Peru, as soon as January next year, which would allow the company to kick off operation by March, La República reports (in Spanish).

The Arizona-based company was expected to file Monday its latest environmental impact assessment (EIA) to Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, which has up to 10 days to review it.

The, the company will have to send copies of the study to three regional authorities: the regional government of Arequipa (GRA), the provincial municipality of Islay and the Cocachacra district, which will make the report available to the general public.

If approved by the local community and other stakeholders, the Tía María project, halted in 2011 after clashes between residents and police that left three dead, could began production about a year ahead of schedule.

Southern Copper’s $1bn Tia Maria mine to begin production in MarchThe proposed mine has faced ongoing opposition from anti-mining groups, but SCCO has been working on reaching a compromise with locals, which is a key factor to be granted a social license to operate.

Although the production capacity of most countries has flat-lined in recent years, Latin America’s clout in the copper industry has risen exponentially. Led by the likes of SCCO, Peru alone is expected to attract $15bn worth of copper mining projects between now and 2015. They, says the country’s minister of energy, will increase Peru’s overall copper production from 1.5 million tonnes to 2.8 million tonnes by the end of 2015.

The Phoenix-based mining company has the highest copper reserves of any publicity traded mining company worldwide and one of the best cash cost in the industry.

Established in 1952 and listed on the New York and Lima Stock Exchange’s since 1996, SCCO is the largest single entity of Grupo Mexico, Mexico’s No. 1 mining corporation and the sixth largest worldwide, accounting for 67% of the group’s total sales.

Tía María is expected to generate 120,000 tons of copper a year.