Las Bambas mine suspends operations following protest

Las Bambas open pit. (Image courtesy of MMG).

MMG Ltd said on Monday its Las Bambas copper mine in Peru will suspend operations from April 20 after residents of a community nearby entered the property as part of a protest.

Las Bambas accounts for 2% of the global copper supply and is a subject of recurring disruptions from impoverished local communities demanding higher financial contributions from the mine. Earlier this year, the mine was forced to slow down operations due to a road blockade.

MMG said the Fuerabamba community’s members had entered Las Bambas on April 14 to protest the company’s alleged failure to comply with its social investment commitments, allegations which MMG rejects. Members of the Huancuire community had also joined the protests.

The minerals exploration company also said a meeting was conducted on April 16, which included Peru’s Minister of Mines and Energy, members of the Fuerabamba community and Las Bambas, but the parties could not arrive at a resolution.

Further meetings led by the Prime Minister’s Office are scheduled over the coming days, MMG said.

Reuters could not reach a representative of the Fuerabamba community for comment. Fuerabamba is an indigenous quechua-speaking community that was resettled a few years ago to make way for Las Bambas in Peru’s Apurimac region.

Las Bambas is a member of the SNMPE, which represents the country’s large mines, and Peru is the world’s No. 2 copper producer.

MMG said Las Bambas will be unable to continue copper production from April 20, clarifying a statement made earlier in the day by Raul Jacob, the president of local mining chamber SNMPE, that operations had already ceased.

“Last week, 130 people from the Fuerabamba community invaded Las Bambas,” Jacob had told reporters earlier in the day. “This invasion has caused the suspension of operations.”

The latest conflict at Las Bambas comes as Southern Copper Corp’s Cuajone mine has kept operations suspended since late-February after residents of nearby communities shut down the company’s water supply.

Jacob, who is also Southern Copper’s Chief Financial Officer, said the stoppage at both mines shows that the government is dragging its feet at solving mining conflicts.

(By Marcelo Rochabrun and Harish Sridharan; Editing by Nick Macfie and Uttaresh.V)

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