Peru community rejects ‘joke’ offer to end Las Bambas copper mine protest

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

A Peruvian community blocking a transport road used by MMG’s Las Bambas copper mine rejected a revised offer from the company as “a joke”, and threatened to boycott further talks, the group’s legal adviser told Reuters.

The blockade, in place since Nov. 20, threatens to halt output at the Chinese-owned mine in southern Peru, which produces some 2% of the world’s supply of copper. Peru is the world’s no. 2 copper producer.

“This is a joke. We will not be meeting. We will not accept any meeting,” said Victor Villa, a legal adviser for the province of Chumbivilcas, which lies along a dirt road used by hundreds of Las Bambas copper trucks each day.

The rejection and threat not to attend talks are a blow for Las Bambas, which submitted an updated proposal at the weekend to clear the road and avoid the shutdown. New talks had been planned for Tuesday.

Las Bambas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Villa said some other communities were getting 700 000 soles ($172 584) each in economic contributions from Las Bambas, whereas the mine was offering just 100 000 soles for the each of the ten communities he represents, totaling one-million soles.

He added that Las Bambas was offering to hire residents to drive trucks to carry copper, but was offering far less than it pays to the firm it contracts for the service.

“There should not be discriminatory pay. The communities would receive very little,” he told Reuters by telephone late on Sunday.

The comments from the adviser, previously unreported, underscore the gap between the two sides and increase the pressure on MMG to shift its current position. Still, talks could progress to find a resolution before Tuesday.

[Click here for an interactive chart of copper prices]

The dirt road in southern Peru has become a flashpoint of social unrest since Las Bambas began operations in 2016, with residents alleging the dust from trucks pollutes their crops and that they do not receive enough economic benefit from the mine.

Las Bambas said earlier in December that it would have to suspend production this week unless the blockade were lifted because it cannot get supplies to the mine. The news sent its shares tumbling last week.

Tensions with the Chumbivilcas province, which lies several hours from the mine, are longstanding. In October, residents and the mine reached a deal to avoid further blockades, but talks fell apart when they began to discuss specific detail.

Peru’s National Society of Mining, Energy and Oil, which represents mining firms, last week said the response to a spate of protests by the leftist government of President Pedro Castillo was “erratic and biased” against the industry.

(By Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Barbara Lewis)


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