Peru gives Southern Copper construction permit on delayed $1.4bn project

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 said on Tuesday it received a construction permit for its long-delayed $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper mine project in Peru, but said work would not begin until it gains more support from local residents.

The permit allows the government’s approval of the company’s environmental plan to remain in force instead of expiring as scheduled in August, which would have delayed the project at least another year.

Southern Copper has spent years awaiting the final green light that former governments had declined to give because of fears it would revive deadly protests that had first derailed the project in 2011.

But the company acknowledged it still needed to do more to get local residents on board. It promised it would not begin construction until resolving doubts about the projects in coordination with the government of President Martin Vizcarra.

Companies and activists have been closely watching Tia Maria as a sign of President Martin Vizcarra’s approach to Peru’s mining sector, a key driver of economic growth but also a lightning rod for conflict in far-flung provinces.

“It’s an important sign for reactivating private investment and ensuring the economic and social growth the country needs,” Manuel Fumagalli, president of the National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy, said in a statement.

The announcement, however, will likely trigger fresh protests in the southern region of Arequipa, where farmers say the mine will pollute their fields and affect local water supplies.

At least six protesters were killed in clashes with police in 2011 and 2015.

(By Mitra Taj; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)

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