Peruvian community blocks key highway in protest against Glencore mine

Glencore’s Antapaccay mine has been expanding production since late 2012. (Image by Golda Fuentes | Flickr Commons)

An indigenous community in Peru’s Espinar province has blocked a key mining road, a local leader told Reuters on Wednesday, in protest against the government and Glencore’s Antapaccay copper mine.

The conflict comes a day after the government defused a similar standoff in nearby Chumbivilcas. The Antapaccay mine did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The road is known in Peru as the mining corridor, and has become a lightning rod in the country, the world’s No. 2 copper producer.

As of Wednesday, the community has blocked the road in protest against Antapaccay and the government, said Flavio Huanque, a community leader in Espinar. He said they want dialogue with the company and for the country’s Prime Minister Guido Bellido to be removed.

“He (Bellido) came here on September 11 and showed an absolute lack of knowledge about the problems regarding the indigenous communities of Espinar,” Huanque said.

The mining corridor, which traverses the Andes for about 500 km (310 miles), was blocked for about three weeks in September. Those blocks were in a more remote part of the road, affecting the huge Las Bambas copper mine, owned by Chinese state-owned enterprise China Minmetals Corp’s unit MMG Ltd, but sparing other mines like Antapaccay.

The block now would affect both mines. Antapaccay is Peru’s sixth largest copper mine, while Las Bambas ranks No. 4, according to the ministry of energy and mines.

Bellido became prime minister in July under new President Pedro Castillo, whose leftist administration wants to use the country’s mining wealth in order to fund social programs.

Bellido was born and raised in the broader region of Cuzco, where Espinar province is located. But he is from a different province, Chumbivilcas, which on Tuesday reached a landmark deal in its own conflict with Las Bambas.

The deal with Chumbivilcas will trade mining-related jobs for residents in exchange for preventing future road blocks.

(By Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Marguerita Choy)


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