Southern Copper back to full output ahead of protester talks

The Cuajone copper mine is in southern Peru, about 878 km from Lima. (Image courtesy of Southern Copper.)

Southern Copper Corp. is back to full capacity at its Cuajone operation in Peru as the company prepares for formal talks with community members whose protests shut the mine for almost two months.

“As of today, the industrial railroad and the Cuajone mine, concentrator and related facilities are operating at full capacity,” the company said late Monday in a statement. “We trust in the goodwill of all the parties to obtain agreements that benefit both the community and the company’s employees.”

The 54-day disruption, combined with lower quality ore at other mines, dragged down the company’s copper production by 10%, the New York-listed company said.

The protest coincides with an uptick in general social unrest over living costs that is exacerbating political tensions in the world’s no. 2 copper and zinc supplier. Community members seeking a bigger share of the mineral windfall had seized reservoir facilities and blocked a rail line around Southern Copper’s operation. The actions ultimately prompted the government to declare a state of emergency, which led to the company taking back control.

The government issued a resolution on Saturday to set up a Cuajone roundtable involving community members, authorities and company officials. That process will kick off shortly.

Before the Cuajone stoppage, Southern had projected production of 922,000 tons this year. Lost days in the first quarter suggest annual output will be about 895,000 tons, although the company will be working to make up some of that as the year progresses, Chief Financial Officer Raul Jacob told analysts on Tuesday. Output is set to recover to 971,000 tons next year. 

Shares rose 1.5% to $62.77 at 12:22 p.m. trading in New York.

(By James Attwood)

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