In a Dec. 29 communiqué reproduced by state-owned news agency Andina, the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines (Minem) expressed its opposition to the blockades taking place on the Southern Runway (Corredor Vial del Sur), which are hindering the transport of copper concentrate and personnel to and from MMG’s Las Bambas mine.
The activists launched their protest action two weeks ago in the Velille district, part of the Cusco region, about 200 km from the mine.
The activists from the Velille district demand the review of an agreement signed in September between Las Bambas and the Velille-Chumbivilcas District, which stipulates that the company has to finance sustainable development projects for up to 1.25 million soles (US$348,000) over the next two years, as well as making spot payments to families impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. But people in Velille want the sum to increase to about US$1.3 million.
“The current leaders [of the blockades] want to ignore the agreement and are demanding a much higher financial contribution without providing reasons for this increment or justifying how such resources would be spent,” the Minem’s communiqué stated.
The Ministry said that the blockaders are being intransigent and, thus, are obstructing mediation efforts led by the government to tend to their needs and restore public order.
According to Minem, a committee that included its own personnel, as well as officers from Peru’s National Police and Cusco’s Public Order Attorney, visited the site of the blockade on December 27, 2020, hoping to open a conversation with the protesters and convince them of opening the road. Despite the effort, they obtained a negative response.
The Ministry reminded the blockaders that ever since they launched their action, the General Office of Social Management set up a permanent presence in Velille and, in coordination with the Presidency of the Ministers’ Council and MMG Las Bambas, it has strived to set up conditions for a peaceful dialogue between the parties.
“The economic and sanitary crisis that our country is going through demands unity amongst Peruvians, instead of positions that do not lead towards the common good,” the statement said.
MMG issued a press release on Dec. 24 stating that the company is “deeply frustrated” by the blockade.
“Las Bambas has been fulfilling its commitments with all communities along the haul road. This includes additional commitments to support sustainable development projects that were made to Velille district authorities and two Velille communities in September and November 2020,” the brief stated.
The miner warned that due to the impact on personnel and supply logistics, production was likely to be progressively curtailed and delays to some concentrate shipments were to be expected.
Las Bambas is the world’s ninth-largest copper mine. MMG withdrew its full-year 2020 guidance in April due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to that it had forecast between 350,000 and 370,000 tonnes of copper concentrate or about 2% of projected global production.
This article first appeared in MINING.com, part of Glacier Resource Innovation Group.