Peru suspends Southern Copper’s $1.4 billion project amid local protests

The Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines has temporarily suspended a construction licence given to Southern Copper for its US$1.4 billion Tía María copper project in the Arequipa region of Peru, following protests from local farmers.

Energy and Mines Minister Francisco Ismodes told local TV station Canal N that the project will be suspended until objections raised by protesting groups are resolved.

Farmers in nearby Valle del Tambo fear the open pit project will contaminate their water sources and have been joined by residents and regional unions in protesting and carrying out a general strike in the area since the second week of July.

Ismodes said that the suspension will give his office time to sit down with regional authorities and other stakeholders to discuss joint mechanisms that allow mining projects to go forward while respecting the environment.

Southern Copper, a subsidiary of mining giant Grupo Mexico, was granted the construction licence by the government one month ago, but will now have to wait for the review to be carried out within the next four months.

However, the firm’s executives remain hopeful that the project will be developed by 2020. The mine is expected to produce 120,000 tonnes of copper a year for an estimated 20-year lifespan.