* Prime minister says working to avert protest
* Provincial mayors plan to organize strike
* President of Tacna region cites water supplies
By Terry Wade and Teresa Cespedes
LIMA, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Peru’s national government will establish formal talks between Southern Copper and the regional government of Tacna to solve a dispute over scarce water supplies, Prime Minister Salomon Lerner said on Wednesday.
Authorities in Tacna say they want Southern Copper (SCCO.N), a unit of Grupo Mexico, to stop using groundwater that it relies on to run two of its copper mines — Toquepala and Cajone.
Tacna’s president, Guillermo Chocano, said miners in the desert region should rely on desalinated seawater instead.
He and provincial mayors have said they will hold a massive strike starting on Monday to press their demands. Leaders in the region say they need more water for agriculture and residents.
But Lerner said the strike will be averted and water deliveries to one of the world’s biggest copper miners will not be affected.
“We are ready to open a working group on this,” Prime Minister Salomon Lerner told reporters on Wednesday. “The strike won’t go forward.”
When asked how the national government would react to demands by provincial authorities that miners in Tacna should rely on desalinated seawater, Lerner said that agreements “need to be for the well-being of everyone, not just one company.”
He also said that if technical studies and dialogues point to the need for desalinated water, and if Southern Copper thinks desalinating water would be viable, then “Southern would need to desalinate.”
Southern Copper, which declined to comment, runs the Ilo smelter in Tacna and the Toquepala and Cajone mines.
It is currently trying to expand Toquepala and win approvals for another mining project, Tia Maria, which has faced strident opposition over water supplies.
Peru is a top global minerals exporter and Southern Copper generates much of its revenue in the Andean country.
Leftist President Ollanta Humala this month passed a “consultation law” that aims to make mining companies and communities negotiate settlements to thorny environmental and economic issues, but it has not been implemented yet. (Editing by Jim Marshall)