February 8, 2017 / 11:27 PM / 2 years ago

Protests in Peru block roads to MMG's Las Bambas copper mine

LIMA (Reuters) - Protests over public work projects in a remote highland region of Peru have blocked roads used by MMG Ltd to transport copper concentrates from its mine Las Bambas, a representative of the ombudsman’s office said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of residents of the town of Challhuahuacho marched on Wednesday for a third consecutive day to demand that the government build a hospital and sewage system, said Artemio Solano of the ombudsman’s office in the region of Apurimac.

Protest leaders want centrist President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to travel to the town, at an altitude of more than 12,000 feet (3,658 meters)in Peru’s southern Andes, to negotiate a solution, said Solano.

The government said it was evaluating the situation. “A process of negotiation, of dialogue is being developed with communities,” Defense Minister Jorge Nieto told reporters.

Las Bambas did not respond to requests for comment.

Protests in the region last year suspended the mine’s shipments of copper from the nearby port of Matarani and nearly halted its operations. One protester was killed in clashes with police who tried to restore transportation on a road that had been used by the mine.

That road has remained blocked by four nearby communities, despite the government’s efforts to reach a deal regarding payment for use of it. An alternate route that had been used by the company was blocked on Tuesday, Solano said.

Peru is the world’s second biggest copper producer, and it is rife with conflicts over mining in far-flung regions where basic services such as running water and paved roads are scant.

Challhuahuacho’s population has grown rapidly in the past decade as the open-pit mine was built, fueling calls for new public work projects to support newcomers in one of Peru’s poorest regions.

Las Bambas produced some 300,000 tonnes of copper in the first 11 months of 2016, according to the energy and mines ministry.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Sandra Maler, Toni Reinhold

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