April 8, 2019 / 2:34 PM / 5 months ago

Community must approve deal to end blockade of Peru's Las Bambas mine: community head

FILE PHOTO: Gregorio Rojas, president of the community Fuerabamba arrives to take part in negotiations with Chinese-owned miner MMG Ltd, the Peruvian government and the Catholic Church aimed at ending a dispute with an indigenous community that has blocked roads to the company's Las Bambas mine, at the Episcopal Conference of Peru, in Lima, Peru April 6, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

LIMA (Reuters) - The indigenous community of Fuerabamba in Peru will end its two-month-long road blockade of the Las Bambas copper mine only if a deal its leader struck with miner MMG Ltd is ratified in a village assembly, the community’s president said on Monday.

The community president, Gregorio Rojas, told Reuters by phone that villagers will meet on Tuesday morning to vote on the agreement. The deal, signed by Rojas and MMG on Saturday, committed Fuerabamba to lifting the road blockade on Monday in exchange for compensation from the company.

But Rojas said he was not authorized to make decisions without consulting the community. Fuerabamba villagers remained camped out along a road on its farmland in the highland region of Cusco on Monday, continuing to block MMG’s trucks from transporting copper from Las Bambas as they have since early February in a dispute over compensation.

Las Bambas, one of Peru’s biggest mines, churns out about 400,000 tonnes of copper per year, or about 2 percent of global production. Shares of MMG rose to their highest level in a month after the company said it would restore normal operations at Las Bambas.

“Tomorrow we’ll see what the people decide in the assembly,” Rojas said from the city of Challhuahuacho near the open-pit mine. “Hopefully the agreement can be ratified.”

A second road blockade by Fuerabamba villagers on the outskirts of Challhuahuacho was suspended on Monday, in a sign of goodwill toward the government ahead of the arrival of the prime minister later this week, Rojas told local news channel Canal N on Monday.

Rojas reiterated in his interview with Canal N that villagers want Fuerabamba’s three attorneys to be released from jail, where a judge has ordered them to remain for three years while they are investigated for allegedly trying to extort MMG.

The agreement Rojas signed on Saturday did not mention the lawyers, who have denied wrongdoing. But Rojas previously said that Fuerabamba would maintain the road blockade until the lawyers were released from jail.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler

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