Protesters block road used by MMG's massive copper mine in Peru

LIMA (Reuters) - Indigenous protesters in Peru have blocked China-owned miner MMG Ltd from using a highway on their community’s farmland high in the Andes, keeping the company from transporting copper from its massive Las Bambas mine, the community’s attorney said on Monday.

Families from the indigenous village of Nueva Fuerabamba started occupying the road nearly a week ago to demand the company compensate them for use of it, said Nueva Fuerabamba attorney Carlos Vargas. The protest will continue until MMG’s senior officials in Peru agree to talks, he added.

MMG, the international mining unit of China’s state-owned China Minmetals Corp Ltd [CHMIN.UL], said there was no immediate impact to operations but that “all concentrate logistics are suspended.”

“As it stands, the road is still blocked to all traffic,” MMG said in a statement to Reuters from its headquarters in Australia on Monday.

“MMG is committed to establishing a meaningful dialogue with the community members and have engaged with public authorities,” it added.

Vargas accused the company of building the road on Nueva Fuerabamba’s farmland without consulting the community, and said the government illegally seized it by making it a state highway in May.

Peru’s energy and mines ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Las Bambas, one of Peru’s largest copper mines at more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) in the country’s southern mining belt, produced about 190,000 tonnes of copper in the first six months of 2018, according to government data.

The protests mark the latest conflict stemming from Las Bambas’ decision to transport its copper over unpaved roads instead of through a pipeline.

Indigenous farming communities in the region have raised safety and health concerns about heavy dust churned up by hundreds of trucks used by Las Bambas every day.

Clashes between protesters and authorities left four local men dead in 2015 and 2016. Protesters blocking roads in 2016 suspended Las Bambas’ shipments of copper from Matarani and nearly halted its operations.

Nueva Fuerabamba was the only community relocated to make way for Las Bambas. Community members have said the company did not deliver all it promised in a deal that gave them a new town near the mine and farmland in a neighboring region.

In June, Nueva Fuerabamba filed a lawsuit against the company, seeking 150 million soles ($46 million) and the annulment of its relocation agreement with the company, said Frank Chavez, another attorney for the community.

MMG called the claim “unfounded and opportunistic,” vowing to contest it.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Lisa Shumaker