Peru president names new minister to shape mining policy

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski swore in Cayetana Aljovin as the new Energy and Mines Minister on Thursday, tasking the former business manager and journalist with shaping mining policy in the world’s No.2 copper, zinc and silver producer.

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Aljovin, who spent the past year overseeing social programs in the South American nation as Development and Social Inclusion Minister, replaces Gonzalo Tamayo, a former economic consultant.

Aljovin, 50, faces the challenge of trying to revive mining investments that are on set to fall for the fourth straight year in 2017 amid calls from the industry for new incentives to spur exploration. She will also supervise Petroperu as the state-owned energy company tries to resume use of its oil pipeline after more than a dozen ruptures.

“She has her work cut out for her,” said Luis Marchese, the head of Peru’s National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy. Marchese praised Aljovin as “a very prestigious professional” with strong leadership skills.

Mining accounts for about 15 percent of Peru’s gross domestic product, and minerals make up some 60 percent of export earnings. Global miners including Freeport-McMoRan Inc, MMG Ltd, Southern Copper Corp and Barrick Gold Corp operate in Peru.

When he took office a year ago, Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker, promised to cut red tape, encourage investments in smelters to boost the value of mineral exports and try to revive proposed mines derailed by protests in recent years.

No major announcement related to mining has been made so far in Kuczynski’s term, though his centrist government loosened emissions limits to attract investments in smelters and plans to auction Anglo American Plc’s former copper project Michiquillay this year.

Victor Gobitz, chief executive of Peruvian miner Buenaventura, said the government should work closer with mining companies to devise ways to encourage new mineral discoveries and to share infrastructure to cut costs.

Luis Rivera, director of the Institute of Mining Engineers of Peru, said Aljovin should focus on helping medium-sized mining projects get off the ground to counter the economy’s slowdown in the wake of flooding and a graft scandal this year.

Aljovin earned a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and a masters in business administration from Chile’s Adolfo Ibanez University. She was previously a local manager of BellSouth, a government official and a TV host.

Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by W Simon and James Dalgleish