One killed in Peru protests against Las Bambas copper mine

LIMA (Reuters) - A farmer in Peru was killed on Friday during rallies in a remote Andean town against MMG Ltd’s $10-billion Las Bambas copper mine, the first protester to die in clashes over mining in President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s new government.

Protesters block a road standing next to the body of Quintino Cereceda Huisa, a 42-year-old farmer who was shot dead on October 16 in clashes with police during a weeklong blockage of the road by locals protesting against Las Bambas, a Chinese-owned mine in Apurimac, Peru, October 17, 2016. Picture taken October 17, 2016. Miguel Neyra/El Comercio/via REUTERSFOR EDITORIAL

Unrest erupted in the highland region of Apurimac as police tried to clear townsfolk from a road they had been blocking for nearly a week, leaving dead a 42-year-old man, said Artemio Solano, a representative of the ombudsman’s office.

Congressman Richard Arce, who represents Apurimac, said the man was shot dead by police and that scores of people from towns nearby were also wounded.

A photograph from the clash provided by Arce’s office showed a man lying belly-up on blood-stained stones in a field.

The protesters were upset because of the heavy dust and noise on the road where trucks transport the Chinese-owned mine’s copper concentrates, Solano and Arce said.

“On a recent visit I saw 97 trucks carrying 30 tonnes of concentrates in 22 minutes. Passing by in front of people’s homes,” Arce said. “That would be outrageous to anyone.”

Peru’s interior ministry said it lamented the death and added that 20 police had been wounded, including one who risked losing his eye after being hit by rocks.

Police said they were investigating the incident.

The clash occurred some 40 to 50 km (25 to 31 miles) from the mine site and the road blockage did not impede copper shipments because they took an alternate route, said Las Bambas spokesman Domingo Drago.

Peru’s economy has been recovering this year on the back of surging output from Las Bambas and other new mines that are expected to make the country the world’s second biggest copper producer.

Las Bambas produced 35,000 tonnes of copper in August, or nearly a fifth of national output, official data show.

Three people protesting Las Bambas were also killed last year in clashes over changes to the mine’s environmental plan and dwindling jobs as construction wrapped up.

Kuczynski, who took office July 28, promised to ease opposition to mining in Peru by ensuring communities receive the benefits of projects before they are built.

But his centrist government has inherited scores of deep-rooted conflicts in remote regions, including protests over oil pollution in the northern Amazon after Peru’s main crude pipeline sprung half-a-dozen leaks this year.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Clarence Fernandez