Peru orders army to secure port in face of protest against mining project

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against Tia Maria mine in Arequipa, Peru July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Diego Ramos

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra on Sunday authorized the army to maintain order at a key mining port, a day before an expected new round of protests against Southern Copper Corp’s $1.4-billion proposed Tia Maria mine.

Vizcarra, in a resolution published on the government’s news site, authorized the armed forces to support police in controlling any further protests in the province of Islay, where the project is planned. The document said any new protests could affect operations at the Matarani Port Terminal.

On Monday, local social organizations were expected to begin a new round of actions against Tia Maria. Matarani is used by major copper miners such as Cerro Verde, Antapaccay de Glencore and Constancia de Hudbay, according to the private Peruvian Association of Maritime Agents.

Islay residents have protested since mid-July with partial road blockades. Tia Maria opponents say they fear the mine would interfere with farming and pollute water supplies, even though Southern Copper says it plans to build a desalinization plant to ensure the environment is protected.

Peru is the world’s second-largest copper producer.

Reporting by Marco Aquino, writing by Hugh Bronstein