Peru copper mines rev back up to full power after protest hit, data show

Peru communities reject latest proposal to end Las Bambas mine conflicts
Members of indigenous communities camp on the property of Chinese-owned Las Bambas copper mine, in Las Bambas, Peru April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Angela Ponce/File Photo

LIMA, March 3 (Reuters) - Key copper mines in Peru are cranking up activity again after protests and blockades dented production, power data analyzed by Reuters showed, potentially boosting supply from the world's no. 2 producer of the red metal.

Major copper mines including Las Bambas, owned by China's MMG Ltd (1208.HK), and Glencore Plc's (GLEN.L) Antapaccay are drawing on full power, publicly available electricity data up to Friday show, after reduced usage amid disruptions.

The data from Peruvian power sector body COES gave the most rapid and detailed gauge of Peru's mining activity, key for understanding the supply outlook for the metal, with global prices already elevated at around $9,000 per tonne.

Peru has been roiled by anti-government protests since the Dec. 7 ouster of former leftist President Pedro Castillo, including road blockades in the copper-rich south which have at times prevented supplies reaching mines and copper leaving.

However, protesters eased road blockades on a key mining highway last month, which has allowed mines to return progressively to normal levels of activity, the data showed. The data did not indicate whether transport of ore has improved.

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Copper mines in the country have long faced disruption from community protests that have at times led to lengthy shutdowns.

Peru's copper production dropped 3.63% in January from a year earlier, official data showed, the first decline after three straight months of increases.

Las Bambas, producer of some 2% of global copper, has operated at full power since the start of March after choppiness since early February.

Antapaccay, hit by attacks on its site and supply trucks, has returned to full activity this week, according to the data and a source close to the mine, after a lengthy downturn, also since early February.

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Representatives of Las Bambas and Antapaccay were not immediately available for comment.

However, communities in Chumbivilcas province, a key area for the southern mining corridor, were planning to meet on Friday to discuss a possible restart of protests.

"For now (the mining road) is free, but we have a meeting tonight and we will see what measures we take," Carlos Quispe, a leader of the Chumbivilcas Defense Front, told Reuters.

"If we maintain things or block the road again, that is decided by the communities themselves."

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(This story has been refiled to fix a typo in the headline)

Reporting by Marco Aquino; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Cynthia Osterman

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