Two fires break out at copper projects in Peru amid protests -sources

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The Las Bambas copper mine is pictured in Apurimac, Peru May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Angela Ponce

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LIMA, June 1 (Reuters) - Southern Copper Corp (SCCO.N) said that a fire broke out at its Los Chancas mining project on Tuesday evening, at around the same time as another fire started at MMG Ltd's (1208.HK) Las Bambas copper mine, sources said, amid intensified protests against mines in recent months.

Communities in Peru, the world's No. 2 copper producer, are demanding higher benefits from the industry and prices for the red metal remain high.

The situation is especially challenging for MMG and Southern Copper.

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Las Bambas is one of the world's largest copper mines, and operations have been halted since April 20 by protesting members of the indigenous Huancuire community that has settled inside company property.

Southern Copper suspended operations earlier this year for over 50 days at its Cuajone mine, as neighboring residents demanded a share of company profits, shutting the mine's water supply in protest.

The government of leftist President Pedro Castillo has struggled to appease protesters since taking office last July. Castillo was elected with massive support in mining regions amid pledges to better redistribute mining profits.

In a statement on Wednesday, Southern Copper confirmed the fire at Los Chancas, a $2.6 billion project that has yet to be built.

The company and a government source said the fire was caused in part by artisanal miners who have already been extracting copper in the area and who oppose construction of the new mine.

The company added that no people had been harmed in the fire.

The fire at Las Bambas was confirmed by a source close to the company.

Huancuire and Las Bambas said injuries had been sustained during a clash on Tuesday with police.

Alexander Anglas, a lawyer for the Huancuire community, said it had not caused the fire but remained inside company property following a clash with police.

In a statement, Las Bambas said Huancuire members had "caused damages to goods and other infrastructure" after mine personnel, escorted by police, sought to enter the settlement area.

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Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

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