Exclusive: China-owned Las Bambas mine weighs plan to evict protesting communities

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LAS BAMBAS, Peru, April 26 (Reuters) - Chinese-owned MMG Ltd's (1208.HK) huge Las Bambas copper mine in Peru is considering a plan to evict indigenous communities that have camped on the property and forced a production halt, according to an executive and a document seen by Reuters.

Under Peruvian civil law, property owners can attempt to evict trespassers by force during the first 15 days after they have settled in the property. If that time period lapses, then they need to go through a lengthier legal process.

People from the Fuerabamba and Huancuire communities entered the mine on April 14 and pitched tents inside the property, including near the mine's massive open pit. Las Bambas, which produces 2% of global copper, halted operations on April 20.

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"It's still in the process of being decided," Carlos Castro, Las Bambas head of corporate affairs, said in a text message, when asked about the eviction plan on Tuesday. "The repossession defense can be exercised within the 15 days established by law."

Getting production started again at Las Bambas would add to global supply, potentially dampening prices, though the mine has faced recurring disruptions from impoverished local communities demanding higher financial contributions from the mine.

According to a letter from Peru's official ombudsman seen by Reuters, Las Bambas is planning to attempt the eviction on Wednesday.

The document, which is addressed to Peru's chief of police, asks that law enforcement officials abstain from engaging in violence if the eviction attempt takes place, considering the presence of women, children and elderly people.

A government source confirmed that the eviction had been discussed but he said a final decision was likely to be made on Wednesday. Peru is the world's no. 2 copper producer.

On Tuesday the Fuerabamba and Huancuire communities were preparing for a potential eviction, community leaders told a Reuters reporter who visited the site. Rumors had circled throughout the day about a potential attempt.

The Fuerabamba community was resettled to make way for Las Bambas, one of the word's largest copper mines, around a decade ago. The Huancuire community has sold land to Las Bambas.

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Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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