At least one killed in protests at MMG's Las Bambas project in Peru

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 28, 2015 9:22 PM

LIMA (Reuters) - At least one person was killed and 13 wounded in clashes between police and protesters demanding that MMG Ltd revise part of its $7.4 billion Las Bambas copper project and hire more locals, authorities said on Monday.

The unrest in the Andean town of Challhuahuacho comes as MMG has been wrapping up construction of the massive mine, which is expected to add 400,000 tonnes of copper annually to global supply.

A man taking part in demonstrations died from a bullet wound when clashes erupted, said Uriel Condori, a councilor with the government of Challhuahuacho in the southern region of Apurimac.

Local protesters oppose a change to the mine's environmental plan that they say would process more mineral concentrates locally instead being piped to another town - threatening the environment, Condori said.

Locals are also upset with the drop in employment since construction projects linked to the mine have ended, Condori and Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez said.

Perez said 1,400 police officers had been sent to the region ahead of protests that started Friday.

President Ollanta Humala said that violence erupted when protesters tried to break into the mine's facilities. He said members of his cabinet were in talks with local authorities in Apurimac.

"The state has not abandoned the people of Challhuahuacho," Humala told reporters on the sidelines of a televised event. "We regret this situation and the loss of life."

MMG representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The company said last week that it expected commercial production to start in May or June and that relations with local communities were largely positive.

Peru, expected to nearly double its copper output in coming years, is rife with conflicts over mining. Many towns near big projects fear pollution or want to see more benefits for locals.

Earlier this year, violent protests derailed Southern Copper Corp's $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project just as construction was about to start.

Condori said that protesters in Challhuahuacho are not calling for Las Bambas to be canceled.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj; Editing by Leslie Adler)