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Peru Mine Blockade Disrupts Copper Flow

Fresh Standoff at Key Copper Mine Threatens Production

by Victor Adetimilehin

Peru’s Las Bambas copper mine, a critical player in the global market, is facing renewed disruptions as a local community protest reignites. Talks between the mine’s owner, China’s MMG, and the community over development funding broke down, leading to a fresh blockade.

A Mine with a History of Hiccups

Las Bambas is a significant contributor to the world’s copper supply, providing roughly 2% of the global total. However, the mine’s operations have been frequently interrupted by protests organized by local communities seeking a greater share of the mine’s economic benefits.

Last week, residents from the Velille district in Peru’s Cusco region initiated a blockade of the main mining corridor. This action aimed to pressure MMG to increase its financial contributions to local development projects. The protest was temporarily suspended on Tuesday to facilitate negotiations with company representatives.

Unfortunately, these talks failed to reach a resolution. Community members rejected the company’s offer of a yearly contribution of one million soles ($270,000) for the next two years, considering it insufficient. Their initial demand was double that amount.

“We couldn’t find common ground,” stated Robertson Pacheco, president of the Velille Defense Front. “The blockade resumes as mining vehicles cannot pass through.”

Production Impact and Potential Solutions

Las Bambas has yet to comment on the situation. Since its opening in 2016, the mine has been forced to halt production for over 600 days due to various protests and blockades.

In the past, the company has utilized an alternative, longer route to transport copper concentrate for export. However, this has only partially mitigated the production impact. Government data reveals that the mine produced approximately 302,000 metric tons of copper in 2023, a slight increase from 2022’s output of nearly 255,000 tons.

The Path Forward: Seeking a Sustainable Solution

The renewed blockade at Las Bambas underscores the ongoing challenge for mining companies operating in Peru. Finding a sustainable solution requires open communication and a commitment to addressing the concerns of local communities. Increased investment in local development projects alongside transparent revenue-sharing mechanisms could pave the way for a more harmonious future for the mine and the surrounding communities.

This situation also highlights the potential vulnerability of global supply chains that rely on a handful of major producers. Diversifying sources and exploring alternative materials could help mitigate the impact of such disruptions in the future.

Source: Mining.com

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