Protests erupt in Peru over billion-dollar copper mine

The country's main coastal highway was blocked on Monday as protesters demanded the cancellation of the project.

    Peru, one of the world's largest producers of copper, recently granted permission to Southern Copper Corporation to move forward with a copper mine project in the country estimated to be worth $1.4bn [Mitra Taj/Reuters]
    Peru, one of the world's largest producers of copper, recently granted permission to Southern Copper Corporation to move forward with a copper mine project in the country estimated to be worth $1.4bn [Mitra Taj/Reuters]

    Protesters blocked a portion of Peru's main coastal highway on Monday in the start of a new challenge to a billion-dollar copper mining project that has been a lightning rod for conflict.

    Protesters from the area bordering Southern Copper Corp's $1.4bn Tia Maria copper mine project in the south of Peru carried signs and flags as they occupied a section of the highway, snarling traffic for cargo vehicles and others.

    The project has long been lamented by residents in the southern region of Arequipa where farmers say the mine will pollute their fields and affect water supplies.

    "We are not going to talk. We want the presence of President (Martin) Vizcarra with the cancellation of the project," Luis Cornejo, the mayor of Cocachacra district told Reuters, referencing the construction permit granted by the government on July 9.

    Southern Copper spent years awaiting the final green light that former governments had declined to give because of fears it would revive deadly protests that previously derailed the project. At least six protesters were killed in clashes with police in 2011 and 2015. The company said it would not begin construction until it gains more support from people who live in the area.

    Southern Copper declined to comment on Monday's demonstrations.

    Peruvian Prime Minister Salvador del Solar said on Monday that the government is open to discussions with provincial government officials, but had not yet received a response.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency