By Marco Aquino
LIMA – Peruvian indigenous communities occupying a key copper mine will agree to talks with officials and company representatives only if the government lifts its emergency order for the region, leaders of the groups told Reuters on Monday.
The conflict over the Las Bambas mine, one of the world’s biggest copper mines and a large contributor to government coffers, has stoked uncertainty over the South American country’s massive mining sector.
The government declared a state of emergency in the area around the mine on April 27, which suspended civil liberties including the right to assembly and protest. The mine is owned by China’s MMG Ltd,
“We’re not going to participate if the state of emergency persists,” said Edison Vargas, a leader of the Fuerabamba community, one of two local communities protesting the mine along with the nearby Huancuire. Speaking via telephone, Vargas added that around 700 community members remain on the mine property.
Late last week, government officials proposed talks for this coming weekend and invited representatives from both Fuerabamba and Huancuire to attend.
On April 14, members of the Fuerabamba and Huancuire communities entered the mine and set up a protest camp, forcing the company to suspend operations a week later. Community leaders argue that the mine has not fully honored its past commitments.
Alexander Raul, a Huancuire community adviser, said on Monday the Huancuire protesters will not budge.
“We’re around 300 people still here who are sticking with the protest,” he said in a telephone interview.
Peru is the world’s second-largest copper producer, and Las Bambas alone normally accounts for 2% of global output of the red metal.
The police tried to evict the Huancuire community last week but did not succeed. Fuerabamba community members had been evicted days earlier, but later re-entered, according to representatives of both communities.
Peru’s government and local company representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.