Peru's Antamina copper mine had to halt operations Sunday due to a strike by a rural community that decided to block one of the roads through which output is carried.
We believe that there are no guarantees to carry out our productive work or to continue working on projects and works for development in our area of operational influence, the multinational company announced on Twitter.
The company, under the control of the Australian BHP Billiton and the Swiss Glencore, urged the government to restore order to resume dialogue between the parties, and pointed out that for as long as these conditions are not met, we cannot continue to operate.
The Antamina deposit in the Ancash region, Huari province, at an altitude of 4,300 meters above sea level is a source of copper, silver and zinc.
The suspension of operations comes after two violent protests against two other mining companies in Ayacucho, southern Peru, where their camps were burned and looted Thursday and Friday.
The peasant community of the Aquia District, neighbouring the deposit, denounces that Antamina usurped land that belongs to it and demands better social conditions. Antamina has built an underground pipeline to transport the mineral. The peasants have for a week blocked the road through which this pipeline passes.
Protesters are demanding compensation for the use of their land to transport the ore produced by Antamina, which is owned by BHP (33.75%), Glencore (33.75%), Teck Resources (22.75%) and Mitsubishi (10%).
The mining company has based its decision to halt operations on the potential risk of violence against its facilities after threats ensued the failure of dialogue, leading up to fears that fire and obstruction of communication routes and crimes against public tranquillity, in the form of disturbances may take place. “We don’t want to wait until something happens that puts at risk the physical integrity of anybody. … We think the government and its authorities must act to re-establish order,” the company said in a statement.
Peru's Interior Ministry has pledged in a statement its commitment to continue maintaining public order with full respect for fundamental rights and social peace.
The peasants have requested the presence of President Pedro Castillo to solve the conflict. The socialist leader swept to power pledging to strike a new deal with the copper mining sector and redistribute profits to Andean communities like those around Antamina, MMG’s Las Bambas and Glencore’s Antapaccay.
Antamina is one of the ten largest mines in the world in terms of output volume and is the largest copper mine in Peru, according to the company. Peru is one of the world's largest producers of silver, copper and gold. Mining is one of the engines of the Peruvian economy.
“We see an intolerable violation of the state of law that puts the lives of workers and the population at great risk, as well as well as to public and private property,” executive director Pablo de la Flor said in a statement.
Before the recent wave of social unrest, Antamina was expected to become the world’s fourth-largest copper-producing mine this year. Operation’s manager Víctor Gobitz had said last month that copper output was expected to jump by 11.8% this year to 443,000 tons, compared to Chile’s Escondida at 1.13 million tons, PT Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia at 620,300 tons, and Chile’s Collahuasi at 600,000 tons.
Government figures show Antamina churned out 302,958 tonnes of copper in the January-August period, a 25.6% increase compared to the same period last year. It also paid taxes representing about 4% of the country’s total tax revenue in 2020. Peru is the world’s second-biggest copper producer after neighbouring Chile and a major supplier of silver and zinc.
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