Protests Force Mining Billionaire German Larrea To Halt $1.4 Billion Copper Project In Peru – by Dolia Estevez (Forbes Magazine – May 20, 2015)

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Fifty days of protests against the $1.4 billion Tía María copper mining project in southern Peru forced Grupo Mexico , owned by Mexican mining billionaire German Larrea Mota Velasco, to call for a two-month truce, Peruvian and Mexican media reported.

Oscar Gonzalez Rocha, CEO and President of Southern Copper, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, announced Friday a 60-day “pause” on the Tía María project to allow the parties involved to present “their concerns and fears, identify solutions, agree on a path to move forward and define responsibilities that all must assume in a reasonable time,” EFE reported from Lima.

Carlos Galvez, president of Peru’s National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy (SNMPE), a non-profit business association, supported the truce. “No project can be imposed by force; a truce would be the most appropriate,” said Galvez, according to Mexico’s El Economista.

But the announcement did not stop community and civil groups in seven regions in Southern Peru, the world’s third-biggest copper producer, from calling for a 48-hour stoppage on May 27 and 28 to demand the total annulment of the mining project.

Protests against the Tía María project, controlled by Southern Copper, a Grupo Mexico affiliate, took a turn for the worse in late March when communities in the Arequipa region, not far from Peru’s southern border with Chile, expressed fears that the yearly production of 120,000 tons of copper cathodes will pollute their land and water.

The Peruvian government has sent 2,000 police to the area and the Army deployed 1,000 soldiers to back them up. Peru’s Interior Minister said Tuesday that the police are authorized to use firearms in “a rational way” if they are attack by protesters. So far, three people are reported killed and more than 200 others wounded in clashes between authorities and the protesters.

The United Steelworkers (USW), representing workers in the U.S. and Canada, and Mexico’s National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers (SNTMMSSRM), offered support for the protesters. In a statement issued Monday, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, Secretary General of SNTMMSSRM, and Leo W. Gerard, USW International President, said they “condemn the brutal military repression directed by the Peruvian government and Grupo Mexico/Southern Copper against the people of Arequipa who oppose the Tía María project.”

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