How the violence at Southern Copper’s Tia Maria mining project could have been avoided – by Robert Spence (Mining Global – May 25, 2015)

The government of Peru declared a state of emergency on Saturday, calling in national police and armed forces to maintain order as protests at the Tia Maria copper project turned violent.

According to CNN, one protester appeared to be dead from wounds to the head as others battled with police who lobbed tear gas at them.

The announcement follows almost two months of increasingly violent protests against the $1.4 billion copper mining project as oppositions fear the mine will pollute the environment and do very little for the local economy.

“We don’t want the mine,” said Enrique Torres Alvarez, an 85-year-old farmer attending a rally in Cocachacra’s main square. “It will ruin our land, and that will be the end of the farming.”

Development of Tia Maria, which is owned by Southern Copper, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, has been suspended since 2011 due to protests.

Earlier this month, Southern Copper CEO Oscar Gonzalez Rocha asked for all parties involved to “present their concerns and fears, identify solutions … and define the responsibilities that all must assume in a reasonable timeframe.”

However, it may be a little too late.

Problems from the beginning

This isn’t the first time one of Grupo Mexico’s projects has dealt with opposition from local communities.

Last year, Grupo Mexico’s subsidiary Buenavista del Cobre mine spilled 10 million gallons of copper sulfate acid into the Sonora and Bacnuchi rivers in northern Mexico, contaminating water supply of 24,000 people in seven communities. It’s the worst ecological disasters in Mexican history.

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