Peru tightened security and closed schools in the country’s south as unions began a 48-hour protest as part of the biggest wave of mining opposition in three years.
A contingent of riot police guarded the main square of Arequipa, the biggest southern city, and shop windows were partially shuttered, Radio Programas reported. Police and army officers patrolled the Tambo Valley, the site of Southern Copper Corp.’s Tia Maria copper project.
Peru’s goal of becoming a copper powerhouse is being threatened by violent protests against Tia Maria in the past two months, according to Carlos Galvez, president of Peru’s National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy. The upheaval could reduce mining investment to “very close to zero” by 2018, down from a record $9.7 billion in 2013, unless the government defends new projects, he said in an interview in Lima Tuesday.
Peru, the world’s third-biggest copper producer, is poised to increase output of the metal 73 percent in the next three years on new capacity from Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and MMG Ltd. Investment needed to sustain the expansion is on hold because of protests by local groups opposed to mining, Galvez said.
“These people have a clear objective — no economic development — and they’re achieving it,” Galvez said. “They’re opposing projects approved by the state. What’s most worrying is that the next step is opposing existing operations.”
Trade unions and other organizations will march in as many as nine southern states in support of farmers opposing Tia Maria on concern it will pollute rivers and the air in the Tambo Valley, said Geronmino Lopez, secretary general of the Arequipa branch of Peru’s trade union confederation, the CGTP.
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