Protests against the country’s biggest copper project resulted in at least three deaths
LIMA, Peru—Peru on Tuesday declared martial law in parts of its southern highlands after protests against the country’s biggest copper project resulted in at least three deaths.
The protests are the latest to hit Peru’s mining sector, which is one of the world’s top producers of copper, gold and silver. Mining accounts for about 50% of Peru’s exports.
The prime minister’s office said that martial law would be implemented in four provinces in the Apurímac region and two provinces in the neighboring Cuzco region, located high in Peru’s southern Andes.
Local residents clashed with police on Monday during protests against the $7.4 billion Las Bambas copper mine, owned by a consortium led by China’s MMG Ltd.
During the 30-day period of martial law, civil liberties like freedom of association and movement will be restricted, while police are allowed to enter houses without search warrants.
President Ollanta Humala has struggled to resolve opposition from rural communities to mining since taking office in 2011, resulting in the suspension of several large projects after violent clashes between protesters and police.
In May, Southern Copper Corp. put its Tía María project on hold after weeks of protests by farmers over concerns about pollution. Newmont Mining’s majority-owned Minas Conga copper and gold project was also suspended following demonstrations over its potential impact on the water supply.
On Friday, residents began protests over what they say are changes to Las Bambas’ environmental permit. Protesters say they weren’t consulted when the consortium led by MMG, which acquired Las Bambas in 2014 from Glencore, modified the permit to build a plant to process the mining ore near their communities rather than transport the material by pipe, raising concerns about pollution.
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