The biggest obstacle to Peru’s dream of some day supplanting Chile as the world’s largest copper producer may be Peru itself.
Despite higher-grade ores and lower mining costs than neighboring Chile, the Peruvian government says the country’s potential in copper is being restricted by too much bureaucracy. Mine owners also complain about weak infrastructure and strong opposition to projects from people who fear increased environmental risks and disruption to their communities.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who was elected last year, is pushing expansion of the mining industry as a key to stimulating growth and reducing poverty. His government wants to exploit ore reserves that are the third-largest in the world. While copper output has been rising in the past two years, it remains well below the amount produced in Chile.
“We are not saying it will be easy,” Peru Mines and Energy Minister Cayetana Aljovin said in an interview, referring to matching Chile’s output. “We can reach those levels if Peru keeps sending positive signals. We need to create the necessary conditions for mining to grow in our country so the government can invest in basic services, healthcare, education and infrastructure.”
Peru already is the second-largest producer in the world. Last year it boosted output by 35 percent, driven by increases at the Las Bambas mine, run by Chinese-owned MMG Ltd., and by gains at Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Inc.’s Cerro Verde, the largest copper mine in the Andean country.
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