LIMA (Reuters) – A government negotiating team sent to Peru’s southern copper belt to calm rising tensions at a Chinese-owned mine was repelled by indigenous protesters who hurled rocks at its helicopter on Wednesday, a government official said.
Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra’s government had tasked the team, led by three ministers, with finding a peaceful end to a 51-day road blockade that has choked off access to Chinese miner MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas mine, one of the country’s largest copper producers.
However, protesters used slingshots to hurl rocks at the ministers’ helicopter when it arrived at the blockade, where they had hoped to restart talks with representatives of the indigenous community of Fuerabamba, Development Minister Paola Bustamante, part of the team, said in a televised interview.
Fuerabamba, an Andean village relocated to make way for the mine, started the blockade in early February to demand compensation from MMG for transporting copper from Las Bambas on a road on its farmland. MMG has said it is open to talks.
However, Fuerabamba is now demanding freedom for its leader and three lawyers who were jailed last week over accusations they organised the blockade to extort MMG, which is controlled by state-owned China Minmetals.