LIMA – Southern Copper Corp. said it will continue to develop the Tia Maria copper project in the southern Peruvian region of Arequipa, hours after its official spokesman in Peru announced its cancelation due to “anti-mining terrorism.”
Southern Copper, which operates in Peru through its Southern Peru Copper Corp. branch, said Friday in a statement sent to the media that it will continue with its best efforts to carry out the Tia Maria project.
The statement quoted Southern Copper’s CEO, Oscar Gonzalez Rocha, as saying that the “statements made by a company official,” referring to spokesman Julio Morriberon, who said the company was exiting the Arequipa region, “do not reflect the will of the company.”
“We believe the Tia Maria project is important and will be very beneficial for the company, its workers, the population where it’s located, and for the Arequipa region and the country,” Gonzalez said.
The statement said Southern Copper “firmly believes in the virtue of integration between the agriculture and mining” sectors, and is receptive to the call by different social actors for a resumption of constructive dialogue.
Hours earlier, Morriberon, Southern Copper’s director of institutional relations, told RPP Noticias radio that the company had decided to cancel the project due to “anti-mining terrorism” in the area.
He said the decision would be made official by the company’s top management.
Southern Copper, a unit of Mexico City-based mining giant Grupo Mexico, plans to invest some $1.2 billion in the construction of Tia Maria, which has an estimated mine life of 18 years and is projected to produce 120,000 metric tons of copper cathodes annually from the start of operations in 2016.
The project had been halted for two years after peasant protests in 2011 in the small town of Islay left three dead and 44 wounded, and as a result the Peruvian government did not deliver the construction permits until the beginning of this year.
This week, the government deployed 2,000 police to contain a peasant protest against Tia Maria, where on Monday peasant communities from the Tambo Valley launched an indefinite protest to demand the cancelation of the mining project.
On Monday, peasants in Islay blocked the main roads in the region to express their rejection of the mine project, which they say will harm agriculture.
Southern Copper operates mines and metallurgical complexes in Mexico and Peru and conducts exploration work in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru.