LIMA – At least four people were seriously injured in a new round of clashes pitting police against protesters demanding the cancelation of Southern Copper’s Tia Maria project in the southern Peruvian province of Islay, regional health officials told Efe.
Four National Police officers were injured when they were attacked by demonstrators armed with metal chains and rocks on Wednesday morning, a day after the conflict claimed its second fatal victim, local media reported.
The wounded officers were taken to a hospital in the city of Mollendo, where local residents on Tuesday began backing a 45-day “indefinite strike” by peasants in the Tambo Valley against the copper-mine project, which opponents say will contaminate crops and the Tambo River.
The clashes occurred hours before a scheduled meeting in the southern city of Arequipa in which Peruvian government officials, including Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Maria Ortiz, and local authorities opposed to the project were to resume talks that had been suspended for a week.
Peru’s national ombud’s office said in a statement Tuesday that two people have died and 186 have been injured, including 111 police officers, since demonstrations were launched on March 23.
Southern Copper, a unit of Mexico City-based mining giant Grupo Mexico, said on March 27 that it had no plans to halt the project, contradicting an announcement to that effect hours earlier by its official spokesman in Peru, who said the project had to be scrapped due to “anti-mining terrorism.”
Southern Copper 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.
The company had said those operations would begin in 2016, but because of the protests no concrete start date is currently being given.