LIMA – Peru’s government is studying the possibility of declaring a state of emergency in the southern province of Islay, where protests against Southern Copper’s Tia Maria project have left two dead and nearly 200 injured in recent weeks.
President Ollanta Humala’s administration is considering adopting a different strategy in response to the clashes in Islay, a province in the Arequipa region where local farmers launched an “indefinite strike” 45 days ago, Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Maria Ortiz told Radio Programas del Peru on Thursday.
“(Declaring a state of emergency) is one of the possibilities being considered. We haven’t decided yet. We’re going to continue discussing this matter at the Cabinet level and with the president,” Ortiz said.
She lamented that negotiations between the government and opponents of the copper project broke down once again on Thursday, when local authorities and grassroots leaders in Islay abandoned the talks without reaching an agreement.
The minister blamed the mine opponents for the failure of the talks, saying they had demanded cancelation of the project as a pre-condition.
“We can’t accept that imposition, and they didn’t want to keep talking anymore,” Ortiz said.
The minister also expressed regret over violent clashes in the city of Mollendo, also located in Islay, that occurred just hours before Thursday’s talks and left four police wounded, two of them seriously.
Southern Copper, a unit of Mexico City-based mining giant Grupo Mexico, said on March 27 that it had no plans to halt the Tia Maria project, contradicting an announcement to that effect hours earlier by its official spokesman in Peru, who said the project would have 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.