LIMA – The Peruvian government declared Tuesday a state of emergency in five southern provinces following violent clashes over the Las Bambas mining project that left three dead and 15 wounded.
The decree by the Cabinet published in the official gazette said Tuesday that the state of emergency applies to the provinces of Cotabambas, Grau, Andahuaylas and Chincheros in the Apurimac region, and to Chumbivilcas and Espinar in the Cuzco region.
National Police will be in charge of public order in the area with the support of the armed forces, the decree said.
Suspended during the state of emergency are human rights related to personal freedom and security, privacy of the home, and the rights of assembly and travel in the area.
Apurimac Gov. Wilber Venegas said in an interview on radio RPP Noticias that Monday’s clashes between demonstrators and police left three people dead and 15 wounded, among police and civilians, in the Chalhuahuacho district of Cotabambas.
Police used tear gas to break up a rally of social organizations that reject the modification of the environmental impact study of the Las Bambas copper-mining project of the Australian firm MMG, an affiliate of China Minmetals Corp.
Venegas asked the administration to send a high-level commission to the area to hear the demands of local residents and find a way to calm the tension.
Last Friday a general strike was called by local leaders and authorities in Cotabambas and Grau in the area of the Las Bambas project.
According to representatives of the Defense Front of the Tambobamba district, the mining company has modified the environmental impact study in order to install processing plants and a mineral transport system in Cotabambas, which they fear will affect their lands.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said Monday that he regretted “this loss of lives,” though he added that his government “is doing its duty” to care for the population in those areas.
MMG says that Las Bambas has reserves of 6.9 million tons of copper and expects to produce more than 2 million tons of copper concentrate in its first five years.
The deposit was discovered at more than 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level and will become one of the largest copper mines in the world once it is in full production.