April 12, 2019 / 4:42 PM / 2 months ago

Peru indigenous community may resume copper mine roadblock over compensation

LIMA, April 12 (Reuters) - The indigenous community of Fuerabamba in Peru’s southern Andes region will decide on Friday whether to end or resume its roadblock of Chinese miner MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas copper mine, the president of the community said.

Fuerabamba villagers started the blockade in February to demand compensation from MMG for using a stretch of road that runs through its farmland. But they suspended the action ahead of a visit by the prime minister.

Gregorio Rojas, the leader of Fuerabamba, said the talks did not solve Fuerabamba’s demands, and villagers would decide on Friday whether to resume or end the blockade.

“The prime minister has taken a good step,” Rojas said in comments broadcast late Thursday after the negotiations. “But the problem at our farmland is still not solved.”

Rojas reiterated that Fuerabamba villagers want authorities to release the community’s three lawyers from jail. They were ordered to serve up to three years in jail while they are investigated for allegedly extorting MMG.

Fuerabamba’s roadblock has halted the company’s exports from Las Bambas, which produces about 400,000 tonnes of copper per year, equal to about 2 percent of global production.

The company has warned it might stop production at Las Bambas after villagers from Fuerabamba and nearby communities protested the arrests by taking control of another road, which Las Bambas needs to receive supplies.

Fuerabamba and other communities agreed to end that blockade on Thursday after the government promised infrastructure and development projects for the region.

MMG should be able to continue production at Las Bambas as long as it can keep sending in supplies, a company source said earlier this week.

“We have had some limited movement of inbound transport logistics,” MMG said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “We are committed to working together with all stakeholders with the aim of reaching a positive resolution to the current impasse.”

The country’s president, Martin Vizcarra, has said the government will keeping trying to resolve the dispute through dialogue.

Peru, the world’s No. 2 copper producer, is beset with conflicts over mining in remote regions. (Reporting By Marco Aquino; Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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