Southern Peru Up in Arms over Tía María Mine

EspañolThe Tía María mining project, planned by Mexican company Southern Copper in the Peruvian province of Islay, has divided residents and sparked a wave of violent protests, leading to three deaths and over 200 injured.

On Monday, Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Ortiz announced the halting of the project, citing possible “wrongdoing,” and summoned Southern Copper management to Lima for discussions. Ortiz claimed that audio recordings, made by a local lawyer seeking to mediate between the two camps, featured a local man offering to attack protesters in exchange for money.

According to opinion polls carried out by Ipsos, just 51 percent of inhabitants of the local Arequipa region are in favor of developing the mine. The survey, published in national daily El Comercio, signals that 42 percent of Arequipa residents declared themselves “expressly against the mining project.” Only 7 percent gave no opinion on the issue.

The survey also suggests that 43 percent of locals consider that farmers in the Tambo Valle, who have been on strike for over 50 days over feared environmental damage from the mine, are being manipulated by political interests. Nevertheless, 42 percent stated that the farmers are exercising their legitimate right to protest.

Of those who support the project, 65 percent argued that Tía María would generate employment, while 57 percent of its opponents cited concerns over possible environmental damage. The survey, carried out between April 30 and May 3, polled 400 people in the urban and rural provinces of the southern Peruvian region.

Last Saturday registered the third death since the beginning of the conflict: a police officer died of injuries sustained on Wednesday after being attacked by protesters. On the same day, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala authorized the intervention of the armed forces in the area to support police in keeping order, saying in a message posted on his official Twitter profile that the police officer’s death “will not remain unpunished.”

Southern Copper, over 75 percent owned by Grupo México, announced on March 27 that it plans to continue developing the project. This statement followed comments by its official Peru spokesman that Tía María would be cancelled due to “anti-mining terrorism.”

The project involves an investment of some US$1.2 billion dollars to construct the mine, whose estimated annual production is 120,000 metric tons of copper cathodes once operations begin.

Sources:, Reuters.

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