A spokesperson for BHP Billiton, an Anglo-Australian resource group, said that operations in their copper mine in Tintaya, Southern Peru have been halted to “ensure the overall safety of personnel”, evacuating all non essential staff from the site.
The decision came after a group of 2,000 protesters began to demonstrate outside the mine demanding more investment in local infrastructure.
The mine’s vice president Lucio Rios said the protesters were blocking entry to the mine and had set fire to grassland within the mine camp after clashing with and stoning police. Police responded with tear gas.
This protest follows a trend of demonstrations against the imposition of large-scale mines in Peru. There is great concern from local residents who fear for their agricultural livelihoods and say that they see little of the benefits from the resources extracted from their land.
Tintaya has been heralded as an example for other mining companies, voluntarily committing 3% of annual operating profits to the local Espinar community – with a ceiling of US$1.5mn per year. But protesters are demanding that BHP Billiton pave a 156km road to Arequipa city and give US$20mn per year for local development projects.
Meanwhile, the proposed Xstrata copper mine at Las Bambas in the Apurimac department, hopes to produce 200,000 tonnes per year of copper concentrate. Xstrata’s initial US$91mn down payment for Las Bambas included US$45.5mn for a community trust fund.