Copper mining leaves a bloody stain in Apurímac, Peru
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Copper mining leaves a bloody stain in Apurímac, Peru

Clashes in the south of Peru between residents of the Grau and Cotabambas localities and the national police have resulted in 15 injured and three deaths.

Fuelling the protests is the $7.4 billion Las Bambas copper mine, owned by Chinese company MMG, which sparked opposition and environmental backlash against the project beginning operations in the rural south of the country.

Peru is the third largest copper producer in the world, Reuters reports, but increased foreign investment and greed threatens to scar remote areas of the country’s landscape.

At just 72 kilometers from the backpacker hub of Cusco, the Las Bambas mine will produce over 450,000 tons of copper annually during its first five years of operation.

Mining represents 11 percent of Peru’s GDP, the majority of which has been increasingly fuelled by foreign investment.

Blood bath

What started off as a group of local residents protesting the mine opening, fearing that their crops and livestock would be affected, soon turned bloody.

During the fourth day of protests police opened fire on the protestors, as the toll of those caught up in the melee soon began to climb.

“The population is incensed as the mine officer, Domingo Drago, had said that the situation in Cotabambas was under control, reducing the risk of an indefinite strike.” Ronaldo Bello Abarca, President of the Tambobamba-Cotabambas residents told Peruvian daily La Republica.

“They (the protestors) claim that they were misinformed.” Antonio Medina from Peru’s right-wing Popular Front party commented, as the dead were transported to Cusco.

But as mine officials claim that protestors illegally broke into the mine and the number of injured looks set to rise, Las Bambas could soon reach a similar scale as the protests against the Tía María mine, which has shut down the south of Peru since May onwards.

Protests against the environmental impact of the mine and firm Southern Copper have been ongoing since 2011, resulting in three deaths this year alone.

Yet in Cotabambas MMG have responded to the protests, “Our company has always obeyed the law and is always open to dialogue,” the firm said in a statement.

With no signs of the violent clashes stopping, Las Bambas looks set to become another mine which will result in death and destruction prior to operations even beginning.

See also:

Colombia begins crackdown on illegal mining

Peru deploys military to area of deadly anti-mining protests