Protester killed in Peru during rally against Southern Copper project

Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:47pm EDT
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By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino

AREQUIPA/LIMA, PERU (Reuters) - Clashes between police and opponents of Southern Copper Corp's Tia Maria project in Peru left one protester dead on Wednesday as rallies calling for its cancellation spread in the region.

Protesters, mainly farmers who grow crops for export, say they fear the proposed $1.4 billion mine will pollute nearby agricultural valleys in Peru's southern region of Arequipa. Tia Maria has been stalled since 2011 after three protesters died in similar rallies.

The latest fatality was a 61-year-old man who died in hospital at the town of Mollendo, after succumbing to injuries suffered at a rally, said Walter Vera, the director of Islay province's health network.

Several other protesters were wounded during clashes with police in the province, said Helar Valencia, a local mayor and opponent of the Tia Maria project.

The project was poised to get off the ground this year after the government approved its revised environmental impact study in August 2014 and a construction permit was pending.

But the resurgence of demonstrations over the past month has threatened to further delay the project, which is expected to add 120,000 tonnes of copper to the company's annual output.

Southern Copper has said it will continue to work toward bringing Tia Maria to fruition, retracting statements by a local spokesman last month that it would nix the project because of the protests.

Demonstrations on Wednesday were scattered throughout the region of Arequipa.   Continued...