LIMA Nov 24 A government commission in Peru
traveled to a remote Andean region this week to reassure locals
that sorely-needed public works were on the way, part of a
renewed bid to keep conflicts in the mineral-rich country from
turning deadly, the government said on Thursday.
Three ministers in President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's cabinet
met with local leaders in the southern highland province of
Espinar to nail down deadlines for paving a highway and building
a hospital - helping avert a scheduled protest, said Rolando
Luque, who was part of the talks as head of the cabinet's Office
Officials also promised to ask the World Health Organization
to help treat Espinar residents with high levels of heavy metals
in their bodies, the government said in a statement.
Espinar is home to Glencore Plc's Antapaccay copper
mine as well as the Swiss-based company's now-closed Tintaya
mine and its exploration project Coroccohuayco.
Peru is rife with conflicts over water, land rights and
pollution. Protests in far-flung provinces have derailed
billions in mining investments and left dozens dead in clashes
with police in recent years.
Kuczynski, a 78-year-old former investment banker seeking to
revive investments in the wake of the global commodities bust,
promised as a candidate to ease opposition to mining projects by
delivering communities the benefits of development early on.
But since his term began in July, Kuczynski's government has
struggled to keep a lid on a flurry of demands across the South
American country - from protests for better train service near
the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu to anger from indigenous tribes
over a dozen oil spills in the Amazon this year.
At least four have died in clashes since Kuczynski took
office, including a farmer shot dead near one of the country's
biggest copper mines, Las Bambas, which triggered a broader
protest that halted exports by operator MMG Ltd.
Luque said the high-level commission would strive to keep
protests from flaring by quickly tending to the basic needs of
communities long neglected by a weak state.
It was unclear if the government might be strained by its
parallel effort to trim spending to rein in the fiscal deficit.
The group is heading next to the province of Chumbivilcas,
where protesters suspended operations at Hudbay Mineral Inc's
Constancia copper mine earlier this month,
before meeting with chiefs in the Amazonian town of Saramurillo,
affected by oil pollution, Luque said.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Chris Reese)