April 1, 2019 / 4:43 PM / 22 days ago

Peru govt offers to end emergency measures in copper mine dispute

LIMA, April 1 (Reuters) - The Peruvian government has offered to end emergency measures authorizing the use of force in a remote Andean region if indigenous protesters lift their blockades of roads to Chinese miner MMG Ltd's Las Bambas copper mine, the prime minister said on Monday.

Prime Minister Salvador del Solar pitched the idea to Gregorio Rojas, the leader of indigenous community Fuerabamba, during negotiations on Sunday aimed at restoring road access to Las Bambas, one of Peru's biggest copper mines, his office said in a statement.

"What we agreed was that first he would see if his community is in agreement. He can't make decisions today without consulting members of his community," Solar was quoted saying.

Rojas could not immediately be reached on Monday. His attorney said he was traveling to southern Peru, where Fuerabamba villagers have blocked two roads that Las Bambas needs to transport copper and receive supplies, halting exports from the mine and nearly forcing it to suspend production.

Las Bambas produces about 400,000 tonnes of copper per year, equivalent to about 2 percent of global output and 1 percent of Peru's gross domestic product.

The government has declared two states of emergencies in response to the road blockades, suspending the right to hold public gatherings and authorizing police and the military to restore order. But authorities have not yet tried to clear protesters from the roads with force, fearful of the kind of deadly clashes that have halted mining projects in the past.

Rojas was arrested and jailed for a week on accusations he and three attorneys for the community tried to extort MMG. But he was released without charges on Friday and told Reuters he was open to talking with the government about ending the road blockades "soon," potentially within a week.

Fuerabamba started the first road blockade in early February to demand compensation from MMG for using a stretch of road on its farmland to transport its copper concentrates to market.

Del Solar said the government was willing to discuss the community's demands in detail with MMG and outside mediators once the blockades were lifted.

MMG has said it is open to dialogue. (Reporting By Mitra Taj Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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