July 18, 2019 / 8:24 PM / a month ago

Peru's Vizcarra says Southern Copper must resolve local concerns at Tia Maria mine

LIMA, July 18 (Reuters) - Peru's President Martín Vizcarra said on Thursday that Southern Copper Corp's must resolve issues with protesting local residents at its Tia Maria mine before the long-delayed copper project can move ahead.

Residents from the area around the $1.4 billion Tia Maria mine began protesting on Monday and blockaded a section of coastal highway after the mine was granted a permit earlier this month.

Peru is the world's No. 2 producer of the metal.

"Rest assured that there will not be any mining operations, there will be no construction of the project if the company does not first sit down to discuss with the people and clarify their doubts," Vizcarra said in comments broadcast of local TV news.

Despite the protests, Vizcarra had earlier this week rejected a demand by the regional governor of Arequipa, Elmer Caceres, to cancel the mine's construction permit.

Officials from the southern region say the government has not taken into account the local community's concerns that the mine would contaminate water sources and surrounding land.

Arizona-headquartered Southern Copper, controlled by Grupo Mexico, has spent years awaiting the final green light that former governments had declined to give because of fears it would revive deadly protests that had first derailed the project in 2011.

Cáceres and local leaders earlier met with opposition lawmakers in Lima, where they warned that the protests would increase until the permit is canceled

"If there are casualties then we hold the president accountable," said Cáceres.

Dozens were injured and six killed during clashes with police in protests in 2011 and 2015 against the copper project. (Reporting by Maria Cervantes; Writing by Adam Jourdan Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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