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Several hundred residents of Apurímac region's Cotabambas province attacked the mine installations and clashed with police, who responded with tear gas, according to footage aired by Canal N. At least 18 people have been arrested after six policemen were injured in the fighting, Apurímac regional president Wilber Venegas said.
The local population objects to China Minmetals' decision to scrap a mineral slurry pipeline and build a molybdenum plant in Apurímac instead of in Cusco, Venegas said. Under Peruvian law, changes in previously approved environmental impact studies don't require additional public hearings.
"These people fear there will be environmental damages in their area, and the information hasn't been properly communicated," Venegas told reporters in Lima. "The government needs to form a high-level delegation to go to the area and solve these problems."
Many of the protest leaders, who are staging demonstrations this week in the provinces of Cotabambas, Espinar and Chumbivilcas, come from outside the region and are using the protests to promote their campaigns for the April 2016 general elections, President Ollanta Humala said.
"Las Bambas is the largest investment project in Peru and is about to start operations, which always creates expectations," Humala told reporters in Lima. "I call on the local leaders to manage these protests within a democracy. The government hasn't abandoned the population in this area."
China Minetals, which will invest US$2.4bn in the project this year, has the mine 95% completed, Luis Rivera, head of the company's Peruvian unit, said last week. The company and has started pre-commissioning and demobilizing large contractor firms, according to a company presentation.
The 140,000t/d capacity mine in Peru's Apurímac region, designed to produce 450,000t/y copper, 5,000t/y molybdenum, 90,000oz/y gold and 450,000oz/y silver.
Las Bambas is the largest project in Peru's US$64bn mining investment portfolio over the next decade, according to the energy and mines ministry (MEM).
The government is counting on Las Bambas, Chinalco's US$3.5bnToromocho operation, Hudbay Minerals' US$1.7bn Constancia deposit and Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold's US$4.6bn expansion of its Cerro Verde mine to help double the country's copper output to 2.8Mt/y by 2017.