Toquepala Prod. Unaffected by Rebellion

By
Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Production at Southern Peru Copper Corp's (NYSE: PCU) (SPCC) Toquepala open-pit mine continued unaffected despite an armed uprising at the nearby mining town, company spokesperson Jerry Cooper told BNamericas.com.

Four workers, including a contractor, were seized in the rebellion. SPCC is relying on the Peruvian military to pursue the rebels and free the hostages, Cooper added. There were no deaths or injuries in the incident.

Operations at the Yanacocha gold mine in northern Peru's Cajamarca department continue as normal, unaffected by the turmoil, said Doug Hock, spokesperson for majority owner and operator Denver-based Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM).

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"We hope that the current difficulties will be overcome and the nation will continue along the path of democracy. We remain optimistic that Peru is a good place to invest in," he added.

During a conference call last week prior to the latest events, Newmont's president Wayne Murdy said the company was watching events in Peru "very carefully." All the main political figures supported the current mining and fiscal regime, he said.

They also supported a free market to encourage foreign investment, "which is very important for the economic future of Peru," he added.

Artillery commander Ollanta Humala led 50 mutineers who occupied Toquepala town for nine hours on Sunday. They fled with their hostages, including his immediate superior general Oscar Bardales, into the high Andes above Tacna in the far south of Peru. Army units loyal to President Alberto Fujimori pursued them.

Humala said he led the uprising in protest at what he called the "illegitimacy" of Fujimori's remaining in office, claiming the president usurped power after a fraudulent election. The rebel leader aid he also wanted the arrest and prosecution of Fujimori's former right-hand man and ex-head of Peru's secret service, Vladimiro Montesinos.

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By this morning, with Fujimori-loyal army units closing in, Humala was left with just seven soldiers following a series of desertions. All hostages had been freed, without bloodshed.

Anti-government protestors yesterday took to the streets in various cities, security was increased around the presidential palace and seven opposition parties issued a joint statement saying they understood Humala's patriotic gesture as a just demand for the restructuring of the armed forces. The parties called for human life to be respected.

Deputy mining minister Eduardo Pando said Toquepala was a bad place for a rebellion because of its international repercussions, but the isolated incident would not affect mining investment in the country. However, companies take a long-term view and exploration will continue, he added.