Chinese firms in Peru's mining sector focusing on copper, iron ore and port developments

Bnamericas Published: Friday, January 20, 2023
Chinese firms in Peru's mining sector focusing on copper, iron ore and port developments

Chinese companies have consolidated their presence in the Peruvian mining sector. 

Firms from the Asian giant have invested more than US$16bn in mining developments since 2009, when the two countries signed a free trade agreement. There is also a portfolio of Chinese-led projects to be developed that exceeds US$10bn.

According to the latest report from the energy and mines ministry (Minem), Chinese-owned companies such as Las Bambas, Chinalco, Shougang Hierro, Minera Shouxin, and Jinzhao Mining invested US$577mn between January and November 2022 in exploration, maintenance, equipment and infrastructure.

The focus of Chinese companies in Peru is – for now – copper and iron ore projects. In addition to mining, they are developing port infrastructure projects to generate greater economies of scale.

BNamericas reviews the operations and milestones of the main mining companies of Chinese origin.


Las Bambas – controlled by MMG – is the main Chinese-owned copper producer in Peru. The Las Bambas mine, located in Apurímac region, was impacted by social conflicts that limited its production during 2022. The blockades in 2Q22 – and the interruptions since the end of October – caused production to fall 16.4% between January and November to 232,540t. 

The company recently announced that it will have to suspend activities – already blocked for more than 15 days – since inputs cannot enter the mining camp as a result of the protests against the government of President Dina Boluarte. This will have an impact on January figures.

Las Bambas is expected to have produced 250,000t of copper last year. There is no further information about the mine’s Chalcobamba pit, a deposit blocked by a community in the Huancuire area. An agreement was expected to be reached by the end of last year. The pit will allow Las Bambas to produce around 400,000t of copper a year, which would make it Peru’s top producer together with Antamina and Cerro Verde.

Meanwhile, Chinalco – which operates the Toromocho copper mining unit in Junín region – has been consolidating its presence in Peru through an expansion. The US$1.36bn expansion is 67.8% complete and is expected to be ready this year.

The government recently announced that it will seek to unlock mining projects to reactivate the economy, including the Toromocho expansion, as the construction permit for phase 2 is pending from Minem. The expansion involves increasing Chinalco's processing capacity from 140,200t/d to 170,000t/d. The mine produced 236,000t of copper in 2021.

Las Bambas and Toromocho account for more than 20% of total Peruvian copper production.


Chinese companies are the only ones currently mining iron ore in Peru. Shougang Hierro, a subsidiary of the Shougang Co. group, operates the Marcona mine in Ica region, the main iron ore deposit in Peru. Between January and November 2022, the mine's production grew just 0.7% to 11.3Mt. The company has almost the entire market, with a 99% share as of November.

National port authority APN recently granted Shougang permission to construct the new San Nicolás dock to export iron ore. The project includes a 438m pier for private use and a new specialized dock for solid and liquid bulk. Estimated investment is around US$250mn and construction is due to take three years and eight months.

The Shouxin mining company – whose shareholders are Baiyin Nonferrous Group (51%) and Shougang Hierro (49%) – produced 153,745t of iron ore in January-November, down 19% compared to the same period 2021. The company is currently expanding capacity through the Relaves Marcona tailings project. The goal is to expand the beneficiation plant from 8Mt/y to 16Mt/y. Total investment is put at US$140mn, of which US$114mn had been spent as of November.


The portfolio of Chinese-owned projects in the exploration and development stages is also significant. Luis Miguel Incháustegui, independent director of Candente Copper and a former Minem head, told BNamericas that there are approximately US$10bn in such projects.

These include the Pampa de Pongo iron ore project (Jinzhao Mining) in Arequipa; and the copper projects Galeno (Lumina Copper) in Cajamarca, Don Javier (Junefield Group) in Arequipa and Río Blanco (Monterrico Metals) in Piura. "The development of these initiatives will depend on the decision of the companies and if they reach social agreements," said Incháustegui.

Jinzhao Mining announced in recent days that it looks to invest around US$2.1bn to start operations at Pampa de Pongo in 2026, according to the mining engineers’ institute. The amount includes infrastructure to export iron and other commodities. Between January and November 2022, the company invested US$24mn in exploration.

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