Social conflicts set to give Peru's miners a difficult 2023

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, January 05, 2023
Social conflicts set to give Peru's miners a difficult 2023

Peru's mining industry has kicked off the new year with blockades still underway at various mines and with other companies facing heightened risks of social conflicts impacting their operations. 

Mining companies faced a number of interruptions in 2022 and conflict peaked in the last few months of the year, particularly after the removal of president Pedro Castillo and the ensuing widespread protests. 

BNamericas takes a look at the current situation for Peruvian miners and what we can expect over this year.

Nexa Resources, which operates the San Gerardo pit at the Atacocha mine in Pasco region, reported that access to the pit has been blocked since December 27. 

Although there has been little material impact on production levels as yet, operations were suspended on January 3 and "mining activities are limited to critical operations," it said in a statement.  

The mining company said it will hold talks with the Machcan community, but this is not the first time that conflict has taken place regarding San Gerardo, as the company stated at the end of August that an illegal blockade had been erected by members of San Juan de Milpo community. Atacocha produces 0.2kt of zinc per week, less than 3% of Nexa's output.

With regard to the big copper mines in southern Peru – Las Bambas, Antapaccay and Constancia – the energy and mines ministry (MINEM) reported late last year that it had managed to clear blockades on the southern mining corridor, the route by which miners transport their output concentrate to Matarani port terminal in Arequipa region.

Nevertheless, there is still no news about an end to the blockade of Chalcobamba, the future pit to be operated by Las Bambas. 

The pit is still occupied by residents of the Huancuire community. The company said in early November that it expected to reach an agreement at the start of January, but has not made any further statements. 

The start of operations at Chalcobamba is key to enable the mine's annual production to reach 380,000-400,000t/y of copper after having ended 2022 with output estimated at 250,000t.

Miguel Cardozo, director of Peru's institute of mining engineers, said in a recent interview with local media that the illegal occupation and blockade of the operations must end as soon as possible.

Inmaculada, a gold-silver mine in Ayacucho region operated by Hochschild Mining's Peruvian unit CMA, has also begun 2023 with some uncertainty. Although Jose Augusto Palma, Hochschild's VP of Corporate Affairs, told BNamericas in late November that the conflict at the mine would not affect annual production, the problems have worsened.

Inmaculada has been occupied by local residents, who have blocked access roads, preventing on-site staff from leaving and supplies from being delivered.  

According to the latest statement from the firm, in December the residents of Huancute set fire to seven company dump trucks and did not allow workers on duty to leave. 

The situation at the mine looks difficult to resolve since the protestors not only want operations to be halted, but also want the miner to leave the area entirely.

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