Peru seeks to overtake Chile in copper production

In ominous news for environmental defenders in Peru, the administration of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) is planning to revise mining regulations to enable the Andean country to overtake its southern neighbor Chile in copper production. Despite higher-grade ores and lower mining costs than Chile, Peru's government says its potential in copper exploitation is being restricted by too much bureaucracy. "We need to create the necessary conditions for mining to grow in our country so the government can invest in basic services, healthcare, education and infrastructure," said Mines and Energy Minister Cayetana Aljovin.

Peru is already the world's second-largest copper producer, and last year boosted output by 35%. This was largely driven by increases at Las Bambas mine, run by China Metallurgical Group (MMG), subsidary of China Minmetals, and at Freeport-McMoRan's Cerro Verde, the country's largest copper mine.

Aljovin outlined a three-pronged plan, caliing for slashing regulations and the number of permits required to mine, creation of a single government department to oversee all mining permits, and creation of a fund to invest in social programs in areas affected by mining. Aljovin said mining companies now need to comply with 265 different rules and regulations, compared with 12 in 2001. Of these, only 10% are under the Mines and Energy Ministry, with the rest under a host of other agencies. (Bloomberg, Oct. 2)

The project at Las Bambas has been met with much local protest over environmental impacts. The road to the mine was most recently blockaded by anrgy local residents in August, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency in the area, suspending the right to free assembly. (Reuters, Aug. 18)