Peru to Approve Plan for Delayed Tia Maria Copper Project

Peru plans to approve an environmental permit for Southern Copper’s Tia Maria project by Monday at the latest, a high-level government official said Thursday.

“All of the observations have been complied with, and if it isn’t tomorrow Friday, then Monday at the latest we will be delivering to the company the decision that approved the environmental impact study,” Deputy Mines Minister Guillermo Shinno said in comments reported by daily Gestion.

The approval of Tia Maria, an open pit mine which would produce 120,000 tons of copper a year, would be a boost for the company following struggles in winning over support from the local communities.

The project’s first environmental impact study was rejected due to concerns about how Southern Copper would use water at Tia Maria. Those concerns spilled over into violent conflicts in 2011, leaving several people dead when rural residents clashed with police in Islay, in southern Peru’s Arequipa region.

The government wants to advance the project in order to boost mineral production, to offset the impact that lower mineral prices have had on the economy.

Southern Copper had already announced on Wednesday that it was expecting the approval of its environmental impact study by Friday or Monday.

Southern Copper produced about 640,000 tons of copper last year, and is planning to ramp up production to close to 1.2 million tons by 2017.

The company, owned by Grupo Mexico and formed in 2004 by a merger between the US-based Southern Peru Copper Corporation and Minera Mexico, holds the largest copper reserves in the world. In Peru, it operates the Toquepala mine in Tacna and the Cuajone mine in Moquegua, as well as the refinery in Ilo on the Moquegua coast.  It also has been looking at developing the Quellaveco copper mine in Moquegua.

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