Peru’s government approved the environmental impact study for Southern Copper Corp.’s Tia Maria mine project.
The Mines and Energy Ministry and Southern Copper said in separate statements that the key environmental permit was approved, allowing the company to advance to the construction stage.
The ministry said it decided to approve the EIA after the company addressed observations made by the government and communities in the mine area. It said it also took into account opinions from the Agriculture Ministry’s national water authority and the Health Ministry.
The approval of Tia Maria, an open pit mine that is expected to produce 120,000 tons of copper a year, is 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 the project to move forward in order to boost mineral production, and so offset the impact that lower mineral prices have had on the economy.
Southern Copper had said a week ago that it was expecting the approval of its environmental impact study by last 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.