By Marcelo Rochabrun
LIMA – The leader of a Peruvian community blocking a road used by copper miner Antamina said on Tuesday it would not lift its blockade until it had held talks over its demands with either the company, which has been forced to suspend operations, or the government.
Antamina, co-owned by Glencore and BHP Billiton, built a road and pipeline from the mine of the same name some 20 years ago that goes through the rural community of Aquia.
Damian said the company had never fully paid Aquia for the lands it used, an allegation Antamina has disputed in the past. Antamina is Peru’s largest copper mine.
Peru’s mining minister had asked the community to end its protest as a precondition for talks “and it created an outcry,” Damian told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We will not have dialogue if it comes with conditions,” he said.
The company, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has in the past criticized a “minority group” for allegedly using violence to impose their demands. Damian said the Aquia community had not engaged in violence.
Peru, the world’s No. 2 producer of copper, has witnessed a spate of protests against the mining sector since leftist President Pedro Castillo took office in July, unnerving companies who called this week for more government support.
Roadblocks have affected MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas, Glencore’s Antappacay and Hudbay Mineral’s Constancia. In recent weeks, the government has negotiated with communities near those mines while they maintained blockades, lifting them only at the end of negotiations.
“Our community does not have a framework to regulate what we get in return for giving you access,” Aquia leaders wrote to Antamina in September, according to a letter shared with Reuters by Damian.
“There are no benefits in our favor,” the letter added.
Miners pay significant taxes to local communities in Peru, but the bulk of those contributions go to the towns closest to their pits. Aquia is around 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Antamina.
(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Adam Jourdan and John Stonestreet)