Dozens of protestors in Peru's southern region known for its agro-exports marched, chanted, and held flags and banners reading: "Agro yes, Mina no".
The 34th edition of Perumin, the largest mining convention in Peru, started Monday in the southern city of Arequipa, a hotbed region of protests against the Tia Maria open-mine pit set to begin in the area that locals have been protesting for months, even years. New strikes broke out on Monday to protest the conference and the potential Tia Maria copper mining project.
Opponents to the United States' Southern Copper mining project restarted Monday morning in the provincial and regional capital of Arequipa just as bi-annual Perumin was getting started.
This year, as the convention opened its doors, 400 exhibitors were hoping to receive about 60,000 visitors for the summit's five days. The site of the meeting was heavily guarded by security forces to prevent protesters from accessing it.
Dozens of protestors marched and chanted as they held flags and banners reading the famous slogan "Agro yes, Mina no" that demonstrators have been shouting against the project since it was first paralyzed in 2015, when a series of mass protests caused three deaths and more than 300 injuries to locals.
Recently, President Martin Vizcarra allowed the project's environmental study to be extended, which kept the mine's opening on track for the near future. He later suspended any developments in mining liscencing for Tia Maria, at least temporarily given the strong resistance the project by local Campesinos and residents, and fear of repeated violence in the area.
#AlVuelo: Noticias desde A#requipa 16/09/19— El Búho (@elbuho_pe) September 17, 2019
-INICIA PERUMIN CON PROTESTAS. #PERUMIN se inauguró esta tarde, al evento no concurrió el gobernador regional, #ElmerCáceres. Paralelamente, una delegación del Valle de Tambo inició marchas en Arequipa en contra de #TiaMaria pic.twitter.com/asVhGlCeqQ
The copper mining project is categorically rejected by farmers, labor unions and social organizations of the central region of Tambo and the southern Islay province, amid fears of negative effects on agriculture there, which exports large quantities of its fruits and vegetables.
Citizens in general are worried about the environmental damage the mine will create. The release of chemical substances such as cyanide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide can cause great changes in the environment of the region destroying forests and polluting water.
According to energy sector experts, if the company’s environmental permit expires they would have to ask for another license, restarting a complicated and long approval process, meaning another waiting period of several months, or years, until the government reviews a new environmental impact study.
The corporation has spent years waiting for the construction license that past governments refused to give after the deadly protests that first derailed the project eight years ago. The mine is expected to produce 120,000 tons of high-grade copper per year for 18 years, with an investment of US$ 1.4 billion.
Peru is the second-largest producer of copper in the world and its mining industry makes up 60 percent of its exports.