Peru’s mining firms called for government action on Monday to halt a series of protests against the sector, which most recently led to the Andean country’s largest copper producer, Antamina, saying it was suspending operations.
“A growing spiral of protests is taking shape, with more violent methods,” Pablo de la Flor, executive director of the National Society of Mining, Oil and Energy which represents mining firms in the country, told Reuters.
“We ask the government to respect the rule of law,” he said in a phone interview.
Conflicts between local communities and mining firms in Peru, the world’s second largest copper producer, have stymied the sector for years, but have come under a harsher spotlight under the new leftist government of Pedro Castillo.
Castillo came to power in July with huge support from voters in mining regions, who were attracted by his pledges to overhaul the sector and redistribute mineral wealth.
In recent months there has been a spate of protests, with communities blockading a major highway for transporting copper. On Sunday, top producer Antamina said it had suspended operations due to roadblocks.
Antamina President Victor Gobitz said on Monday he would meet with minister of energy and mines, Eduardo Gonzalez, to try to end protests that have forced the mine controlled by Glencore and BHP Billiton to suspend operations.
“We cannot accept that a minority group imposes violence and controls things via villainy,” Gobitz told local radio station RPP.
Reuters was unable to contact the protesters for comment.
Antamina, located in the country’s remote northern Andean mountain region, is Peru’s No. 1 copper mine, producing some 396,200 tonnes last year.
Peru has seen rapid development in recent years, in part due to its vast mineral wealth. But many in rural mining communities say they have yet to see many benefits.
Antamina transports its copper concentrates via a 300-kilometer pipeline, from the mine located about 4,200 meters above sea level to a port on the Pacific coast from where the mineral is exported.
Mines including Hudbay Minerals’ Constancia, MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas and Glencore’s Antapaccay also have faced recent roadblock protests.
On Friday, the camp of a small gold producer was set on fire in another protest.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.