Peru copper plans moving again despite protests

May 9, 2013 at 5:22 PM
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LIMA, May 9 (UPI) -- Peru government plans to join the global copper producers club in a big way are moving ahead despite a spate of environmental protests over months that caused work stoppages and frightened away investors.

Pro-mining interests active in Peru and abroad say the environmental campaigns have set back investment prospects not only in Peru but also in Chile and other neighboring states with diverse mineral deposits.

Amid widespread concerns that mining diminishes quality of life for inhabitants of areas being exploited for metals, business and government interests have resumed efforts to try and expand lucrative mining for copper, silver and rare industrial minerals.

Trailing Chile, Peru is the world's second biggest producer of copper and silver and a major producer of gold, zinc, lead and other minerals.

Last year, both exploration and production of copper and other metals in the two countries dropped amid sustained anti-mining protests.

Californian firm Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. said it received a contract from Minera Chinalco Peru S.A. to perform a feasibility study for the expansion of its Toromocho copper mining site in the Morococha district of Peru.

The contract value wasn't released but Jacobs said it will conduct the work out of its office in Lima with help from offices in Santiago, Chile and Tucson in the United States. Jacobs is a diverse major provider of technical, professional and construction services.

Jacobs has been working on the Toromocho project since 2006. Preparatory works on the mine, located at an altitude of 14,700-16,400 feet, are advanced.

The original design aims for the facility to treat 117,200 tons of ore daily and produce more than 210,000 tons a year of copper with silver and molybdenum as byproducts.

Jacobs Group Vice President Andy Kremer said the company's work on the site had given it valuable experience.

"Given the ongoing construction activities on site, the knowledge we have already acquired will be extremely valuable as we consider optimum solutions and tie-in designs needed to incorporate the planned expansion into the existing facilities," Kremer said.

Minera Chinalco Peru S.A. is a subsidiary of Chinalco Mining Corp. International, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The Aluminum Corp. of China, which has headquarters in Beijing, is the ultimate and controlling shareholder of CMC.

CHINALCO is the second largest alumina producer and the third largest primary aluminum producer worldwide.

Last September Chilean and Peruvian governments agreed to work together to boost international investment in their mining sectors.

Meeting in Lima, Chilean Mining Minister Hernan de Solminihac and Peruvian Minister of Energy and Mines Jorge Merino declared two countries could reach 50 percent global copper production from the current level of 40 percent if they jointly develop their investment portfolio.

A point less stated was discussion on coordinating action to counter increasingly vociferous environmental campaigns against mining that have affected production and deterred investors.

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