Peru's copper starts to flow to ports as protests ease, minister says
SANTIAGO, March 7 (Reuters) - Peru's mines are starting to transport their copper concentrate to ports for export once again after three months of protests that have snarled shipments, Energy and Mines Minister Oscar Vera said.
The minister told Reuters late on Monday that he had held meetings with firms, adding that shipments from mines like MMG Ltd's Las Bambas, which produces some 2% of the world's copper, were expected to reach Peru's coast in the coming days.
"We have the mining corridor practically unblocked," Vera said. "In a few days, probably this week, Las Bambas will transport its mineral to the coast."
Reuters could not immediately reach MMG for comment.
Vera said the easing of the protests and road blockades, which have snarled Peru since the Dec. 7 ouster of former leftist President Pedro Castillo, was boosting confidence in the sector, adding that mining firms were considering new investment.
He said Peru expects $6.92 billion in mining investments through 2024 via six different projects.
"The most important thing is that very big companies are investing in Peru, they keep betting on us and are informing us of even more investment," Vera said. He said the government was looking to stimulate exploration with the extension of a law to return 18% of sales and local taxes to mining firms.
Despite some protest flareups, Vera said the situation in the country had normalized except for a few zones in the southern province of Puno, where the government was negotiating to bring investment projects to rural regions.
"The conflict in this country is practically in its final stage. That's the main guarantee for (investors) to maintain optimism," Vera said, adding that he expects copper production and exports to rise this year.
The protests have at times led to sharp drops in activity from key mines like Las Bambas and Glencore Plc's Antapaccay, though data analyzed by Reuters has shown activity returning to normal levels as blockades have been lifted.
Some communities, however, have threatened to start new blockades focused on the "mining corridor" highway, which is key for the arrival of supplies at mines and the transport of copper out of them.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Alexander Villegas; Editing by Paul Simao)
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