Leader of community blocking road to Peru copper mine arrested
(Updates with official confirmation)
LIMA, March 22 (Reuters) - Peruvian police said on Friday
that they have arrested the leader and two lawyers of an
indigenous community, accusing them of trying to extort Chinese
miner MMG Ltd by blocking a road it uses to transport
copper for the past month.
Gregorio Rojas, president of the community Fuerabamba, was
arrested in Lima late on Thursday, along with the community's
attorneys, brothers Frank and Jorge Chavez, the police said in a
It was not immediately clear who the legal representatives
were for Rojas and the Chavez brothers. Frank Chavez and Rojas
have previously denied allegations by representatives of the
mining industry that the road blockade aimed to illegally or
unfairly secure money from MMG.
Fuerabamba has said MMG built the road on its farmland
without its permission, and that the government illegally made
it a national highway last year to help MMG, which is controlled
by state-owned China Minmetals Corp Ltd. The
government and MMG deny the allegations.
Rojas told Reuters this month that Fuerabamba asked MMG for
40 million soles ($12 million) for the rights to use the road.
The arrests came as talks between the three parties reached
a stalemate. The government had demanded an end to the blockade
before discussing the community's demands any further.
MMG said it respects decisions by Peru's judicial system and
was open to dialogue. It reiterated that the road blockade had
halted its exports of copper but that production has not yet
Las Bambas is one of Peru's biggest copper mines, with about
385,000 tonnes in output last year.
Fuerabamba, a Quechua-speaking community that once farmed
and herded animals in Peru's southern Andes, was relocated to a
new town near Las Bambas earlier this decade so that the mine
could be built.
Fuerabamba has repeatedly accused MMG of failing to fulfill
its commitments in the relocation agreement. In early February,
community members camped out along a stretch of the road on its
farmland to block MMG's trucks carrying copper concentrates to
the port of Matarani on Peru's Pacific coast.
Former Fuerabamba President Alfonso Vargas said by telephone
on Friday that the blockade would continue despite the arrests.
As part of the same operation, police said they had arrested
two others and seized dynamite, guns and bullets from 12
properties in Lima and the region of Apurimac, where Las Bambas
is located. The police statement did not specify whose property
the weapons were seized from or how they related to the alleged
(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Richard
Chang and Sandra Maler)
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