EFELima

Southern Copper Corp. has decided to cancel its Tia Maria copper project in southern Peru because of "anti-mining terrorism" in the area.

"After evaluating the complete politicization of the (Tambo) Valley and the lack of decisiveness by the relevant authorities ... I'm here to announce the cancelation of the Tia Maria project and the total withdrawal of our investment from the Arequipa region," Southern Copper's spokesman in Peru, Julio Morriberon, told RPP Noticias radio.

The announcement will be made official by top management via the "relevant procedures before the relevant agencies," he said.

"We've done our best as a company and as people to carry out a project that was going to bring great benefits for Tambo and for Peru," Morriberon said.

Southern Copper, a unit of Mexico City-based Grupo Mexico, had been planning to invest some $1.2 billion in the construction of Tia Maria, which has an estimated mine life of 18 years and had been projected to produce 120,000 metric tons of copper cathodes annually from the start of operations in 2016.

The project had been halted for two years after peasant protests in 2011 in the small town of Islay left three dead and 44 wounded, and as a result the Peruvian government did not award construction permits until the beginning of this year.

This week, the government deployed 2,000 police to contain a peasant protest against Tia Maria, where on Monday peasant communities from the Tambo Valley launched an indefinite protest to demand the cancelation of the mining project.

On Monday, peasants in Islay blocked the main roads in the region to express their rejection of the mine project.

Morriberon blamed a violent minority for what he described as "anti-mining terrorism" and said the vast majority of residents are in favor of the project. He also criticized the government for not providing the necessary security guarantees and support.

Southern conducted a new environmental impact study, or EIA, after the initial protests, according to Morriberon, who said it was approved by authorities because it addressed all the observations that had been made, including criticism about water use.

"We're not going to take water. I live in the valley, I have direct contact with the people. In a survey, 67 percent were in agreement with the project. The problem is the issue has become politicized," he said.

The second EIA, approved in August 2014, contemplates the use of desalinated seawater for the project.

The spokesman said that even though Southern Copper is exiting the Arequipa region it will not return its 18-year concession for Tia Maria to the government.