According to reports from Peruvian Police on Friday, they arrested a leader of the Fuerabamba community together with two attorneys thought to be representing the community. This was as a result of the trio being accused of trying to extort MMG Ltd., a Chinese mining company. It’s reported that the local community barricaded a road used to transport mined copper over the past month.
In a brief statement, the police said that they had arrested Gregoria Rojas who is the president of the Fuerabamba community together with the community attorneys Frank and Jorge Chavez who happen to be brothers. The two attorneys stipulated that the allegations made against them by MMG of distortion were false. Fuerabamba holds the view that MMG built the road on its farmland and that the government illegally made it a national highway so as to aid MMG in its operation. Both the government and MMG have denied the allegations.
Rojas told Reuters that the community had asked MMG to pay them 40 million soles ($12 million) as rights for the usage of the road, but the arrests came in as talks between the three parties reached a stalemate. MMG on its end said that it will respect the decision of Peru’s judicial system on the matter and that it is open for dialogue.
Moreover, MMG said that despite the road being blocked for transport operation, production at the mine has not been halted. Las Bamba ranks as Peru’s biggest copper mine with estimates indicating that it produced about 385,000 tonnes last year. Fuerabamba has been in a tussle with MMG for some time now over the allegations that the company has failed to honor its relocation agreement. It was noted that the local community which once farmed and herded its animals in Peru’s Southern Andes was resettled to a new town almost near Las Bamba at the start of the decade so that the mine could be built.
According to former Fuerabamba president Alfonso Vargas, the blockade is set to continue despite the recent arrests.