Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra rejected the demand of a regional governor on Tuesday to cancel within 72 hours the construction permit for a copper mining project that has led to protests.
Residents from the area bordering Southern Copper Corp.’s $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper mine project in the south of Peru, which is the second largest copper producer in the world, began protesting on Monday with a blockade of a portion of Peru’s main coastal highway.
Officials from the southern region of Arequipa said the government had not taken into account the community’s concern that the mining operation would contaminate its water sources and land when it granted a construction permit on July 9.
Arequipa Governor Elmer Caceres called on Vizcarra to cancel the construction permit within three days.
“You cannot cancel [a construction permit]. We have to talk,” Vizcarra said in a public appearance in Lima, responding to a reporter’s question about Caceres’ request.
Vizcarra said the government approved the project when legal requirements were met and that Southern Copper said it would not begin construction until it gains more support from people who live in the area.
Caceres said the community plans to continue its protest while perusing a legal plan to challenge the permit, but did not offer details.
Demonstrations have previously derailed the project when at least six protesters were killed in clashes with police in 2011 and 2015.