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Peru protests risk halting one of world's biggest copper mines: MMG

Reuters

LIMA (Reuters) - Supplies needed to keep operating one of the world's biggest copper mines, Las Bambas, are running out as access roads remain blocked by protesters in Peru, Chinese-owned miner MMG Ltd said on Friday.

Protests against the company's use of local roads in the highland province of Challhuahuacho have expanded since a protester was shot dead in clashes with police a week ago.

"Community roads are currently blocked and supplies for operating and subsisting are about to run out," MMG's Chief Executive Andrew Michelmore said in an emailed statement in Spanish.

"We now have large reserves that cannot be transported by road, a situation that cannot go on for much longer," he added.

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The company said it lamented the death of the protester, a father of three, and was committed to working with the government and community leaders to keep the mine operating.

However, the central government and local leaders remained in a stalemate on Friday as several thousand protesters continued to demand the presence of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, said Artemio Solano, a representative in the office of the state ombudsman responsible for Challhuahuacho.

The government had been scheduled to meet on Monday with the chiefs of Quechua-speaking towns angry over the company's use of a communal road to transport its concentrates to port, which they say pollute their lands. But the unrest that erupted during the police crackdown on Oct. 14 inflamed tensions and the meeting was canceled.

"The entire province has now joined the protest," Solano said.

Prime Minister Fernando Zavala said earlier this week that Kuczynski was open to talks with the protesters but added that he would not travel to the region while any "forceful actions" were taking place.

MMG said the situation risked hurting the company's reputation and the reputation of other investors in Peru.

Las Bambas, which started operations late last year, churned out 106,123 tonnes of copper in the third quarter, the first full quarter of production, the company said earlier this week.

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Tom Brown)