Peruvian mayor of town near giant copper project assassinated

The mayor of a Peruvian town near a controversial multi-billion dollar mining project assassinated in an apparent ambush.

MARAS, PERU (MARCH 18, 2015) (AMERICA TV) – The new mayor of a small Andean town in Peru near a huge, multi-billion-dollar copper project was shot dead in an apparent ambush while travelling by car in the region, authorities said on Thursday (March 19).

Peru’s interior minister vowed to carry out a thorough investigation of the assassination of Alberto Roque, 35, who assumed power in January as mayor of Mara in Peru’s central highland region Apurimac.

Roque was found dead in his car Wednesday (March 18) after airing his town’s demands to the energy and mines ministry in a meeting with other local leaders, according to the mayor of a nearby town.

Local prosecutor, Jessica Pumacayo, said police were investigating the case, but that there was not clear motive at the time.

“The event took place at around 1 a.m. We are collecting more evidence. We are interviewing people in the area and all this will be used in the investigation,” Pumacayo said.

Roque was apparently negotiating with the central government to broaden education and job opportunities to towns around MMG Ltd’s $7 billion proposed Las Bambas project.

In early February, an estimated 1,000 protesters from rural communities kidnapped some 200 contract workers for the miner for several hours, according to a report by the country’s ombudsman.

Peru, the world’s third biggest copper producer, is rife with social conflicts, especially in the mineral-rich Andes where billion-dollar mines are built alongside poor communities that lack basic services.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez travelled to the area on Thursday to lead investigations into the murder.

He asked the town’s people to help maintain order in the area.

“You people have done the right thing to put in another security (police) position on the highway. I promise to put an officer on too, but I also want a commitment from all of you that we do it together, with neighbourhood groups, to keep the control, you all and us. You all know better than I who everyone is” Perez said.

Las Bambas is set to become Peru’s biggest copper mine, producing an estimated 450,000 tonnes of copper per year once up and running.

Chinese miner MMG, which bought the project from Glencore Plc last year, has said production will likely start in the first quarter of 2016.

An Andean village is being relocated to a newly-built town to make way for the mine.