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LIMA, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Peru has suspended a construction permit recently issued to Southern Copper Corp for its $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project while officials re-evaluate its legality, authorities announced late on Friday.
In an interview with local broadcaster RPP, Energy and Mines Minister Francisco Ismodes said all five members of a government commission had voted to suspend the license during a review that President Martin Vizcarra ordered in a bid to calm violent protests against the project in southern Peru.
Ismodes said the evaluation would take two to three months to complete. In the meantime, the government would work to create spaces to discuss local residents' concerns with the project, he said.
Tia Maria is expected to produce 120,000 tonnes of copper per year, one of a series of projects in the world's No. 2 copper producer that should add hundreds of thousands of tonnes to global copper supplies in coming years.
But Peru is rife with conflicts over mining, threatening billions of dollars in proposed investments. Tia Maria has been stalled for more than a decade due to opposition from farmers who fear it will pollute their crops. At least six died in local protests against the project in 2011 and 2015.
Peru's business community had been closely watching Vizcarra's position on the construction permit as a sign of his approach to the mining sector and a rare instance of a mining project derailed by local opposition potentially being revived.
If the government had not issued the construction permit last month, approval of Tia Maria's environmental permit would have expired, delaying the project for at least another year.
Business leaders who had applauded the green light for Tia Maria have now expressed concern about the government's U-turn.
The decision to grant Southern Copper a construction permit last month triggered a new round of unrest in southern Peru. Anti-mining protesters blocked roads and seized key infrastructure, cutting off some of the country's top copper mines to supplies and suspending their shipments from the port of Matarani. (Reporting by Maria Cervantes writing by Mitra Taj editing by G Crosse and Leslie Adler)