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Deaths in Mining Protest Spur Emergency Declaration in Peru

FILE - Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, pictured at the EU-CELAC summit in Brussels in June, has declared several emergencies during his four years in office to calm protests against mining projects.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on Tuesday declared a state of emergency, suspending civil liberties and authorizing military patrols in a highland region where three people died and scores were injured in protests at a Chinese-owned $7.4 billion copper project.

Humala decreed the emergency for 30 days in the southern Andean regions of Cusco and Apurimac, where the mine, Las Bambas, owned by China's MMG Ltd., is under construction. The state of emergency applies to six provinces.

Apurimac Governor Wilber Venegas said Tuesday that three people protesting the project had died in clashes with police in the town of Challhuahuacho and scores were wounded.

Rallies called on MMG to revise its environmental plan so that mineral concentrates would be piped out of town. Protesters also demanded that the company hire more locals as construction work linked to the mine is dropping.

Some 1,500 police and 150 military officers were sent to the region ahead of protests that started Friday.

Venegas and other local authorities said police fired live bullets at protesters during rallies that had been largely peaceful. Humala's government said police resorted to lethal weapons to defend themselves from violent protesters who broke into Las Bambas installations.

Humala has declared several emergencies during his four years in office to calm protests against mining projects, including Newmont Mining Corp.'s suspended $4.8 billion Conga project and Southern Copper Corp.'s recently derailed $1.4 billion Tia Maria mine.

Peru is the world's third-biggest copper producer and is expected to nearly double its output in coming years. But conflicts over mining in towns where farmers fear pollution threaten to hold up its production pipeline.

Las Bambas is expected to add 200,000 tonnes of copper to global supply next year and 400,000 in 2017. Commercial production is set to start in May or June.