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Exclusive: Peru mines on power despite protests, though halt risk looms

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Exclusive: Peru mines on power despite protests, though halt risk looms

Peru’s biggest copper mines have been able to maintain production despite road blockades, attacks and protests that have roiled the Andean nation for over two months and led to warnings of production halts, an analysis showed on Wednesday.

The analysis of power usage data by Reuters at some of the key mines in Peru, the world’s no. 2 copper producer, indicates that activity at the deposits remains near normal levels, although a source close to one major mine said the risk of stoppages was rising.

The South American nation has been gripped by anti-government protests since the Dec. 7 ouster of leftist President Pedro Castillo. Highways have been blockaded throughout the copper-rich south, threatening production and transport of the metal, hitting some company shares, and boosting already high prices.

But the data suggests mining activity has been resilient, at least for now.

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This includes massive deposit Las Bambas, owned by China’s MMG Ltd (1208.HK), which previously said it would have to halt production from Feb. 1, and Glencore’s (GLEN.L) Antapaccay, which stopped production in mid-January but has since resumed.

The power data from COES, which represents firms in Peru’s energy sector, shows that nearly all major mines are drawing normal or near-normal levels of electricity. The data has traditionally been a reliable indicator of mining activity.

A source close to Las Bambas said the mine, which previously said it faced a production halt from Feb. 1 due to key provisions not reaching the mine, said it had been able to keep operating at a minimum level after getting “last minute supplies.”

The mine, which normally supplies some 2% of global copper, has been hit by regular blockades for years, usually causing its power use to fall sharply during the periods of disruption. This has not yet happened this time around, despite the protests.

The person added, however, that the mine risked fully running out of supplies by Wednesday, which would force it to move into a “care and maintenance” mode with its machinery that would use half the normal level of power.

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The data shows some mines experienced temporary dips in power use in recent months, including Peru’s largest mine Antamina, co-owned by Glencore and BHP (BHP.AX), and Glencore’s Antapaccay around the middle of January.

Antapaccay reopened on Jan. 31 after a temporary halt and has been operating again at full capacity.

Hudbay Mineral Inc’s (HBM.TO) Constancia mine has seen power use start to decline recently. Others, like Freeport-McMoRan’s (FCX.N) Cerro Verde are at normal or elevated levels. A combined index of six key mines is near normal.

Freeport-McMoRan spokesperson Linda Hayes said: “We are continuing to operate, but have limited our mill throughput by about 10% to deal with intermittent supply disruptions.”

The other firms did not immediately respond to requests for comment about activity at their mines in Peru.

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The mining activity is key to keeping global copper supply flowing. Brokerage Jefferies said in a Jan. 31 note that some 30% of Peruvian copper supply was at risk from the unrest, a “potential positive for the copper price.”

The protests – which have led to the deaths of 48 people and are the worst violence Peru has seen in over 20 years – could of course soon start to have a greater effect on mining operations.

Demonstrators are becoming more determined as lawmakers struggle to agree on calling snap elections, a key protest demand.
This week, Peru’s Buenaventura (BUENAVC1.LM) suspended operations at a key silver mine after protesters invaded the site.

At a blockade on the “mining corridor” highway, protester Wilber Toco Aragua Salcedo told Reuters that people felt like the mines took all the wealth and left little for locals.

“The south is quite rich, but the mining concessions that we have harm the people,” he said, adding he had heard mines were stocking up on supplies. “The people do not get tired, the people won’t go away, we will not take a step back.”

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

The US Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said.

The United States is seeking a bigger role for its coast guard in helping remote Pacific Islands nations monitor millions of kilometres of ocean – a rich tuna fishing ground – a move that also boosts surveillance as a rivalry with China over security ties in the region intensifies.

Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls a 3.5 million square kilometre (1.35 million square mile) exclusive economic zone. It is also host to a Japanese satellite tracking station.

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Washington has flagged plans to build an embassy in Kiribati to compete with China, but has not yet done so.

Kiribati police officers were on patrol with the US Coast Guard as “ship riders” for the first time in almost a decade, between Feb. 11-16, a US Coast Guard Guam spokeswoman said.

“The two People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels were boarded as part of routine maritime law enforcement activities to ensure compliance with regulations within the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed comments.

No concerns were reported during the boardings, she said.

“Both Kiribati officers from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit and US Coast Guard officers were involved in the boarding operations. This collaboration underscores the partnership between the two nations in upholding maritime law and good governance,” she added.

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The Kiribati president’s office and Chinese embassy did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that Chinese police on the island work with local police.

China built a large embassy on the main island, Tarawa, after Kiribati switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. 

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday.

Russia also launched two S-300 missiles from anti-aircraft missile systems and one air-to-surface Kh-31P missile, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not clear what happened to the missiles and drones that were not downed. 

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Tuvalu on Monday announced former attorney general and fisheries official Feleti Teo as its new prime minister, after he was elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, officials said.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the US and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Teo received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two lawmakers told Reuters on Monday.

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Teo, who was educated in New Zealand and Australia, was Tuvalu’s first attorney general. He has decades of experience as a senior official in the regional fisheries organisation and has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s major political and economic group. Fishing is a major source of revenue in the Pacific islands.

“Feleti Teo was declared by the Governor General as Prime Minister for Tuvalu,” Tuvalu’s government secretary, Tufoua Panapa, said in an emailed statement.

Tuvalu lawmaker Simon Kofe congratulated Teo in a social media post.

“It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed,” he said.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by a month as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s congratulations to Teo, adding that deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang will visit Tuvalu in the near future.

Teo is a friend of Taiwan’s and has visited many times, and has said relations are stable and that maintaining ties is the widespread consensus in Tuvalu, the ministry added.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.

The deal was seen as an effort to curb China’s rising influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

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Teo’s position on Taiwan ties, and the Australian security and migration pact, have not been made public.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media he looked forward to working with Teo.

“Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” he wrote, referring to the migration pact.

Tuvalu’s ministry would be announced at an oath taking ceremony for the new government later this week, Panapa said.

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