Peruvian copper miner Southern Copper has undertaken legal action to evict more than 75 “illegal miners” from its Los Chancas project in the department of Apurimac.

In its quarterly report, the company stated that the project’s land has been occupied by miners, more than 75 of whom have “irregularly” registered stakes in the country’s Integral Registry of Mining Formalisation. This is a registry of all formalised mining in the country.

Southern Copper, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, later requested that those who had wrongly registered be excluded from the registry and classified as “illegal miners”, which the mining authority complied with.

Southern Copper confirmed in its report that it has lodged criminal complaints against the miners and filed “other legal remedies” in order to remove the miners from the project and confiscate any illegally mined ore.

Los Chancas, although not yet opened, is set to play a pivotal role in Southern Copper’s future. The company aims to extract 1.8 million tonnes per annum (tpa) of copper across its projects by 2030, and expects to mine as much as 130,000tpa of copper, alongside 7,500tpa of molybdenum, from Los Chancas. The prospective open-pit mine is expected to enter production in 2030, with a mine life stretching to 2049, making it a long-term project for the company.

Southern Copper has invested an estimated $2.6bn (9.35bn sol) into the mine, but company statements say illegal miners have jeopardised its long-term productive targets. A lack of governmental oversight and the high global price of copper has allowed unlicensed and unregulated local miners to exploit mining sites. These “artisanal” miners are settling on permits granted to industrial miners. Since 2020, the number of artisanal mining permits has doubled to 80,000. As the artisanal permits are issued separately to permits for large-scale copper miners, there has been overlap between legally issued permits that has drawn parties into conflict.