As a mining country, Peru has long been associated with gold mining until recently. With a major expansion at Cerro Verde and the commissioning of the Las Bambas mine, Peru is now ranked as the second largest copper producer behind Chile, it’s longtime southern rival. Executives from both copper mines made presentations this week at the Perumin 2017 Mining Convention, which took place at the National University of San Agustín in Arequipa.

Cerro Verde is also located in Arequipa, and it’s a very popular operation. Among other societal improvements, the people of Arequipa have clean drinking water today because of Cerro Verde. Red Conger, president and CEO of Operations-Americas for Freeport McMoRan, described the $5.3 billion investment the company made to essentially double Cerro Verde’s copper production. “The investment was not only beneficial to the mine, but also to Arequipa’s economic growth, which saw a 9% increase in its GDP in 2016, and contributed 4.094 billion soles [$1.3 billion] to the national GDP,” Conger said. Cerro Verde is the largest copper producer in Peru, accounting for 22% of national production.

Today, Cerro Verde supports the regional government of Arequipa in health, education and infrastructure during 2016 and 2017, amounting to 18.7 million soles ($5.8 million). Through April of this year, Conger explained, Cerro Verde invested 439 million soles ($136 million) in infrastructure projects such as fresh water and sewer systems, as well as culture, education and nutrition.

Tomas Martínez, vice president of infrastructure for MMG, which owns the Las Bambas mine, said MMG has invested $200 million in improved roadways to transport concentrates to the port of Matarani in the Arequipa region. This investment allowed them to transfer more than 1 billion tons of copper and zinc per year. He emphasized that this investment not only allowed the widening of narrow roads, but also converted them to paved roads, specifically in the province of Cotabambas and its annexes.

Las Bambas employs a bimodal transport system, which involves transport by truck and train from the mine area to the port of Matarani, a journey that takes five days on average. To achieve this, MMG worked in coordination with 33 of 50 small communities and 800 local landowners to widen the road from 7 m to 9 m. They also paved 83 km of roadways to accommodate 130 trucks a day. Despite the rough geography, the time in transport has been significantly reduced.