LIMA, May 24 (Reuters) - Southern Copper (SCCO.N) Chief Executive Oscar Gonzalez said on Monday the company sees construction of a desalination plant for its $1 billion Tia
Maria copper project in Peru as a "viable option."
People living near the Tia Maria site in southern Peru have protested in recent weeks against the project, saying they fear it could dry out rivers in the area that they need to water their crops.
The comments by Gonzalez come days after Mines and Energy minister Pedro Sanchez told Reuters the company must build a desalination plant if it wants to go ahead with the project and avoid further opposition from the community.
"The government and protesters ... agreed that mines (in the area) cannot use underground or surface water, leaving seawater as the only option," Gonzalez said in a meeting with reporters and investors on Monday.
"Our opinion is that it is viable (to use seawater), he added. Southern Copper had all but ruled out building a desalination plant because of the high costs and was looking into more affordable options, such as tapping underground springs or building a dam.
The project was put on hold in late April for 90 days, while the government and local communities carry out an environmental impact study.
Peru is the world's second biggest copper miner after neighboring Chile. Southern Copper is a unit of Grupo Mexico (GMEXICOB.MX) and one of the world's largest copper producers.