LIMA, May 31 (Reuters) - Peru, the world's No. 2 copper producer, hopes to counteract falling metals prices by boosting production of the red metal 75 percent by 2015, the country's Minister of Energy and Mines Jorge Merino said on Thursday.
That would bring Peru's copper production to 2.15 million tonnes in three years compared with 2011's 1.24 million tonnes, though its output would still be well below the 5.24 million tonnes per year produced in neighboring Chile.
To meet its goal, Peru is counting on projects and expansions from global firms to come online in coming years. Some, like Newmont Mining's $4.8 billion Conga project, are threatened by opposition from local community groups.
Merino said the completion of Conga, the most expensive mine ever attempted in Peru, is vital for securing more investments. Work on Conga in the region of Cajamarca has been stalled since November due to protests.
"In Cajamarca we have $12 billion in pledged mining investment and Conga is a bridge to continue developing other investments," Merino told the Reuters Latin America Investment Summit.
Merino also highlighted global miner Xstrata's Las Bambas and Antapaccay projects, as well as Chinalco's Toromocho project and BHP Billiton Antamina's expansion project that will substantially boost Peru's copper output.
"Our development as a country is closely linked to mining, with these projects we have the basis for making our growth estimates," he said.
But Xstrata also saw its Peru operations challenged by local community groups this week when a protest against its Tintaya mine in the southern Cusco region turned violent, resulting in two deaths and dozens of injuries.
In addition to resolving more than 200 such social conflicts and protests that have threatened $53 billion destined for the mining sector, the Andean country must also jump-start electricity generation to supply energy-hungry mining projects.
"We need 540 megawatts per year to continue growth and cover local demand," Merino said.
He said the government plans in two months to offer concessions for firms to produce 2,000 megawatts of hydro-power between 2017 and 2021.
"There are Brazilian, Spanish, Chinese, Swedish, Norwegian and Japanese companies that want to invest in hydro-electric projects," he said.
As well as looking for private electricity generation, Peru under President Ollanta Humala has sought to strengthen its state-run electrical and energy firms.
Merino said state-run Petroperu is eyeing a 25 percent participation with Brazil's Odebrecht to build a pipeline in southern Peru that will connect the Camisea natural gas fields and planned petrochemical plants in the south.
"This is one of the most important projects in the history of the country, because it's going to generate a petrochemical poll with investments of around $15 billion," he said.