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Three killed as police and protesters clash over Peru copper mine

At least three people were shot and killed and 17 wounded in a clash between police and highlands farmers protesting against a 7.4 billion US dollar (£4.9 billion) Chinese-owned copper mining project in Peru.

Police apparently opened fire on the protesters when they entered part of the Las Bambas mine where the plant that separates copper ore from rock is under construction.

The local health director, Jose Soplopuco, told The Associated Press that two men died en route to the regional capital of Cuzco and one at the local health clinic.

He said ambulances could not reach Challhuahuacho, the town of about 10,000 residents where the clinic is located, because police had shot at a vehicle carrying doctors.

Percy Jeronimo, the oral surgeon running the emergency room, said three of the wounded were in critical condition.

The Las Bambas project is owned by a consortium led by Chinese state giant China Minmetals. It is scheduled to begin production in 2016 and produce 400,000 metric tons of copper the following year.

President Ollanta Humala appealed to protest leaders for calm. He called Las Bambas Peru's biggest mining project on Monday.

Peru is the world's third biggest copper producer and mining accounts for about 60% of its export earnings.

But resistance by local farmers has frustrated and delayed major projects across the rugged Andean nation. Six people have been killed so far this year in anti-mining protests, including a police officer whose skull was fractured during May protests against a Mexican-owned copper mining project.

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