(Adds quote from minister, context on scandal, paragraphs 3-9)
LIMA, May 11 (Reuters) - Peru’s energy and mines minister said on Monday that she has halted talks with Southern Copper Corp over its stalled $1.4 billion Tia Maria project until the miner explains its role in possible “wrongdoing.”
The government has also summoned German Larrea, the chief executive of Southern Copper’s parent company, Grupo Mexico , to the capital Lima to clarify the matter.
Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Ortiz said her suspicions of wrongdoing stem from audio recordings in which a man is heard offering to stop violent protests against the project in exchange for “one and a half million.”
A lawyer who has previously worked for Southern Copper has said the audio represents telephone conversations he had with a lead opponent of Tia Maria in a bid to mediate a solution to the conflict.
Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the audio recordings, which do not directly implicate Southern Copper.
The Tia Maria opponent in question, Pepe Julio Gutierrez, has denied that he is the person speaking in the audio.
Ortiz said she wants the company to explain its involvement in the scandal.
“I have suspended talks with Southern until it clarifies its participation in this wrongdoing,” Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Ortiz said in an email to Reuters.
“Today I requested the presence of Mr. Larrea, owner of the company, in Lima with the aim of clarifying this matter,” she said. “I am waiting for him to confirm when he will arrive in Lima.”
Southern Copper did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a full-page ad published in Peru’s biggest newspaper, El Comercio, the company said that it does not participate in illegal acts. (Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Richard Lough, Chris Reese and David Gregorio)