MAC: Mines and Communities

Anti mining protests in Ancash, Apurímac and Cajamarca, Perú

Published by MAC on 2011-11-14
Source: Business News Americas, Reuters, Dow Jones

Newmont halts work on Conga to reduce potential for conflict - Peru

By Greta Bourke

Business News Americas

9 November 2011

US-based Newmont Mining temporarily halted work on Wednesday at its Minas Conga project in Peru's Cajamarca region to reduce any potential for conflict in anticipation of the previously announced general strike, a company spokesperson told BNamericas.

Minas Conga will cost US$4bn-4.8bn to develop, making it the biggest investment project in Peru's mining portfolio. Local firm Buenaventura has a 43.65% stake in the project to be developed through Yanacocha, which has the same ownership structure.

"We respect and honor everyone's right to engage in peaceful demonstrations, and we urge those raising issues around the Conga project to participate in the working dialogues sponsored by the government," the spokesperson said.

The organizers of the one-day protest against the project represent communities outside of Conga's direct area of influence. Opposition to the project is mainly focused on concerns over water use.

"The overwhelming majority of communities in Conga's area of influence strongly support the project and are eager to benefit from the economic and social development the project will bring to the region," the spokesperson said.

As part of the environmental permitting process, more than 3,300 people participated in public hearings, Yanacocha said in a recent statement.

Conga's environmental impact study (EIS) was approved by authorities in October 2010. As part of the project, Yanacocha will build four reservoirs before operations begin. Three of these will be used exclusively to supply water to the local population.

The nearby Yanacocha mine - South America's largest gold producer - was operating normally on Wednesday, according to the spokesperson.

EIS Revision

As a result of the protests, the environment ministry is reviewing the project's EIS. The results of the revision will be made public in 15 days, environment minister Ricardo Giesecke said on November 4.

Minas Conga was approved by the boards of Newmont and Buenaventura in late July and production is scheduled to start in 2015.

Average output at Minas Conga over the first five years is estimated at 650,000-750,000oz/y gold and 160M-210Mlb/y (72,575-95,254t) copper at cash costs of US$300-400/oz and US$0.95-1.25/lb, respectively.

Minerals account for around 60% of the Peru's total exports.

Protestors in Cajamarca go on strike over mining project

9 November 2011

A 24-hour strike has begun in Cajamarca, where protestors took control of the Cajamarca-Bambamarca highway.

Protestors argue that the Minas Conga mining project being developed by Minera Yanacocha would be harmful to the region's water supply and environment.

Today students from the National University of Cajamarca took over the university and almost all urban transport unions, teachers and shops have joined the strike.

El Comercio reports that there have been conflicts between protestors and workers in shopping centers.

Hundreds of farmers traveled to Conga in order to support a ban on the mining project.

Newmont's $4.8 bln mine faces new protest in Peru

By Terry Wade and Marco Aquino


9 November 2011

LIMA - A one-day protest by communities in the northern region of Cajamarca on Wednesday against Newmont's $4.8 billion Conga gold project was peaceful and did not hurt mining operations, the government and the company said.

Local political leaders in the northern region of Cajamarca have demanded the company abandon the mining project, the most expensive in Peru's history, because they fear it will pollute the air with dust and displace four lakes that are important water sources.

But Peru's central government, which is trying to mediate the dispute, said it has made some progress calming tensions and was working with the company to set up a "social fund" to provide funding for community projects.

A Newmont spokesman said work continued normally at its sprawling Yanacocha mine nearby and that work was temporarily halted at the Conga project as a precaution. Conga is not scheduled to begin producing gold for about three more years.

"Cajamarca remained peaceful and though there were some reports of roadblocks the airport was operating normally," said Victor Caballero, who is managing mediation efforts as the head of conflict prevention in the prime minister's office.

Wilfredo Saavedra, one of the organizers of the protest, said dozens of protesters had blocked access to the Minas Conga project.

"In the city, traffic and trade is restricted and we are in a peaceful demonstration," he said.

The government says it is working to see if the company's environmental impact plan could be improved upon so as to obtain the support of local communities.

President Ollanta Humala took office in July promising to end debilitating social conflicts over natural resources in Peru, a leading global metals exporter. The previous government approved the impact plan last year, but since then local communities have voiced opposition to the project.

Caballero said local farmers were worried that reservoirs the company plans to build to replace the lakes might not adequately seep water to irrigate their fields.

He said experts would review plans for the reservoir to see what kinds of materials could be used to ensure water would seep out of the bed of the reservoir and reach agricultural fields.

"The company needs to show flexibility, it can't impose an environmental impact study that doesn't have community support," Caballero told Reuters.

A Newmont spokesman said the company's environmental plan included input from thousands of people and "was one of the most robust and transparent ever conducted for a natural resource development in Peru."

Humala has said he would make sure the mine is built. It is expected to produce between 580,000 and 680,000 ounces of gold per year and be a lucrative source of tax revenue.

Humala, who won strong support from the rural poor in the June presidential election, took office pledging to end nagging social conflicts through dialogue. Conga is a key test of his team's ability to resolve conflicts.

The government has also been trying for more than a month to broker a wage accord and end a strike at Freeport McMoRan's Cerro Verde mine, which churns out 2 percent of global copper supply. The strike has not markedly impacted prices and the company has said it is mining at about two-thirds of normal capacity.

Peru offers social fund to calm Newmont mine fears


8 November 2011

LIMA - Peru tried to reassure opponents of Newmont's $4.8 billion Conga gold mine on Tuesday before they launch a protest, saying the company would create a social development fund and be held to high environmental standards.

Local political leaders in the northern region of Cajamarca have demanded work stop on the mine, the most expensive in Peru's history, because they fear it will displace four lakes that are important water sources.

Some 1,000 people demonstrated against Conga last week, temporarily halting construction, and a massive protest planned for Wednesday could block roads in the Andean region and threaten the new government's negotiating credibility.

"We are working on a very important social fund so that the communities that are impacted by this project are compensated," said Prime Minister Salomon Lerner. "The authorities involved in this project have agreed to develop the fund."

President Ollanta Humala said on national television on Sunday he would make sure the mine is built. It is expected to produce between 580,000 and 680,000 ounces of gold per year and be a lucrative source of tax revenue.

Humala, who won strong support from the rural poor in the June presidential election, took office pledging to end nagging social conflicts through dialogue. Conga is a key test of his team's ability to resolve conflict.

Peru's ombudsman estimates there are some 200 latent social conflicts in Peru that occasionally erupt in violence, mostly in poor communities that have not felt the benefit of a decade-long economic boom in the top metals exporter.

Peru has urged Newmont and its local partner, precious metals miner Buenaventura, to find a way to keep the lakes intact and consider revising Conga's environmental impact plan, which was approved by the previous government.

Newmont officials have said the environmental plan for the mine was done according to rigorous standards and that four water reservoirs will be built to replace the existing lakes.

"The country needs mining and industry but we need to protect quality of life and especially the environment and that's what we're going to enforce," said Lerner.

(Reporting by Teresa Cespedes, Marco Aquino and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by David Gregorio)

Peruvian anti-mining protesters clash with police

By Marco Aquino and Terry Wade


10 November 2011

LIMA - Police clashed with anti-mining protesters in two Peruvian regions on Thursday, the first time violence has broken out since President Ollanta Humala took office in July promising to defuse social tensions.

The clashes could mark a setback for the popular leader, who is trying to mediate more than 200 environmental conflicts nationwide that often pit rural towns against mining and oil companies with $50 billion in projects planned in Peru for the next decade.

In the northern region of Ancash, police fired tear gas to clear the Pan-American Highway, which protesters blocked to draw attention to what they say is pollution caused by mining.

Protesters also temporarily invaded a pumping station of a mining duct outside Antamina, one of the world's top copper-zinc mines, a company official said. Protesters vandalized property but there were no injuries and production was not impacted, the official added.

Antamina is owned by global firms BHP Billiton Ltd, Xstrata, Teck Cominco Ltd and Mitsubishi Corp.

In the southern region of Apurimac, protesters also scuffled with police. Agriculture Minister Miguel Caillaux said the government was willing to restrict wildcat mining and illegal mining near rivers to prevent pollution, but refused to ban mining altogether, angering protesters. Police shot canisters of tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Global miner Xstrata, which was not targeted in the protest, has said it would begin building its $4.2 billion Las Bambas copper project in Apurimac this year.

Humala has said he wants to see big mining projects, which would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the government, go forward.

But he has also pushed companies to do more to win the support of rural towns near mines.

Humala has obtained approval for two bills in Congress that aim to calm tensions in Peru, where one-third of people live in poverty.

One requires firms to consult with local communities about mining and oil projects proposed near their lands before beginning construction, while the other raised taxes and royalties on miners to fund infrastructure and social programs.

Thursday's clashes came weeks after he temporarily settled a vexing conflict over one of Southern Copper's mining projects.

His government also managed to ensure a protest on Wednesday against Newmont's $4.8 billion Conga project was peaceful, partly because the government calmed tensions by saying it would working with the company to set up a "social fund" to finance community projects.

While rural towns have protested, most unions have refrained from calling strikes during Humala's three months in office -- except at Freeport McMoRan's Cerro Verde mine, where the government has been trying to broker a wage deal to end a strike that has dragged on for more than a month.

The mine churns out 2 percent of global copper supply, but the strike has not markedly impacted copper prices and the mine has said it is running at two-thirds of capacity.

Peru's PM Lerner Takes Tough Line Against Anti-Mining Protests

Dow Jones

11 November 2011

LIMA - Prime Minister Salomon Lerner Ghitis took a tough line Friday against a wave of often violent protests hitting several locations in Peru, many involving anti-mining protesters.

Negotiations Thursday between cabinet ministers and protesters who want the government to cancel mining concessions in the Andahuaylas region failed to reach any agreement.

Television programs showed protesters burning buildings and attacking the police in Andahuaylas. Radio reports said that there were several persons injured, although there were conflicting reports on whether there were any fatalities.

"We have the responsibility to continue to be firm in resolving conflicts using dialogue, and seeking consensus, but we can't fall into the trap that some small interest groups have in creating chaos and violence, hurting the image that Peru has gained," Lerner said.

Lerner said there has to be free movement on roads and respect for private property.

Former Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi said in a broadcast interview Friday that many of the organizers of the protests in the Andahuaylas region are involved in illegal mining and narcotics trafficking, and don't want formal mining companies to enter into the region.

Protesters have hit various regions of Peru this week, including against the giant Antamina base metals mine in central Peru.

Late Thursday, Compania Minera Antamina SA said that about 200 persons carried out a second day of blockades of a highway in the Catac and Conococha areas.

"Compania Minera Antamina is calling for the establishment of public order, and an open dialogue that respects safety and without any damage to private property," the company said.

Peru is one of the world's largest producers of copper, zinc, gold, silver and other minerals.

Earlier this week Newmont Mining Corp. temporarily halted work at its Conga copper and gold project in northern Peru due to a planned general strike.

The company, which runs the giant Yanacocha gold mine, wants to develop the Conga project, while protesters want Minera Yanacocha SRL to suspend Conga due to concerns about water supplies.

During the election campaign this year, President Ollanta Humala said that if elected he would be able to peacefully solve social conflicts involving mining companies.

Antamina protests intensify in Acansh, Peru

10 November 2011

Protestors from the 32 towns of the province of Huari and the district of Catac, in Ancash, have taken over one of the pipeline valves of the Antamina mine, during the second day of protests against mining pollution in the area.

Protestors were carrying sticks and continuing to block access to the Pativilca-Huaraz road with stones and logs, leaving trucks and buses stranded.

Approximately 900 protesters are demanding the presence of Prime Minister Salomon Lerner Ghitis, in order to discuss their demands, otherwise, they warned, they will intensify their protests.

Aaron Osorio Vega, President Huari's Mayoral Association, said they would not cease their claims, because they were "in defense of life" and Antamina had not heard them, according to reports from local radio RPP.

Although protestors claim they are acting peacefully, representatives from Antamina have reported damages caused to their property.

Representatives from the public prosecutors office traveled to the site on Thursday morning, to verify the claims.

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