MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru protesters push to stop $5bn Newmont mine

Published by MAC on 2013-06-19
Source: Reuters, Mining.com (2013-06-18)

Peru protesters push to stop $5bn Newmont mine

Mitra Taj

Reuters

18 June 2013

PEROL LAKE, Peru - Thousands of opponents of a $5 billion gold project of Newmont Mining circled a lake high in the Andes on Monday, vowing to stop the company from eventually draining it to make way for Peru's most expensive mine.

Lake Perol is one of several lakes that would eventually be displaced to mine ore from the Conga project. Water from the lakes would be transferred to four reservoirs that the U.S. company and its Peruvian partner, Buenaventura, are building or planning to build.

The companies say the reservoirs would end seasonal shortages and guarantee year-round water supplies to towns and farmers in the area, but many residents fear they would lose control of the water or that the mine would cause pollution.

"Hopefully, the company and the government will see the crowd here today and stop the project," said Cesar Correa, 28, of the town of Huangashanga in the northern region of Cajamarca.

He was one of many protesters who arrived at Lake Perol on foot or on horseback, some wearing ponchos, as well as traditional broad-brimmed straw hats or baseball caps.

Others carried blankets and bags of potatoes and rice - planning to camp out at the site for weeks to halt the project.

The company said about 1,000 protesters were present, though protesters said their flock swelled to 5,000 or 6,000. A Reuters witness estimated 4,000 people at the protest.

"Why would we want a reservoir controlled by the company when we already have lakes that naturally provide us water?" asked Angel Mendoza, a member of a peasant patrol group from the town of Pampa Verde.

The controversy over Conga - which many in the business sector see as essential for the country's bustling economy - has posed a major challenge to President Ollanta Humala during his nearly two years in office.

He has twice shuffled his cabinet in the face of violent protests against the project.

The protest on Monday was largely peaceful and there were no clashes with police, though a handful of protesters threw rocks and set fire to a wall near one reservoir.

Newmont and Buenaventura said in a statement: "As stated previously, we will only build the proposed Perol reservoir if we are able to secure all the necessary permits and complete an intensive public involvement process with neighboring communities."

"We respect everyone's right to safely and responsibly express their opinion, whether they oppose mining or support economic development," the statement said.

In May, a minor clash between protesters and police marked an ended nine months of relative calm when Humala's government said it would stop trying to overcome local opposition to the mine.

The new round of protests came after a top official for the Conga project, Chief Executive Roque Benavides of Buenaventura, told Reuters water from Perol would be transferred to a new reservoir later this year.

He later said the project might be in jeopardy if water from the lakes could not be transferred.


Fresh protests threaten Newmont Conga mine in Peru

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

18 June 2013

Opponents to Newmont Mining's $5 billion gold and copper Conga mine in Peru staged a massive demonstration Monday evening to demand both the company and the country's authorities to stop work on the project, including the building of water reservoirs.

Local TV showed images of thousands of farmers and miners marching toward El Perol lake, one of the main water sources they depend to drink and farm, which they believe will be negatively affected by the project.

Newmont has repeatedly said it will only move forward in a socially and environmentally responsible way, as the open-pit project involves moving water from four lakes high in the Andes mountains into reservoirs the company is planning to build.

The Conga project, located roughly 3,700 meters above sea level, was approved in 2010 by then-president Alan Garcia's government, and the current administration has continued to support it.

Only yesterday local paper El Comercio (in Spanish) published an interview with Energy and Mines Minister Jorge Merino, who said the Conga project would definitively proceed, but added the company still needs a "social license."

"The government will support private investment, but we can't impose a forced decision unless there is a majority in favour of the development," Merino was quoted as saying.

Construction at the debated mine, in partnership with local miners Buenaventura and Minera Yanacocha, has been suspended for over a year after violent protests and blockades routes in and out of Cajamarca forced the government to declare a state of emergency in more than one occasion.

Conga is set to begin production in early 2015, but last April Newmont stressed willingness to reallocate capital to projects in other countries such as Australia, Ghana, Indonesia and the US.

The mine will be capable of producing up to 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of copper per annum with a 19-year life of mine.


Peru's mining conflicts made country's total social issues climb to 225 in May

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

13 June 2013

Peru's ombudsman office, Defensoría del Pueblo, published a report (in Spanish) showing that three new mining conflicts arose in the country last month, taking the nation's social problems up to a staggering 225, just in May.

From the total, at least 76% social conflicts are still ongoing, said the authority, while the rest are controlled but not solved.

Socio-environmental struggles were the most numerous, with 149 cases (66.2% of the total) related to mining activities (108 cases) and hydrocarbon projects (19 cases).

The body warned about the situation in the gold-rich Cajamarca region, where the world's number two gold producer, Newmont Mining, continues to struggle with its $4.8 billion gold-copper Conga project.

Construction at the debated mine, in partnership with local miners Buenaventura and Minera Yanacocha, has been suspended for over a year after violent protests and blockades routes in and out of Cajamarca forced the government to declare a state of emergency in more than one occasion.

Conga is set to begin production in early 2015, but last April Newmont stressed willingness to reallocate capital to projects in other countries such as Australia, Ghana, Indonesia and the US.

The mine will be capable of producing up to 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of copper per annum with a 19-year life of mine.


Thousands of Peruvians camp in the Andes to defend lake from Newmont’s gold project

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

19 June 2013

Opponents to Newmont Mining ‘s (NYSE:NEM) $5 billion gold and copper Conga mine in Peru stayed overnight at El Perol lake, one of the main water sources that may be affected by the project, vowing to stop the company from eventually draining it.

La Republica (in Spanish) reports the government has sent additional police forces to watch over the protestors, as previous manifestations have turned violent in the past.

Protest leaders said they plan to build a permanent camp near the lake to obstruct any work on the site.

"What we have been living through in the last few days could be the start of an escalation of the conflict, with results that are impossible to forecast," La Republica said in an editorial on Tuesday.

In an emailed statement Newmont and Buenaventura said they would only build the proposed Perol reservoir if they obtain all the necessary permits "and complete an intensive public involvement process with neighbouring communities."

"We respect everyone's right to safely and responsibly express their opinion, whether they oppose mining or support economic development," the release said.

Peru's National Chamber of Commerce, Production, Tourism and Services (Perucamaras) said about 77,000 jobs may be lost in 2013 in the Cajamarca region for the second consecutive year, due anti-mining protests, mainly against Conga, reported La Republica.

Between 2012 and the first half of 2013, the country has already seen over 150,000 jobs disappear as a consequence of mining-related conflicts.

Conga is being developed by Minera Yanacocha, of which Newmont Mining, the world's number two gold producer, holds a 51.35% interest and local Compañía de Minas Buenaventura a 43.65%. The IFC owns the remaining stake.

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