Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has given the green light to a controversial mining project in Cajamarca today. The Congo goldmine project, run by Newmont has faced mass opposition due to potential health and environmental risks. However, today the president announced that Newmont has agreed to stricter environmental measures and that the project will go ahead.
Local community and opposition groups continue to stage protests against the development, maintaining that the mine will have a devastating impact on the local community.
“We had already made plans for Newmont and we welcome the fact that Newmont agrees with our proposals,” said Humala following a night of protests which left six people wounded and seven civilians under arrest.
Newmont has agreed to measures which they claim will increase the water supply to the region. The president of Yanacocha, the company managing the Congo scheme under Newmont today said “before constructing the mine, we will construct artificial reservoirs and lakes which will quadruple the volume of water”.
The US$4.8bn project will be Peru’s biggest mining investment ever and Newmont claims it would produce between 580,000 and 680,000 ounces of gold annually as well as guaranteeing year round water supplies. However, environmental and community groups claim that the benefits of Peru’s mining boom have passed them by.
One of the most vociferous campaigners against the project has been Wilfredo Saavedra, president of the Frente de Defensa Ambiental de Cajamarca. He has reacted furiously to Humala’s decision and earlier in the week derided attempts by the regional president of Cajamarca, Gregorio Santos, to negotiate on the scheme.
Saavedra is joined by community groups who feel they have suffered at the hands of Peru’s mining industry. Local business owners have been on strike this week calling for recognition of the devastating impact the plans have had on local businesses, some of which have had all reservations cancelled this year due to the proposals.
Peru is the sixth largest producer of gold and second largest producer of copper. However, poverty remains a constant issue and many feel the benefits of the country’s natural resources have been dealt disproportionately across the country.