LIMA, June 23 Peruvian president Ollanta Humala
said on Saturday Newmont Mining would ensure ample water
for towns near its proposed Conga gold mine, and that his
government would not allow new mines to open if they hurt water
U.S.-based Newmont on Friday accepted a stricter
environmental mitigation plan for its mine, which will now
require total investments of $5 billion, making it the most
expensive mine in Peruvian history.
Newmont said that before the mine is built it will first
build larger reservoirs that will guarantee year-round water
supplies in towns currently suffering shortages. The bigger
reservoirs are expected to add up to $200 million to the
project's original $4.8 billion price tag and take up to two
years to build.
"We can and will make sure the company guarantees water
supplies. This is my promise to Cajamarca," Humala said on
Saturday. "My government won't permit the development of any
mining project that exposes the local population to water
shortages or to water that doesn't meet quality standards for
The larger-capacity reservoirs were recommended by outside
experts hired to improve upon Newmont's own environmental impact
plan in an attempt by the government to quell protests that have
stalled work on the mine since November. The water project would
replace two or more in a string of alpine lakes.
"We have ratified our decision to implement the
recommendations international auditors made to the environmental
impact study for the Conga project," Newmont's head of South
America, Carlos Santa Cruz, said on Friday.
"We share the government's call for dialogue, for the vast
majority of civil society in Peru," Santa Cruz said in reference
to local political leaders in the northern Andean region of
Cajamarca who are leading protests to halt the mine.
Gregorio Santos, the president of Cajamarca, criticized
Humala on Saturday and reiterated that Conga "isn't viable."
Santos' term ends in 2014.
Conga, which is partly owned by local mining company
Buenaventura , would produce between 580,000 and
680,000 ounces of gold annually.
Humala also said he would lift emergency rules that several
weeks ago banned freedom of assembly in the southern region of
Cusco over protests against Xstrata's Tintaya copper
mine. All sides in that dispute over voluntary contributions to
the municipality of Espinar are now in settlement negotiations.
Peru, which has vast mineral resources, is the
second-largest producer of copper and sixth-largest of gold, but
many mining communities are poor and complain Peru's decade-long
economic boom has passed them by.