Peru | Cajamarca : Newmont
Just 24 kilometers from Yanacocha, the Conga mine is Newmont's latest effort to expand its gold mining operations in Peru.
Having seemingly failed to learn from the controversy it faced in Yanacocha, Newmont initially developed the mine without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of the local community. Despite repeated, sometimes violent protests, the Conga mine has been approved.
Perhaps Newmont chose not to ask because they knew the majority of the community opposed the mine. Conga threatens a highly fragile ecosystem. Full development of Conga would destroy sources for 5 rivers, remove 5 mountain lakes, and ruin hundreds of hectares of wetlands. Local residents fear the mine would endanger the water supply of the region of Cajamarca, an analysis shared by international experts.
In 2012, Cajamarcans launched a protest that led the central government to declare a federal emergency. Five protesters died as a result of violent clashes with the police. Officers also detained Marco Arana, a former priest and community leader actively opposed to the mine. The police response led to protesters filing a complaint against the Peruvian government with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this past March. As a result of these protests, the Peruvian government suspended the project, giving the company two years to come up with a plan that would ensure continued water supplies to the community.
The suspension was not the first for Conga. In 2011, thousands of people opposed to the mine declared a strike for six days.The Ministry of Environment also concluded that an environmental impact assessment of the mine conducted by Newmont was incomplete. The resulting social tensions and political pressure forced the company to suspend its operations -- at a cost of $2 million a day.
Recently, Newmont announced the launch of a "water first" plan, restarted it with a plan to build reservoirs to ensure water supply, in light of the massive quantities of freshwater the mine would consume. But community members are not appeased.
"The mine needs water for its project and it's going to give us polluted water," said Wilfredo Saavedra, a community leader told Reuters. "We want them to leave us alone with our lakes, which are enough for us."