Controversial Mine May Reopen in Peru

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This past December government officials announced Minas Conga will most likely reopen for operations in the first quarter of 2014. The mine, located in the Cajamarca region of Peru along the Ecuadorian border, is causing concern amongst both environmental and human rights groups.

Gold mining in Madre de Dios. Photo by Ron Haviv.
Gold mining in Madre de Dios. Photo by Ron Haviv.

Conga is jointly owned by the Colorado-based Newport Mining Corporation and the Peruvian company Minas Buenaventura that also owns the nearby Yanacocha mine, the largest gold mine in Latin America. Conga is meant as an extension of Yanacocha as the mine is nearing the end of its vitality.

“Yanacocha reiterates that the Conga project remains suspended, and reaffirms its willingness to continue with the development of Cajamarca,” the company said in a recent statement.

Construction was halted back in 2011 following widespread protests from residents in the proposed mining district. Social pressure from both the Cajamarca and outside NGOs led the government of Peru to declare a state of emergency for the region.

Local environmentalists have growing concerns of the mine’s impact on the local water supply and potential for contaminants making their way into the ground water. While the mining company has worked on building reservoirs to improve water supplies, the state of contamination caused by gold mining in Peru’s southern Madre de Dios region should serve as a warning.

According to a report by mining.com, the decision to continue construction was made after a meeting with 30 community elders, many of whom showed support for the project.

Conga will require investments of $5 billion and have an annual production of 580,000 ounces to 680,000 ounces of gold and 155 million to 235 million pounds of copper for the first five years, making this mine the largest single private investment in Peru.

According to Peru’s Minister of Energy and Mines Jorge Merino, Peru’s mining production is expected to increase by 10% this year, partially due to Conga’s reopening, but due to major projects involving copper and silver extraction in other regions as well.

Buenaventura officials have said it will decided in early 2015 if it development of the Conga will restart, following the regional elections and the completion of the water reservoirs.

The extraction of mineral resources in one of the largest threats to Peru’s environment, notably the incredibly biodiverse Amazon Rainforest. Amazon Aid works to fight the devastating effects of gold mining in the Amazon through our partners on the ground and raising awareness with the award-wining documentary Amazon Gold, created in association with America’s Business Council Foundation.

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