From Newmont Mining Corp.’s website:
On February 13, 2013, Bloomberg Markets magazine published a story about conflicts in South America related to natural resource development projects. The story featured Newmont’s proposed Conga copper and gold project in Northern Peru, near our existing operations at Yanacocha.
There were a number of features of the article that neglected to provide a complete picture. Below, we detail some of those omissions and provide additional information that was left out of the story.
Totoracocha Lake—The story prominently featured stark images of Totoracocha’s drying lakebed, falsely claiming the lake was drying due to blasting at Yanacocha. What the story neglected to mention is that drying and shrinking lakes are a natural occurrence at this elevation and location in Peru during the dry season. The photos used in the story were taken right at the beginning of the wet season, not enough time for Totoracocha Lake to naturally refill following a six-month dry season.
Four Lagoons, Four Reservoirs—The story discussed the Conga project’s plan to replace four lakes, which contribute minimally to down gradient stream flows during the six-month dry season, with four engineered reservoirs. The reservoirs provide two benefits over the lakes. First, the reservoirs will more than quadruple existing water storage capacity. Second, the reservoirs will provide year-round water availability to downstream users. The lakes only provide a source of water for downstream users when water overflows into the receiving streams, which is limited to the rainy season. During the dry season, the natural geologic materials underneath the lakes severely restrict the amount of water that seeps into the ground and re-emerges as water flow available to downstream users. Hence, the lakes are a very limited source of water during the dry season when downstream users need it the most. In addition to increasing the overall water storage capacity, the reservoirs will significantly improve the provisioning of water to communities since flows from the reservoirs will be regulated by engineered outlets that provide for the controlled and safe release of water, year-round.
Mine Water Use—The story stated that Conga will consume 2 million cubic meters of water a year. The vast majority of this amount will be recycled or treated and tested to meet applicable water quality standards before being released to downstream users. The water needed for the proposed processing operations will be repeatedly recycled and reused. The recycled water will be stored separately from rain water captured by the upper reservoir, which will have a capacity of 7,600,000 cubic meters. Fresh water in the upper reservoir will be utilized as “make-up” water for the limited losses and consumption associated with the processing operations and will also be used to fulfill community and social development commitments during operations. Water availability shortages in the Cajamarca region are the result of inadequate water storage facilities to capture and store water during the rainy season for use during the dry season. This is in part why we are pursuing a water-first approach focused on building reservoirs that will more than quadruple water storage capacity in the area. The first of these reservoirs, Chailhuagon, is expected to be complete during the second quarter of 2013 and will have a capacity of 2,600,000 cubic meters, more than double the current capacity of Chailhuagon lake.