Newmont Mining reported November 30, 2011, that, in agreement with the Government of Peru, it had suspended construction activities at the Conga mine-development project near the operations of the Yanacocha gold mine in Peru as a result of ongoing protests. The Conga project and the Yanacocha mine are owned 51.35% by Newmont, 43.65% by Buenaventura, and 5% by the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. The project received development approval from its owners at the end of July 2011. Capital costs to develop the project are estimated at more than $4 billion, and production is planned to be in the range of 600,000 to 700,000 oz/y of gold and 160,000 to 240,000 lb/y of copper.
Beginning in October 2011, anti-Conga protesters expressed concerns about perceived impacts of the project on the local water supply. The Conga environmental impact assessment was approved by Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines in 2010 after review by 12 government agencies. Project planning calls for four water storage reservoirs to replace four lakes impacted on the Conga property. Newmont reports that these reservoirs would have the capacity to store more than twice the water currently in the lakes, and water from the reservoirs would be available to downstream users on a year-round basis.
“The proposal to replace four lakes on the Conga property with the water storage reservoirs addresses the needs of farmers, who currently face an unreliable water supply during the dry season, by providing a reliable, year-round supply of water. Conga’s environmental management plan includes the protection of water quality during project construction and operation,” Newmont said in a statement issued December 8.
The protesters remained unconvinced.
The Government of Peru, headed by recently elected President Ollanta Humala, was trying to find a middle road to resolving the issue; but as of late December no resolution was in sight, and construction at the Conga project was still shut down.