In at least three regional elections throughout Peru, voters showed strong support for candidates who promised to be tougher on large-scale mining projects. This included the Cajamarca region where Gregorio Santos, the leading opponent of Newmont Mining’s proposed Conga project was re-elected.
Santos has led the charge against the Conga project despite being in jail since June on corruption charges. Santos claims the government and mining companies made up such accusations due to his open opposition to the massive mine. And while Peruvian law allows detained citizens to run in elections, they cannot take office if convicted and sentenced to prison, Mining.com reported.
Peru is a global leader in mining for gold, silver, copper and zinc, although protests over the past few years against some large-scale mining projects have slowed their development. Some politicians have used opposition to foreign-owned mining projects to gain support in their campaigns for elected office, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In the elections Oct. 5, Peruvians voted for 25 regional presidents, who are akin to governors in the U.S. They also voted for thousands of mayors and other elected officials.
In Cajamarca, about $9 billion in mining investments are on the drawing board, including about $5 billion in the giant copper and gold project known as Minas Conga.
Santos’s vice president, Porfirio Mendoza, is expected to take the post until the legal picture becomes clearer, according to party officials. The Movement for Social Affirmation party, run by Santos, remains unchanged in its opposition to the Minas Conga project.
Newmont Mining has run the giant Yanacocha gold mine in Cajamarca for about 20 years, although production is flagging there and the company wants to open the Minas Conga deposits that are adjacent to the existing mine.
Political analysts say that benefits of the Yanacocha mine haven’t been felt in the region, a poor, mainly agricultural area. That has led to opposition to the Minas Conga project.
Anti-mining candidates also received strong support in some other regions.
In the southern region of Puno, anti-mining candidate Walter Aduviri had 21 percent of the vote, enough for second place. A runoff vote will take place there, where about $2.6 billion in mining projects are on the drawing board.
In the southern region of Apurímac, there are about $12.7 billion in mining projects under development. The leading candidate, with 27 percent of the vote, Michael Martinez, has promised to take a tougher stance against mining projects. A runoff vote will also take place there as well.