Following the release of a report regarding the proposed Conga project in Peru, Newmont Mining Corp. said it would carry out evaluations of the report’s recommendations about how to move forward.
Peru’s Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino said he would confer with officials from U.S.-based Newmont to define how the mitigation plan would be altered after a team of independent environmental auditors recommended a series of changes that could increase the cost of the controversial project, now estimated at $4.8 billion.
Carlos Santa Cruz, Newmont’s chief for South America, said the company would carry out “technical and economic evaluations” of the auditors’ recommendations, part of which called for Newmont to preserve two of four alpine lakes that would be displaced by the mine and replaced with reservoirs, Reuters reported.
President Ollanta Humala urged community activists to stop protesting against the stalled mine’s construction and said the government would make sure the company adheres to strict social, environmental and labor goals.
His comments to end a months-long impasse came two days after the auditors encouraged the company to build larger reservoirs to guarantee more water supplies.
Newmont’s plans fueled protests in the northern Cajamarca region late last year as some townspeople feared the most expensive mine ever attempted in Peru would leave local farmers without sufficient water supplies and cause pollution. The mine’s construction has been halted since November.
The leaders of the protests have said the Conga project is not viable and have called for the cancellation of the project.
Some of the protesters’ arguments against the mine were undercut by the report from the auditors - who said water in the lakes is unfit for human or animal consumption because it is naturally toxic.
The auditors said the reservoirs would provide year-round water supplies to towns that currently suffer during the dry season, but encouraged Newmont to increase the storage capacity of the reservoirs to provide even more water.
A regional ordinance that said the mine could not be built and was passed by Gregorio Santos, president of the region of Cajamarca, was deemed unconstitutional by Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal. Public prosecutors opened an inquiry against Santos over allegedly using public funds to finance anti-Conga protests.