The man who has led protests that have stalled Newmont Mining Corps.’ Conga gold project in Peru is now facing his own legal issues as a congressional committee urged the attorney general to investigate him for allegedly misusing public funds, Reuters reported.
An oversight committee in Peru’s congress alleged that Cajamarca Regional President Gregorio Santos awarded contracts to a local businessman in violation of rules on transparent bids. The report was assembled and unanimously approved by the oversight committee.
Lawmaker Gustavo Rondon, the head of the committee, said the report now faces a floor vote on whether Congress should tell the attorney general to take up the case.
"Our investigation was very thorough and we are confident it will pass," Rondon told Reuters.
Santos, the most high-profile critic of U.S.-based Newmont’s stalled $4.8 billion project, has said he is being unfairly targeted by the government of President Ollanta Humala, who has sought to overcome stiff local opposition to what would be Peru’s biggest investment ever.
Santos, a member of Peru's communist Patria Roja party who has criticized Humala for drifting to the right, is widely seen as having presidential ambitions for 2016.
Santos has faced other attempts to defrock him politically.
At the height of anti-mining protests in Cajamarca a year ago, officials moved to reopen a years-old case against Santos from when he led so-called peasant patrol groups that function as de facto police force in remote towns across Peru.
That case, which was dropped for lack of evidence, tried to link Santos to violent acts related to the patrols.
The dispute over Conga has arguably been the biggest controversy Humala has faced during his two years in office.
Five anti-Conga protesters were killed in clashes with police last July and Humala has twice shuffled his Cabinet over the project.
Communities say they fear the project, which would be built near a handful of mountain lakes, would deplete and pollute the local lakes and rivers.
Newmont, working with partner Buenaventura, has put construction of the mine on hold as it builds reservoirs high in the Andes to guarantee year-round water supplies for locals.