Newmont pledges to push for local support for project in Peru
The leading opponent of Newmont Mining’s Conga project in Peru’s Cajamarca region, Gregorio Santos, was re-elected to a second four-year term as president of the region despite being in jail on corruption charges during the election.
Santos, who helped lead waves of protests against the mine forcing Newmont to shelve the $5 billion project in 2011, won 44.2 percent of the vote, more than 2o percent than his closest opponent.
Despite the political victory, Newmont has vowed to push for local support of the project, Reuters reported.
"We express our interest in continuing to invest in Peru and especially the Cajamarca region," the company said in an open letter addressed to the people of Cajamarca.
The Colorado-based miner said last year it would reevaluate its proposed $5 billion Conga mine after the election. Its local unit, Yanacocha, said it would work with all elected officials in Cajamarca.
"We renew our commitment to continue working to achieve social acceptance for the projects we maintain in the region," it said.
Peruvian miner Buenaventura, as Newmont's junior partner in Yanacocha, owns 43.65 percent in Conga.
Conga was initially expected to offset dwindling reserves from a nearby gold mine that the two companies have operated for more than two decades.
Santos and his followers have resisted several efforts to secure local backing for Conga.
Santos has spent the past three months in prison pending a corruption investigation. He has denied all wrongdoing.
His political party depicted his imprisonment as a ruse to remove him from power in order to push Conga - a campaign strategy that several analysts said was successful.
Hilario Porfirio Medina, Santos' incoming vice president, will likely govern for him while he remains behind bars.
Opponents say Conga will ruin water supplies for surrounding peasant towns by building the mine on top of Andean lakes.
The company has said it is building reservoirs for community use to ensure water for communities year-round.