LIMA – (AFP) – US mining behemoth Newmont, which plans to build a controversial $4.8-billion gold and copper mine in Peru, vowed the project only will go forward in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
The so-called Conga mining project, which is due to begin next year, has been the scene of deadly clashes between security forces and demonstrators who fear it will pollute lakes and rivers on which they depend to drink and farm.
The company insisted in a statement issued Monday that it will be mindful of possible adverse environmental impacts, and is committed to improving relations with residents of the Cajamarca region, who in large numbers oppose the project.
“The company is implementing significant efforts not only to recover credibility in Cajamarca, but also to increase the level of understanding and social acceptance of the Conga Project,” the statement said.
The open-pit project, located some 3,700 meters (12,140 feet) above sea level, involves moving the water from four lakes high in the Andes mountains into reservoirs the company would build.
Chief among these is increasing “water storage capacity and providing year-round availability to downstream users,” the company said.
Newmont said it is in the process of building water reservoirs that “will more than double the capacity” at nearby Chailhuagon Lake.
Until those facilities go on line, “for the remainder of the year, the company will only be working on the construction of access roads, environmental management and sediment control, as well as social investment projects aimed to maximize the community benefits of Chailhuagon reservoir,” said the statement issued by Newmont subsidiary Yanacocha.
Newmark said that last month anti-mining activists invaded Yanacocha’s Conga property in Peru and attacked the police who were onsite protecting local contract workers and their equipment.
The alleged attack prompted the company to issue a statement urging local protest leaders “to embrace good-faith dialogue and renounce violent provocations and vandalism that threaten everyone’s safety and the livelihood of workers from local communities.
Violence came to a boiling point last year, when at least five people were killed and many more injured during clashes against the Conga mining project.
The protests were joined by more than 1,000 demonstrators and were met by police firing tear gas and wielding batons, as the Peru government declared a state of emergency and mobilized security forces.
The Conga project was approved in 2010 by then president Alan Garcia’s government. His successor President Ollanta Humala also has voiced support for the project, while insisting on environmental safeguards.