LIMA – President Ollanta Humala gave the green light for the controversial Conga gold mine project in northwestern Peru, but only on condition the consortium that owns the deposit meets conditions aimed at mitigating its environmental impact.
Humala gave his final approval for the project in a televised speech Friday, although he said the Minera Yanacocha consortium – led by Colorado-based Newmont Mining – will have to ensure the availability and quality of water supplies in the area surrounding Conga, located in the Cajamarca region.
Plans for the $4.8 billion project include draining four alpine lakes to develop subsoil gold deposits and replacing them with artificial reservoirs.
Humala’s government ordered an environmental audit by international consultants due to fierce opposition from the regional government and grassroots protesters that has stalled the project for months.
Their findings on Conga’s anticipated impact – particularly on water supplies – were presented this week in a report.
The president said his administration “will guarantee that water quantity, availability and quality is controlled by mechanisms” that ensure adequate supplies to the region’s inhabitants.
The government also will require that the consortium make the reservoirs’ storage capacity four times larger than originally planned to benefit residents of the towns of Sorochuco, Huasmin, La Encañada and Bambamarca.
The company also will create a fund for investments in risk infrastructure, education, health and reforestation, according to Humala.
The consortium must guarantee that the project creates more than 10,000 direct jobs for the local population, Humala said, adding that it also needs to meet auditors’ requirement to preserve two lakes that were initially to be replaced.