Peru: Newmont denies plans to quit Cajamarca

Peru’s Yanacocha mining company, majority-owned by the world’s number two gold producer, Newmont Mining of Colorado, on March 7 denied press reports that it is planning to leave the gold-rich northern region of Cajamarca no later than 2016. In a statement, Yanacocha CEO Javier Velarde said the company will continue to exploit its massive mine in Cajamarca at least through 2015, while evaluating new projects elsewhere in Peru. The Yanacocha mine’s plans for expansion have been the focus of protest campaigns in Cajamarca for more than a year now. “We have openly acknowledged the challenges ahead, but we never said the company was leaving Cajamarca by 2016,” said Velarde in the statement. (, March 8; Gato Encerrado, March 7)

Lima’s daily La Republica had quoted Javier Velarde earlier that same day in a story entitled “Yanacocha announces that in 2016 it will quit Cajamarca region” (Anuncian que el 2016 Yanacocha se retirará de la región Cajamarca). But the actual quote did not explicitly say that: “We have the life of the mine for the next three years, and then we have a series of challenges to continuing our activities… Are there opportunities to extend the life of the mine? Yes, but these are not easy challenges; there are complications of the technical, matalugical type, and also of the social type. Conga is the best example. If there is not an adequate social climate, we could not develop on the terms we would like to. This is greatest challenge of Yanacocha.”

The Conga site, where Yanacocha seeks to expand, is currently under occupation by hundreds of local campesinos. Cajamarca’s Unitary Struggle Command has issued an ultimatum for Yanacocha to remove all its equipment from the site by March 19. In his interview, Velarde accused mine opponents of waging a “campaign of disinformation.” (La Republica, March 7)

Local communities in the highland region accuse Yanacocha of illegally blocking public roads leading to the site, and say the country’s National Police are acting as the private security force of the mineral interests. The National Police Special Operations Directorate (DIROES) webpage lists 11 agreements the force has entered into to provide security for mining operations acorss Peru’s sierras. (Caballero Verde, Celendín Libre, March 5)

A total of 10 Peruvians this year made it onto the Forbes World’s Billionaires list this year, including Yanacocha’s chief Peruvian investor, Alberto Benavides, who clocked in at number 736 with $2 billion in assets. Also on the list was fellow mineral magnate Eduardo Hochschild, chairman of Hochschild Mining, ranking at 704 with a net worth of $2.1 billion. (El Comercio, Peru This Week, March 4)