Peru: water authority rejects mine expansion

Peru’s Yanacocha mining company—that seeking to develop the controversial Conga project in Cajamarca region—is appealing a ruling of  the National Water Authority (ANA) barring expansion of its existing mine into new lands within its concession area. The lands, at a place called La Quinua Sur, lie within the headwaters of the Río Grande, which supplies water to the city of Cajamarca. Technically, the expansion, dubbed Yanacocha Oeste, was approved late last year by the Ministry of Energy and Mining (MINEM), but ANA denied approval to discharge effluent into local waterways that drain into the river. This effectively bars plans to develop a new open-pit mine at Quinua Sur. 

ANA maintains that under new standards adopted in 2010, the discharge would make the river’s waters fit for animal but not human consumption. Yanacocha is arguing that under a 2011 MINEM ruling, mining companies can adjust gradually to the new standards, with deadlines extending to 2015. The standards concern maximum levels for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, zinc and lead in treated waters. The Yanacocha mine, South America’s largest, is meanwhile seeking approval for another expansion of open-pit operations, dubbed Carachuco Este. (, Feb. 8; IDL-Reporteros, Feb. 8; Gato Encerrado, Feb. 7)

The nearby Conga project is officially suspended following a long campaign of protest by local campesinos. However, Newmont Mining of Colorado, majority owner of Yanacocha, recently announced that it will nonetheless spend $150 million on the $4.8 billion gold-copper project this year. Russell Ball, CFO of Newmont Mining, the world’s number two gold producer, said the company expects to spend $80 million on equipment, $40 million in reservoir construction, and nearly $30 million in “community and social-related issues” related to the Conga project. (, Jan. 25)

With conflict growing over the Canadian-owned Cañaris mining project in neighboring Lambeyeque region, lawmaker Verónica Mendoza has formally called upon the Vice-ministry of Interculturality to make clear what measures were taken to assure that the project has complied with Peru’s new Prior Consultation law. She wrote: “The indigenous peoples of Cañaris have expressed various demands related to mining activities that would take place in their territories, and it is the State that should promote an intercultural dialogue with respect to their rights as indigenous communities within the framework of ILO Convention 169 of the ILO and the Prior Consultation Law Act.” (Verónika Mendoza blog, Feb. 7) 

Mendoza, who pushed heavily for the law in Peru’s congress, is one of several lawmakers from the ruling Gana Perú coalition, led by President Ollanta Humala’s Nationalst Party, who publicly broke from the coalition last year as it has tilted right. (RPP, June 4, 2012)