Protests have resumed in Peru against plans to develop a $4.8 billion gold mine. Local residents are concerned that the mine will harm their water supplies. The Conga mine project would be run by Newmont Mining Corp—the same company that operates the nearby Yanacocha mine, Latin America's largest, which has produced over $7 billion dollars in gold to date.
AP reports that about 2,000 Peruvians joined the march in Cajamarca, a city in the north of the country, carrying signs protesting the Conga mine that said things like, “Let’s defend our sources of water, now or never.”The government had declared a state of emergency last month to restore order after a general strike against the same project and clashes with police that left dozens injured.
The Conga mine, which is majority owned by U.S.-based Newmont, would produce gold as well as copper and silver. Protesters are concerned the mine will contaminate their water and affect a major aquifer.
Cajamarca is one of Peru’s most heavily mined regions and many residents mistrust the new project because it is an extension of nearby Yanacocha mine, Latin America’s largest gold mine, which is nearing the end of production. It has a history of troubled relations with neighboring farmers, ranchers and city dwellers downstream who claim it has harmed water supplies.
Newmont has said the environmental impacts of the mine have been reviewed, but local residents are not convinced and are calling for a new environmental impact study. They want the government to facilitate dialogue about the issue, which is smart because aside from the pollution impacts that can't be undone, international law also has the potential to impair local governments' sovereignty once the project is underway.