(Corrects fifth paragraph to clarify that deaths came after
construction was suspended, not before.)
By Allison Martell
TORONTO, March 1 Tensions at Newmont Mining
Corp's Conga project have been reduced, Peruvian Vice
President Marisol Espinoza told Reuters on Saturday, but local
communities still have doubts about the stalled copper gold
Peru has a significant mining industry, but in recent years
violent protests have derailed some major projects, including
Conga. Last September, Peru's then-mining minister was quoted in
the Los Angeles Times saying work on Conga would soon resume,
but Newmont said nothing was imminent.
"Communities are still fighting for their demands. There are
some reservations," said Espinoza, through an interpreter. "In
that regard the government is working really hard to provide
basic services, infrastructure services such and water and
Many peasants who live near Conga, in the northern region of
Cajamarca, fear it would pollute or deplete their water, so
improving infrastructure could be key to resolving the conflict.
Denver-based Newmont suspended mine construction in 2011
after violent protests. It said it would focus on building water
reservoirs and winning over local people. The next year, five
people were killed in clashes over the project.
President Ollanta Humala has broadly backed Conga, but the
dispute rattled his government, sparking cabinet shuffles. The
situation has been closely watched by investors, along with
progress on Southern Copper's Tia Maria project, also
the target of protests.
Espinoza was in Toronto for the world's largest mining
industry gathering, the Prospectors and Developers Association
of Canada convention, which opens on Sunday.
She said Peru's government will continue to support projects
that benefit not just investors, but also local communities.
Newmont spokesman Omar Jabara confirmed in an email on
Friday that Newmont has not yet decided whether to resume mine
construction at Conga. He said the Chailhuagon reservoir,
completed last May, is now full ahead of the dry season, which
usually starts in April.
"We expect the on-going water releases will continue to
benefit the downstream communities until and throughout the
entire dry season," he said.
Peruvian miner Buenaventura has a minority stake
in the Newmont-controlled joint venture that owns Conga, as well
as the nearby Yanacocha gold mine.
(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Dan Grebler)