Community opposition forces Newmont to abandon Conga project in Peru

Community opposition forces Newmont to abandon Conga project in Peru

Output from Conga was supposed to replace production from the nearby Yanacocha mine (pictured), which is running out of gold. (Image from archives)

Newmont Mining Corp's (NYSE:NEM), the world's 2nd largest gold miner, is walking away from its $5 billion Conga copper and gold project in Peru after year of relentless community opposition.

In its annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Colorado-based miner said that due to current social and political conditions, the company “did not anticipate being able to develop Conga for the foreseeable future.”

While Newmont acknowledges that local opposition was an important factor in their decision, a company's spokesman noted there were many other factors involved.

“At the end of the day, our decision to reclassify Conga’s reserves as resources was a business decision triggered by certain operating and construction permits expiring at the end of 2015, uncertain prospects for future development and permitting and market conditions,” he told MINING.com.

Locals welcomed the news, which granted Peruvian farmer Máxima Acuña de Chaupe the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Acuña, who has been at the forefront of the opposition against the Conga project since it was first proposed in 2010, said in a statement she only has one more wish. “I want to return to the peaceful life I had on my land with my family for almost 20 years.”

Newmont decided to halt construction work at the project in November 2011, after violent protests led by governor Gregorio Santos forced the country's government to declare a state of emergency.

Community opposition forces Newmont to abandon Conga project in Peru

Peruvian farmer Máxima Acuña de Chaupe has won the Goldman Environmental Prize after Newmont removed its proposed Conga gold mine in northern Peru from its list of reserves in its annual filing with the SEC. (Image provided)

Minera Yanacocha, one of the two local companies working with Newmont in the now mothballed project, tried hard to win local support, but was unable to secure it.

Social pressure continued in the following years, to the point that Peru’s government had to hire international consultants to determine the viability of a revised water strategy proposed by Newmont. Eventually, authorities decided to order a suspension of all work at the site, except for the construction of water reservoirs.

Conga, which had the potential to generate up to 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of copper a year, during its 19-year life, was going to be built by Newmont’s existing Yanacocha mine, Latin America’s largest gold operation.

Newmont will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting in Delaware on April 20.