Peru’s main opponent to Newmont’s Conga mine wins local elections

Peru’s main opponent to Newmont’s Conga mine wins local elections

Gregorio Santos was ordered to jail in June for 14 months amid a corruption probe.

Peru’s main opponent of Newmont Mining Corp's (NYSE:NEM), (TSX:NMC) proposed $5 billion Conga mine, jailed Gregorio Santos, is set to win the re-election in the country’s gold-rich Cajamarca region, provisional results published Monday show.

According to El Comercio (in Spanish), with almost two-thirds of all ballots counted, the anti-mining regional governor had almost 44% of the votes.

The imminent triumph of Santos, who has been in prison since June on charges of corruption, casts fresh doubts on the future of the long-delayed Conga copper and gold project, originally scheduled to begin production next year.

Santos claims the government and mining companies made up such accusations due to his open opposition to the massive mine. And while Peruvian law allows detained citizens to run in elections, they cannot take office if convicted and sentenced to prison.

The project, located roughly 3,700 meters above sea level, was approved in 2010 by then-president Alan Garcia's government, also involves local companies Buenaventura and Yanacocha.

Three years and counting

Peru’s main opponent to Newmont’s Conga mine wins local elections

Project's opponents worry the mine will pollute and drain local water supplies.

Newmont decided to halt Conga’s construction work in November 2011 after violent protests led by Santos forced the government to declare a state of emergency. The project's opponents worried the mine would pollute and drain local water supplies.

Social pressure continued during 2012, 2013 and early this year, with Peru’s government hiring international consultants to report on report on the viability of a new water strategy proposed by the company and, eventually, ordering order a suspension of all work at the site, except for the construction of water reservoirs.

The project — the largest ever single private investment in Peru—has the potential to generate up to 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of copper a year, during its 19-year life.

Images from archives.