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Billions of dollars worth of Peru mining projects to resume soon

Newmont Mining’s $4.8 billion Conga and Southern Copper’s $1 billion Tia Maria projects will resume soon, according to Peru’s minister of energy and mines, Jorge Merino, who spoke at a mining conference in Arequipa earlier this week.

President Humala suspended Tia Maria and Conga in 2011 and 2012, respectively, after local protesters engaged police in deadly street clashes. The fighting over Conga led the government to declare a state of emergency.

Now the government is pushing to restart the stalled projects in order to secure taxes and royalties important to the government’s finances. An estimated 1 million jobs over the next three years also hang in the balance.

“Relations between Newmont and local communities are getting better,” Merino was quoted in the LA Times.

Conga protests, Cajamarca, Peru.

But many fear the government’s push will stoke old fires and claim that the behaviour of the miners and the sentiment of the involved communities hasn’t changed:

“We all know that neither Conga nor Tia Maria have obtained social licenses nor the sufficient environmental basis with which to proceed,” anti-mining former presidential candidate Marco Arana said.

“There are studies that the government cannot refute showing mining is contaminating the lakes…if necessary, the people of Cajamarca will return to the streets to protest,” claimed environmental activist Wilfred Saavedra.

In June, thousands of protesters did just that, demanding both the company and the country’s authorities to stop work on the project, including the building of water reservoirs.

Conga is set to begin production in early 2015, but in April Newmont stressed willingness to reallocate capital to projects in other countries such as Australia, Ghana, Indonesia and the US.

The mine would be capable of producing up to 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of copper per annum with a 19-year mine life.