Third time’s the charm for Peru’s mining issues?

Faced with never ending environmental and social conflicts over mining projects, Peru’s President Ollanta Humala decided yesterday to reshuffle his Cabinet… again…for the third time.

The new Administration, lead by human-rights lawyer Juan Jimenez and with Jorge Merino staying as the head of the mines and energy office, seems to have been set to solve the conflict over Newmont’s $5 billion Minas Conga copper-and-gold project in northern Peru.

“This will be a Cabinet of dialogue,” Jimenez said in his first speech as prime minister, as reported by La Nación. “We will move closer to the people. We will readdress the issue of social conflicts in Peru.”

A former soldier and hard-core leftist, Humala now endorses foreign investment and has tried to push ahead with $50 billion worth mining projects in the world’s second biggest producer of copper and silver.

When he was elected a year ago Saturday, he promised to solve the ongoing disputes among mining companies, the government and local communities. But the conflicts, which left 190 people dead during the preceding administration, continue to outshine the potential benefits that mining investment can bring to the country.

Despite the hurdles, recent polls show most Peruvians support Humala. His popularity rating has fallen for three months in a row to 40%. Yet, that is more endorsement than what former president Alan Garcia had a year into office (32%) and ex president Alejandro Toledo (18%).

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