Thousands of Peruvians camp in the Andes to defend lake from Newmont’s gold project

Opponents to Newmont Mining ‘s (NYSE:NEM) $5 billion gold and copper Conga mine in Peru stayed overnight at El Perol lake, one of the main water sources that may be affected by the project, vowing to stop the company from eventually draining it.

La Republica (in Spanish) reports the government has sent additional police forces to watch over the protestors, as previous manifestations have turned violent in the past.

Protest leaders said they plan to build a permanent camp near the lake to obstruct any work on the site.

“What we have been living through in the last few days could be the start of an escalation of the conflict, with results that are impossible to forecast,” La Republica said in an editorial on Tuesday.

In an emailed statement Newmont and Buenaventura said they would only build the proposed Perol reservoir if they obtain all the necessary permits “and complete an intensive public involvement process with neighbouring communities.”

“We respect everyone’s right to safely and responsibly express their opinion, whether they oppose mining or support economic development,” the release said.

Peru’s National Chamber of Commerce, Production, Tourism and Services (Perucamaras) said about 77,000 jobs may be lost in 2013 in the Cajamarca region for the second consecutive year, due anti-mining protests, mainly against Conga, reported La Republica.

Between 2012 and the first half of 2013, the country has already seen over 150,000 jobs disappear as a consequence of mining-related conflicts.

Conga is being developed by Minera Yanacocha, of which Newmont Mining, the world’s number two gold producer, holds a 51.35% interest and local Compañía de Minas Buenaventura a 43.65%. The IFC owns the remaining stake.