Peru villagers stage environmental protests near Yanacocha, Cerro Corona

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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Peruvian government called on northern Andean communities around the country's largest gold mines to end environmental protests and return to the negotiating table.

The energy and mines ministry (MEM) said it has put together an environmental plan after monitoring two rivers for pollution in Cajamarca region. The Cajamarca communities of Hualgayoc, Cutervo, Santa Cruz and Chota, which lie near the Yanacocha, Cerro Corona and Tantahuatay mines, have staged roadblocks and closed food markets since May 16.

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"The state recognizes the right to freedom of expression and the people's demands within the rule of law," the ministry said in a statement. "The ministry seeks dialogue, more so because meetings with Hualgayoc representatives have made progress in the demands being made by the people of this province."

State mining remediation agency Activos Mineros has received 45mn soles (US$15mn) to clean up 173 environmental liabilities in the zone, while another 20mn soles will be assigned to tackle other areas, the ministry said. Environmental agency OEFA has also fined local miner Minera San Nicolás for dumping waste into rivers near its Colorada mine, the ministry said.

Cutervo, Chota and Santa Cruz, which lie in one of Peru's poorest regions, are also demanding the government speed up previously promised public works such as road paving, according to newspaper La República.

Opposition in the area to US miner Newmont Mining's US$4.8bn Minas Conga copper-gold deposit has blocked the project since 2011, as output dwindles at neighboring Yanacocha.

Yanacocha, whose output peaked at 3.3Moz in 2005, is expected to produce 630,000-660,000oz gold this year, down from 917,690oz in 2015, while Johannesburg-based Gold Fields' Cerro Corona mine expects production to drop to 260,000oz gold equivalent this year from 295,600oz in 2015.

Tantahuatay, a JV between Peru's Buenaventura and Phoenix-based Southern Copper which produced 144,782oz gold and 879,832oz silver in 2015, set this year's guidance at 145,000-155,000oz gold.

The protests have had no impact on operations, Newmont spokesperson Omar Jabara said via email.

CONFLICTS

The number of social conflicts in Peru rose to 209 in April from 208 the previous month as political tensions were exacerbated by the presidential elections, according to the ombudsman's office.

The country held presidential and congressional elections on April 10, in which jailed Cajamarca regional president Gregorio Santos, who has spearheaded opposition to mining projects in his region, received 4% of the national vote.

In the presidential election, former congresswoman Keiko Fujimori and ex-finance minister and banker Pedro-Pablo Kuzcynski will face off a run-off on June 5. President Ollanta Humala is scheduled to step down on July 28.