26 febrero, 2012

Peru: martial law lifted as Cajamarca agrees to end civil strike

Peru's President Ollanta Humala called off the state of emergency in four provinces of Cajamarca region Dec. 16 after local leaders agreed to suspend their civil strike against Newmont Mining Corp.'s $4.8 billion Conga gold project. Prime Minister Oscar Valdés will lead a "high-level committee" to Cajamarca Dec. 19 to meet with regional officials and community leaders. Cajamarca's regional president Gregorio Santos announced suspension of the paro in the face of growing pressure; the state of emergency had blocked bank accounts and other financial services in the region. Village mayors and community leaders have agreed to comply with the suspension pending the outcome of talks.

Colorado-based Newmont suspended work at its Minas Conga mine, Peru’s biggest investment project, on Nov. 30 after villagers launched protests over impacts on local water sources. The Lima government said Dec. 11 it will conduct a further review of the project’s environmental impact. "This marks a new phase in the debate," Santos told Lima's Canal N. "It's important they admitted the mining company's environmental study has major limitations."

A Newmont spokesman said the company is "willing to play a constructive role in the dialogue sponsored by the government, and we will participate as directed by them. The company pointed out that its 13-year environmental study was approved by the Energy & Mines Ministry last year.

Peru's government is looking to Newmont to stop a decline in mineral output from aging and depleted mines. Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Gold Fields and China Minmetals Corp. have cut back investment in copper and gold mining projects in Cajamarca because of the protests, central bank president Julio Velarde warned. "There’s a slowdown in the projects located in Cajamarca," Velarde told reporters in Lima. "What could be the most exceptional decade in terms of mining investment, might not be so because of the fears of some investors."

Newmont stock, which had fallen by 9.5% since the protests began, gained 1.2% to $62.47 on news of the strike suspension in Cajamarca. (La Republica, Los Andes, Bloomberg, Dec. 16)

See our last posts on Peru and the mineral cartel.

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