Peru’s president says mine viable with changes

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s president said the country’s biggest mining project, which has been on hold due to protests, is viable and will meet environmental requirements.

President Ollanta Humala said Friday that residents near the Conga gold- and copper-mining project would be ensured an ample water supply. Protesters backed by the regional governor have expressed fears the mine will harm their water supplies.

Humala asked that the mine not use two of four lakes that the mine operator has planned drain as part of the mining operation.

The Yanacocha company, which is in charge of carrying out the project, issued a statement Saturday saying it was considering Humala’s request and evaluating alternatives.

U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp. owns a majority stake in the project.

Humala said two lakes, known as Azul and Chica, should not be drained and filled with diggings. That was a recommendation made by experts in a report commissioned by the government to review an earlier environmental impact assessment.

The government initially approved that environmental assessment, but it ordered the additional report by international experts after protests by thousands of people who distrusted the first study. The $4.8 billion mining project was put on hold in November following protests.

Humala said the project should provide more water to local reservoirs, and he added that his government will spend about $1.8 billion on infrastructure in the northern region of Cajamarca where the project is located.

Cajamarca is one of Peru’s most heavily mined regions and many people there don’t trust the new project because it is an extension of the nearby Yanacocha mine, Latin America’s largest gold mine, which is nearing the end of production. Yanacocha has a history of troubled relations with neighboring farmers, ranchers and city dwellers downstream who claim it has harmed water supplies.

The mining industry is a key sector in Peru, accounting for 61 percent of the country’s exports.

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