It appears that the long-awaited report on the Conga mine, and President Ollanta Humala’s speech on the subject last Friday, have created more confusion around the project.
That’s because the government and Yanacocha, the mining company behind the proposed mine, have apparently come to different interpretations of the report on the environmental impact evaluation. The differences center on the fate of two lakes, Laguna Azul and Laguna Chica.
Under Yanacocha’s original proposal, the two lakes would be filled with the material removed in the excavation of the Perol pit. This was approved of in the original environmental assessment, which the government signed off in 2010. The new report, however, says that the proposed destruction of the lakes is “motivating the rejection by society.”
“This report understands that alternatives to safeguard, if possible, one or both of the lakes must be studied. In this sense, we understand that there are different options, among which could be considered the lateral displacement of the deposits, or the option of depositing part of the material from Perol in the already-exploited sector of the Chailhuagón pit,” the report continues.
Seizing on this, Humala said on Friday that, “Conscious of the importance of respecting the habitat of the populations that live in the project’s zone of influence, attention must be paid to the recommendation raised in the report relating to Laguna Azul and Laguna Chica. In this sense, the hydrological and environmental alternatives to avoid Laguna Azul and Laguna Chica being used as a deposit for the materal from the Perol pit must be evaluated.”
Speaking on Canal N’s “Agenda Politica,” Environmental Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who has recently been the government’s point man on Conga, clarified and reinforced Humala’s comments.
“The report establishes a recommendation, and the message of the president is to follow that recommendation to establish alternatives, to not cover Laguna Azul and Laguna Chica with the material from the Perol pit. The final objective is to not cover Laguna Azul and Laguna Chica with the material from the Perol pit,” Pulgar Vidal said.
According to La República, however, Yanacocha does not see a clear-cut recommendation in the report. Carlos Santa Cruz, Vice President of South America operations for Newmont, the majority owner of Yanacocha, said that the idea of saving the lakes without a technical evaluation “does not fit with the report.”
He added that Yanacocha has understood Humala’s comments, “within the context of his demonstrated respect for the rule of law, contracts, and the acts of government, whether they have been completed under his administration or not.”
In another press release, the company said it would evaluate government technical and economic alternatives to address the various issues raised by the report.