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- South America Political & Social Issues
Gold, What Cost?
In the high mountains of the Andes in northern Peru, gold has been found.
An American company, Newmont Mining Corporation plan to build a huge open caste goldmine at a cost of $4.8bn, the largest mining investment in Peru’s history.
A total of four high mountain lakes will have to have their water removed in order to make way for the mine called the Conga project. Newmont claim that they will build reservoirs to replace the lakes.
Newmont also runs another nearby project, the Yanacocha mine which is Latin America’s biggest mine.
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Peruvians climbed mountains on foot and on horseback to protest at the lake sides the building of this mine. Also in the provincial capital Cajamarca 100 miles away, protests took place including the closing of schools, businesses and the running of local buses.
Earlier machinery had been sabotaged at the mine causing Newmont to heighten its security at the site.
The Peruvians are concerned that the reservoirs will be inadequate and that pollution from the mine could adversely affect both livestock and agriculture in the area.
Newmont have said that they made their plans with consultations from the local communities and are abiding by the highest environmental standards.
The recently elected President Humala has approved the Conga mine but has increased taxes on the mining companies. He says that the project will bring large new revenues to the country and will provide thousands of new jobs.
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This all sounds good but certain things do not quite add up.
President Humala was only elected into office in June, which means that he was not involved in any of the plans for the mine.
If local communities had been fully consulted, as claimed by Newmont, why is it that these same communities are now protesting?
If Newmont’s standards are so high, surely they would be able to hold up Yanacocha as an example.
The truth is more likely to be that the President accepted Newmont plans because of the big money involved. By consultations, they mean the company probably told the community what they were going to do. As for Yanacocha, it is probably the standards that the Peruvians have seen there that are causing them to protest, in an attempt to stop a recurrence.
Gold though, is big business and regardless of the peoples wishes and regardless of the damage to the environment, the Conga project will proceed undeterred as that is what the financial elite want.
Once again we see an example of how our lives and planet are being eroded for the greed of a few wealthy, self proclaimed elite.