Poll Says 78 Percent Of Cajamarca Residents Oppose Minas Conga

A new poll released Wednesday says that 78 percent of the residents in the northern region of Cajamarca reject the Minas Conga copper and gold project.

In rural areas, the opposition reaches 83 percent, according to the poll by Ipsos Apoyo, published in daily El Comercio.

Minas Conga has been at the center of a heated dispute since late last year, pictured as a battle between gold and water. Opponents, led by Cajamarca’s regional president Gregorio Santos, claim the project would harm the water supply, both in quantity as well as quality. US-based Newmont, the majority partner in Yanacocha, the company developing the project, has denied the claims and says the dams it is to build will actually boost the water supply.

President Ollanta Humala this week gave Yanacocha two years to solve the water supply issue , and that only then would it be permitted to begin the mine project itself.   The mining company is building reservoirs to channel the water from at least two lakes that will be drained for the open pit mine.

Newmont’s CEO, Richard O’Brien, was in Lima last week for talks with the negotiation table leaders, including Father Gaston Garatea. This week, he said that he cannot see a coherent environment at this time to develop the project, and that Yanacocha will make several significant changes to create an environment of trust and support in the Cajamarca community.   

Yanacocha’s record in community relations has been poor in Cajamarca since it began operating its gold mines in 1993, compounded in 2000 by its handling of a mercury spill in the village of Choropampa.

So far, five people have been killed in the protests this year, and two cabinet chiefs have been replaced.

The Ipsos Apoyo poll says the main reason people oppose Minas Conga is the environment (34 percent), pollution to water (23 percent) and the supply of water (22 percent).

Fifteen percent of the population says they support Minas Conga because it will create more jobs, provide development and increase government revenues through the mining “canon”, a share of the central government’s income and revenue from mining industry taxes that is given to local governments.

The poll of 504 people was taken between August 3 and 9.

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