By Robert Kozak
LIMA, Peru--Protesters are continuing to demand that Minera Yanacocha close down its $5 billion Minas Conga copper and gold project in the Cajamarca area of northern Peru.
Protesters want the company, run by Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM) to stop work on the Conga project, including the building of water reservoirs.
Violent protests last year led to a partial suspension of work at the greenfield site. Opponents say that water supplies will be threatened by any mine, something the company disputes.
More protests are planned for this week.
A tweet sent Monday from a Twitter account with the name of Gregory Santos, president of the regional government of Cajamarca and a staunch foe of the project, said, "We won't accept that the lakes in Conga become waste pits for toxic wastes."
In an interview published Monday in newspaper El Comercio, Energy and Mines Minister Jorge Merino said the Conga project will proceed, although he noted that the company still doesn't have a "social license."
"The government will support private investment, but we can't impose a forced decision unless there is a majority in favor of the development," Mr. Merino was quoted as saying.
In a statement last week, Yanacocha said its main focus is a program to increase water-storage capacity and provide greater availability of water to downstream users.
The company said the Chailhuagon reservoir was completed recently and will more than double the storage capacity of the Chailhuagon Lake.
"Construction of the Perol reservoir will only begin once we obtain all the required permits, which we estimate could be secured by the second quarter of 2014," Javier Velarde, a company official, said.
He said the company will have to go through an "extensive public consultation process" with the communities and stakeholders in the area of influence of Perol Lake.
"For the remainder of the year, the company will only be working on the construction of access roads, environmental management and sediment control, as well as social investment projects aimed to maximizing the community benefits of Chailhuagon reservoir," he added.
The Conga project is located 73 kilometers from the city of Cajamarca and close to Minera Yanacocha's existing Yanacocha gold mine.
Production at Minas Conga is slated to have an average annual output of 580,000 to 680,000 ounces of gold and 155 million to 235 million pounds of copper during its first five years.
Minas Conga is 51.35%-owned by Newmont Mining, while Compania de Minas Buenaventura SA (BVN, BUENAVC1.VL) has a 43.65% stake. The World Bank's International Finance Corp. holds the rest.
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