sharing in governance of extractive industries

Unofficial Review Criticises Conga Study

In early March, American academic Robert Moran published the results of an unofficial review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the controversial Minas Conga project in northern Peru.

Moran's report was touted as an alternative to that of the government appointed review panel, comprising two Spanish experts and one from Portugal, which is due to present its findings next month.

Cajamarca’s regional government, a prominent opponent of Conga, presented the conclusions of Moran’s investigation at a press conference on 12th March. After studying the EIA, the academic highlighted the following issues and concerns:

  • The original study was not objective nor independent as it was carried out by the mine operator, Yanacocha, which had a clear economic interest in pushing ahead with the project.
  • Though the report contains a lot of useful information, there are a number of occasions where inconvenient facts are omitted and half truths told.
  • The EIA does not provide sufficient data and measurements to allow regulators, investors and the local population to properly assess its future impacts.
  • Overall, the assessment of Conga's impacts in the report is focused only on the short-term. It does not consider either long-term effects or the cumulative impact of the various other projects planned for the same region.
  • The government set a deadline of 2013 for Yanacocha to hand in its studies of the project's effects on water supplies. Despite the fact that this key section was missing, the García administration still approved the EIA in 2010.

While community groups and environmental organisations claimed the investigation vindicated their concerns about the project, not all were so supportive. Environmental Minister Manuel Pulgar Vida dismissed the document as being fundamentally political and “full of damaging claims that don’t have any scientific or technical basis”. Antonio Brack, who served as Environmental Minister under García, said the report was “an embarrassment” and denied Moran's assertion that the EIA was a “public relations document for Yanacocha”.

Humala has denounced the creeping politicisation of the Conga conflict, saying this month that the dispute had become “contaminated by ideology”. With this he appeared to make reference to the input of Gregorio Santos, president of the regional government in Cajamarca, with whom he has recently been at loggerheads.

Social movements in the region recently filed a motion with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights seeking to block the project. Last week, Justice Minister Juan Jiménez Mayor travelled to Washington in defence of Conga, saying human rights would be respected throughout the process.

Despite the legal proceedings Newmont Mining, who own Yanacocha along with Peru’s Benavides, appear confident the project will still go ahead. CEO Richard O'Brien was quoted this week as saying that “The president supports mining and the Conga project. It is an important investment for the company and the country”. 

The £3bn (US$ 4.8bn) project has been suspended since the outbreak of protests in the Cajamarca region in November. In February, approximately 2,000 people participated in an eight-day march to Lima to register their concerns about Conga's effect on water supplies.

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