Peru’s Humala Struggles to Balance Mining-Based Growth, Social Development

Peru’s Humala Struggles to Balance Mining-Based Growth, Social Development

Peruvian Justice Minister Juan Jiménez's appearance before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last week marked the latest challenge to President Ollanta Humala's strategy of marrying mining-based growth with social development.

Jiménez faced the commission Saturday to dispute a law proposed last year by local organizations concerned about environmental impacts from the $4.8 billion Conga gold and copper mine. Later this week, the country’s Constitutional Tribunal will also consider the constitutionality of a decision by the president of Cajamarca province, where the Conga mine is located, to declare the project “unviable.” Local communities argue that the mine will empty several alpine lakes, causing immense environmental damage and depleting water sources.

The standoff over Conga is arguably the most contentious of Peru’s mining conflicts and representative of a national debate about resource exploitation. The dispute has halted mining activities in Cajamarca for more than four months and forced the Peruvian government to commission a new environmental impact assessment by international experts. The results of the study are due in early April, but the recent decision by Newmont Mining, Conga’s majority owner, to cut 6,000 jobs at the mine is an indication of the economic impact of mining disputes on the local community.

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