The long-awaited international expert report on the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Conga mining project was presented Tuesday the 17th of April. The three international experts, José Martins Carvalho, Luis López García and Rafael Fernández Rubio, handed over the 260 pages to Óscar Valdés, the president of the Council of Ministers.
Why did the government of Peru initiated this expert report?
The government initiated the realization of this report to look into the hardly criticized Environmental Impact Assessment of the Conga mining project. Three international experts were invited to do a technical study; this had to deliver the much needed objective information about the impact of the project on the area. “It was organized to do more research about the surface and subterranean waters” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, minister of Environment, said.
The contracts of the three experts reveal another objective of this report; the report should “identify and propose measures to mitigate the environmental impacts of the mining project Conga, with the final goal to generate social peace and confidence in the region of Cajamarca.” The contracts do not mention the possibility to discuss the viability of the project.
What does the report say?
The main conclusions of the report are:
The message of the opposition is very clear; ‘agua si, oro no’. It implies that with the exploitation of the Conga-mine, which will be a gold- and copper-mine, the water supply of this region is endangered. So, a choice has to be made: water or gold. This report denies that the water-supply of the region will be affected; the water is of poor quality and the water capacity is overestimated.
Rafael Fernández Rubio, one of the experts, emphasized on the independent and technical character of the report, and made clear that it has no political aims. “A zero impact is not possible. You have to find the balance and develop countervailing measures, so that the result respects the four domains; the economic, social, environmental and technical domain, in a way that you can benefit from the gold and copper, and in the mean time can improve the guaranties of supply of water.”
How did the government react to the report?
At 5 pm that day Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, minister of Environment, Jorge Merine, minister of Energy and Mines, and Luis Ginocchio, minister of Agriculture, came together to give some comments at the report.
“The report has a clear message to the people of Cajamarca, it was initiated to do more research about the surface and subterranean waters” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said. “Because the springs in the higher parts of Conga have such a small water capacity, the risk is very small” he added. “The water reservoirs of the mining project have the capabilities to provide more water for the consumer”. He continued saying that this report does not decide whether the mining project is viable or not. The minister repeated that this technical report allows dialogue with Gregorio Santos, regional president of Cajamarca, and other social leaders from the opposition.
Jorge Merino, minister of Energy and Mines, praised the technical and transparent character of this report. The report is “ a milestone for mining, not only because of the message to the public on the use of water, (…) but it’s also a message to the world, that in Peru things are done correctly.”
Óscar Valdés clarified that the report served its purpose; “A decision was made to inform the people of Cajamarca through several hearings, and to let the project adjust his plans where necessary. At the same time this means that we haven’t made any decision [regarding to the viability of the project]”
What are the different reactions to the report from the opposition?
The message from the government is clear; this technical document should allow dialogue about the viability of the mining project. Some of the reactions from the opposition:
Gregorio Santos, regional president of Cajamarca, got to know this same day that the regional law (ordenanza) that declares that the Conga project is not viable, was declared to be in contradiction with the constitution. The Constitutional Court decided that a regional government cannot install laws of these kinds. Gregorio Santos reacted firmly: “They have waited for this day to reject the regional law about the Conga project. The expert report has to be analyzed first. But it is clear that every investment first got to get the people’s vote, through a referendum, because the industry controls the government, the Constitutional Court and the ministries.” He was clear about the possibility of dialogue, “nobody will negotiate with the government when you live in a militarized region.”
Ydelso Hernández, president of the Defense Front of the Cajamarcan Interests, said during the march in protest of the report, that the government is trying to impose the Conga project, using this document. “We always said that Conga is not viable, with or without an expert report. (…) We are awaiting the president’s version of the report.”
The president of the Environmental Defense Front of Cajamarca, Wilfredo Saavedra, called upon the president to deny the mining company the green light. “We know hearings are being manipulated, we no longer believe in the Council of Ministers. Whatever happens with this report, it is clear that Conga is not viable.”
Marco Arana, the president of the green party ‘Tierra y Libertad’, said that this report is in contrast with a parallel research organized in Cajamarca. He refers to the report of hydrologist Robert Moran, who criticized the Environmental Impact Assessment. The information and results of this document were not taken into account by the three international experts. “They asked two Spaniards and one Portuguese to tell all the Peruvians and Cajamarquinos what we don’t know. In Cajamarca we also have geologists and technicians.”
Now more than 2000 persons, patrols from Celendín and Bambamarca, are occupying the mountain lakes Misacohca and Mamacocha, said president of the Defense Front of Bambamarca Eddy Benavides.
Whether the Conga mining project is viable or not, is not clear. The final decision lies in the hands of President Ollanta Humala. With this report the government will try to initiate dialogue, whether they have the leverage to do so, is not clear. Moreover, it’s not known who of the opposition has the legitimacy to negotiate with the government, and who is willing to negotiate.
The document was made by experts, technical and transparent information was the objective. The government tries to initiate dialogue with the opposition, using this report. Though, it’s interesting to know that Rafael Fernández Rubio was paid 99.200 US $, Luis López García received 59.892 US $, and his Portuguese colleague José Martins Carvalho got paid 80.600 US $ for 40 days of work. This total sum of 239.692 US $ was paid by the Peruvian state.
Sources of text:
Source of photo: