Update Conga— Mining Project in Cajamarca

September 11, 2012

The struggle against the mining Project Conga continues in Cajamarca.

We are almost finishing two months of a state of emergency declared by the government in three regions of Cajamarca.  We are however entering a new phase. Recently the Government and the Transnational Newmont announced the suspension for three years of the megaproject Conga.

The decision to suspend the project has come from social pressure that is the protests of the people of the area. But there is a lot of confusion and contradictions as to what this means. At the same time that they announce suspension of the projec,t they confirm building two huge reservoirs in the area. The construction of the reservoirs is going to destroy the natural sources of water that feed into the surrounding lakes.  Without these natural sources of water the lakes will dry out. Is it we ask a strategic plan on the part of both government and the transnational during these three years to regain the confidence of the people of Cajamarca and convince them of the merits of the project?

Cajamarca is not asking for suspension of the project but rather for a declaration of non viability of Project Conga. While the people continue their protests work continues on the reservoirs. From another point of view, the delay of two or three years will ensure the change in Regional government and other political authorities who now resist mining in natural sources of water. (cabecera de cuencas)

Cajamarca is tired of protests, state of emergency, and manipulation on the part of those in power. The whole issue has become very politizised and hence more confusing. The politicians look for their own good. Government has announced that they will be placing emphasis on development, initiating different projects to provide employment and especially to assure that all villages have access to water and light. Such projects are long overdue. The question now is what type of projects, plans does Cajamarca need for sustainable development and eradication of poverty?

News media has been very biased in their reports and the reality of the problem is not understood.  They see Project Conga as an investment that will answer the needs of the country. They say the resources belong to the country and not only to Cajamarca therefore Conga should be developed. They have little understanding of the effects on the environment and the water supply that feeds so many villages and as well the extent of contamination.

The church in Cajamarca has been divided in its response. Individual parishes and Deaneries have been very much a part of the struggle accompanying and supporting the people, denouncing injustices and violence and criminalization of community leaders. Unfortunately there is no unified stance on the part of the diocesan church and no real committed leadership. There is no clear vision of the implications of this project on the majority of the population of the poor farming communities that will be directly affected.

To resolve this situation is no easy task. It will require time and substantial changes in public policies that have to do with mining activities, care of the environment and mechanisms of citizen participation. Let us pray for wisdom and guidance for those involved in deciding the future of mining activities in Cajamarca.

Messages to: Marion Collins