Peru's government said on Wednesday it would try to broker a truce with angry protesters who are opposed to Newmont Mining's $4.8 billion Conga project, the biggest mining investment in the country's history.
The new gold mine would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and royalties for the government, but Mines and Energy Minister Carlos Herrera said to be built it must first win the approval of the local community, which is worried the mine would cause pollution and sap water supplies.
I don't think projects should go forward without permission of the community. That is, projects should be approved by the people who will be affected by them, Herrera told Congress on Wednesday.
The position of the government is that it wants investment, but not at any price.
Herrera appeared to be miffed that only now is the community voicing opposition to the project -- a full year after its environmental impact study was approved.
It doesn't leave a good impression when people don't fulfill their promises or disregard them a year after making them, he said.
Protests last month at the mine turned violent and some local residents have threatened to invade Newmont's mining camp in the Andean region of Cajamarca on Thursday unless the U.S. company abandons its project -- which appears highly unlikely.
Newmont owns the Conga project with Peruvian precious metals miner Buenaventura.
President Ollanta Humala, who has promised to end hundreds of social conflicts nationwide, was sending Herrera and his ministers of environment and agriculture to Cajamarca later on Wednesday to negotiate an accord between the company and the local community.
At least 200 communities in Peru have organized to halt or delay planned mining and oil projects, usually over environmental concerns or to demand direct economic benefits in rural towns.
The conflicts over natural resource projects threaten to delay about $50 billion in investments expected over the next decade in Peru, a leading global minerals exporter.