A number of ill reports for mining in Latin America this week.
That included allegations by Brazilian prosecutors that the breached Samarco tailings facility operated by BHP/Vale is continuing to leak pollution. As well as reports from world-leading copper mine Codelco of a second spill in as many months at the company’s operations in the Chilean Andes.
But one item this week stood out in terms of significance for the industry. An admission by one of Peru’s most prominent mining firms that a major gold development project is now a complete no-go.
Buenaventura’s president Roque Benavides told an industry gathering that the company sees Minas Conga as “not feasible” for development. Further saying that Buenaventura will now remove the project’s mineral reserves from its books, reclassifying them to resources.
This is a huge development for Minas Conga. Which is one of the world’s biggest development projects, at over 6 million ounces of gold and nearly 2 billion pounds of copper.
Buenaventura’s Benavides cited lower metals prices as part of the reason for the about-face on Minas Conga. But the bigger issue here has been massive unrest from local communities associated with the project — with Benavides saying that a mine here won’t work “socially speaking”.
The decision comes shortly after anti-Minas Conga protester Maxima Acuna de Chaupe was awarded the high-profile Goldman Prize for environmental work. Immediately following which, Minas Conga’s joint owner Newmont Mining released a statement saying it is abandoning the project “for the foreseeable future”.
The fact that local operator Buenaventura is following suit shows there’s little hope for an advance on this mega-project. Which has been in limbo since 2010, when violent protests broke out over mine construction.
All of which suggests that social issues are increasingly gaining power as a driver of new projects in this part of the world. An important consideration for developers at all stages of the project pipeline.