Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru
[The author of this blog post who has translated the original article from Celendin Libre wishes to declare uncertainty in the translation of this interview. The answers of the interviewee were not given in a grammatically clear manner and so it was difficult to make sense of it in English. All attempts were made to remain true to the original meaning, however it was necessary to grammatically alter certain phrases. If any discrepancies are found, the author would appreciate being informed.]
The original Celendin Libre blogpost can be seen here:
This interview appeared in the Peruvian newspaper La República on Monday, May 27, 2013. Author: Edgar Jara.
Interview with Yanacocha
On what are you working on now?
We must build a new image for the company, we changed the main plan, and we continue making the changes that are needed, it is progressive, the most important thing is to give signals. We are doing things different, for example in the past we defined a work plan and said that we have to reach this goal, we must now change that. But if there are no conditions [presumably talking about the possibility of social resistance], [we will set] another date. The Perol [Lagoon] is super significant, I agree with Roque (Benavides) [Director of Buenaventura, the other major partner in Minas Conga] it is going to be a very important milestone for the project.
Are you going to take the water from The Perol [Lagoon]?
We will transfer the The Perol Lagoon to an area of increased uptake.
How can it be done, the artificial bettering nature?
In all the major societies of the world reservoirs are used to store water and download it to be able to supply the cities, we will have finished Chailluagón next week and it will be operational in two to three weeks.
Who is going to benefit?
Chailluagón is built downstream from the Chailluagón lagoon, about 60 meters from the lagoon, a dam, and that will allow the lagoon to grow, the natural vessel is enlarged and converts into a larger one, allowing the dam to store water. The natural lakes only overflow in the rainy season and generates runoff that benefits the users downstream, in the dry season when it ceases to be full, the level of the lagoon drops to a certain level and then does not run off, some water runs through percolation, but very little, and the proof of that is that if it were draining a lot of water throughout the dry season by the end of the dry season the lagoon would be empty, but one sees that the lake reaches a plateau and remains there until the following year.
Why not invite people to observe?
The The Perol lagoon and the reservoir, the latter is adjacent to the lagoon and it will be the same as Chailluagón, the area where the dam will be constructed, it is already identified and this will permit the water from The Perol lagoon to be transversed, allowing the download of water during the rainy and dry seasons.
Why do you think the communities do not understand, so simple an explanation?
Not only communities but much of the city of Cajamarca. Firstly because we have not made enough effort to communicate, and second, because sometimes maybe we make the mistake of being too technical in our explanations, they make many myths, there are people interested in discrediting the initiative of the Perol lagoon into something negative and create myths saying that the reservoirs at the source of the water basin are harmful, that they cannot compare to the works of God. Some have said that the reservoirs are a concrete box that will be built to preserve the water.
When will the conditions be ready for Conga to be executable?
I do not know …
How are they today?
I think that today we are in a process of building credibility and reservoirs.
Is credibility the most important?
Of course, but that is not built with words but with actions and for this we have to give content to this message and part of this is the work we are building.
What will happen to the “Guardians of the Lagoons” that are close to you?
Well, I would like them also to know the reservoirs, I cannot convince everyone, some people do not believe in mining as a source of development, we are not going to be able to convince them probably.
When conflict broke out in 2011, the regional president was about to sign the agreement with the government that would see that Conga goes ahead. What do you think happened?
I do not know, it would simplify the problem to say that all fell because one person didn’t sign a document.
The anti-miners have lost all hope in Conga, what went wrong with you? Is it trust?
There was a socio-political scenario that no one anticipated. When they had regional elections there was a political scenario in which we could move forward with the work we are doing, but afterwards the presidential elections generated discontent in the region and had a great impact. That misunderstanding exacerbated doubts or fears that may have existed in the project.
Ollanta, you encouraged him, the President is harmful to Yanacocha?
I am respectful of the authorities. In any process there are people with sociopolitical influence, but I hope that whatever has happened is not due to one person or another, but there are many components …
It will revert to the next election.
I want it to reverse with the things we are doing, we cannot trust, it would be irresponsible of us to be sitting around waiting for the final decisions of elections to define the future of the company. We have a responsibility and that is, improve the relationship with Cajamarca, for people to believe in us.
Has the Conga frustration hurt the mining sector?
It has implications for the social processes that replicate throughout the country. It is not that one thing should be consequential to another necessarily, someone said at some point that there was a practice that one wanted to franchise in the country, that is true.
Does the conflict of Cañariaco corner the government?
We all have to do more and better, the state has to act with more energy, not to repress but to communicate better, to inform people to be part of the communication, it is bad that only the company has to give explanations to the community about what it wants to do. In general credibility in the country is bad, there is mutual distrust.
What message would you give to anti-mining leaders?
That we have to reflect on what we did right and wrong and how it affects us – us, our neighbours and Cajamarca, the same message I would give to them, we have all failed.
“The message I would give anti-mining leaders is that we reflect on what we did right and wrong and how it affects us, us and Cajamarca.”