From lakes to dumpsites: A short story about mining in Cajamarca, Peru


Environmental services are widely undervalued in mining projects in Peru. Recently, Cajamarca people protested against Conga gold mine by the transnational Newmont and Yanacocha companies.  Comments from the Ministry of Environment, Ricardo Giesecke, about the Environmental Impact Assessment has indicated potential irreversible damages to the higher parts of the watershed and the use of two lakes as dumpsites for the gold mine, while the other two lakes will be destroyed to extract gold.

This mine will “significantly and irreversibly transform the watershed, vanishing several ecosystems and fragmenting the rest, so that processes, functions and interactions and environmental services will be affected irreversibly” says the Minister of Environment.

It really hurts to see part of my ancestors’ land (my four grandparents are from Cajamarca) in the verge of destruction. The assimetry of information and power is simply disgusting, a powerful transnational, with the agreement of the Ministry of Energy and Mines vs. poor farmers, NGOs and recently the Ministry of the Environment, on my view, is not fair.

Who is then responsible? Is is the government? Is it Newmont? Is it us? We need to learn our rights and the government needs to help the people to improve their livelihoods according to what they want.  Transnationals are not doing anything illegal but  Peruvian mining laws allow big companies to proceed with projects when people living in the are do not want them. Knight-Piesold, the consultancy who did the Environmental Impact Assessment also holds part of the responsibility for not doing the EIA in a proper way, considering ALL and REAL environmental costs and impacts of the mine.

See an article by journalist Gustavo Gorriti in Spanish at:


About sandravelarde

Peruvian Forest Engineer (UNALM) and PhD in Environmental Managemeng and Development (Australian National University). My background is transdisciplinary in Ecological Economics (University of Edinburgh, UK) and natural resource management, adaptive governance, socio-economics and evaluating the trade-offs across different land uses: biodiversity, carbon,and profitability (FAO, ASB, ICRAF). My passions are planning and capacity building, using participatory methods, like Future Scenarios (CIFOR, ASB, ICRAF, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment). Currently working as Economist and Associate Research Leader (Economics and Governance) at Scion - New Zealand Forest Research Institute.

One response »

  1. Amost a year has passed since this social conflict started. The local, national and regional government have not been able to come to an agreement with Yanacocha mine. Five deaths, two ‘independent’ environmental impact assessments done, and state-of-emergency status was declared in Cajamarca this year (2012). When did the dialogue break down? As a Peruvian citizen, I ask for more openness. There has to be a way out of this mess. Without taking any side, I ask the President of Peru, Ollanta Humala, that solving this conflict should be a top priority. I care, my family is from Cajamarca and while all the police is involved in calming the riots, there is no police left to guard other people’s interest to private property. This problem is not only affecting people living around the Conga mine, but the whole country. Dear President, please show some leadership!

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