LIMA: Peru brought in three foreign consultants to make recommendations on a $4.8-billion mining project that sparked violent protests before the government put it on hold, Prime Minister Oscar Valdes said Tuesday.
The project was suspended December 4, initially for two months, after an 11-day worker strike over adverse environmental impacts that many in the region fear will result from the planned Conga mining project in the Cajamarca area of northern Peru.
Valdes told reporters in Lima that his office had picked the consultants. Their names were not immediately announced.
But Valdes said that in the next 40 days, they would review the environmental impact study submitted by US mining giant Newmont, which was approved in 2010 by former president Alan Garcia's government.
"The government respects what has been signed and Newmont has done its part," Valdes said.
The company suspended the project under pressure from the government as protests surged amid local fears the project will sully local headwaters.
"If the review comes back negative, we would speak with the mining company and look at what happened with the environmental analysis and what they spent 10 million dollars on if it is worthless, which I do not expect," Valdes added.
The so-called Conga project, currently in the exploration phase, is a plan by Newmont to extract seven million ounces of gold and 400 million pounds of copper by 2017 from the area.
The open-pit project, located some 3,700 meters (12,140 feet) above sea level, involves moving the water from four lakes high in the Andes mountains into reservoirs the company would build.
But the Conga project has drawn protests from local residents, including mine workers, farmers and environmental activists, who fear among other concerns that contaminated water from the project could despoil the area's lakes and rivers.
President Ollanta Humala had been a backer of the project but now has insisted potential environmental impacts must be weighed.