The people vs gold – a global battleground – by Lawrence Williams (Mineweb.com – November 29, 2011)

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Recent public opposition to gold mining developments in Peru and in Bulgaria are indicative of a trend towards opposition to new mines which are accused of threatening water supplies.

LONDON – More and more it seems that local populations, perhaps stirred-up  by often misleading information from environmental activists, are protesting – sometimes violently – against the establishment of significant gold mining operations in their areas.

For example, in Peru, there is an ongoing protest by the citizens of Cajamarca against the development of the Newmont/Buenaventura $3.4 billion Minas Conga gold mine while in Europe’s Balkan region the citizens of the town of Krumovgrad in Bulgaria are currently conducting  a campaign against the development of an open pit gold mine by Dundee Precious Metals.  Both these to an extent also pit the locals against central government which sees the potential benefits of the respective mining operations to their revenues and in terms of increased employment.

The above protests revolve around water supply concerns, as have a number of other recent protests against mining operations.  In the case of Minas Conga, this is something of an embarrassment to Peru’s left-leaning new President, Ollanta Humala, whose government has so far supported the mining companies in this particular case because of its potential importance to the economy.  Other smaller projects suffering the same kind of protest have not been so lucky.

 “Mining hasn’t complied with its social role of attending communities, and that abuse has generated a climate of distrust,” Humala said recently at a conference in Lima reports Bloomberg. “That climate divides us between gold or water, and we need to solve that.”

But these protests, and others around the world, do suggest that the mining sector, which for the most part bends over backwards these days to protect water supplies and the environment in general, has perhaps not been sufficiently good at communicating its successes with the locals.  Because of its past, there still tends to be a distrust of big mining companies which locals feel exploit their resources and give little back to the communities.  A century ago, or even more recently than that, this may well have been the case and memories can be extremely long-lived, particularly when stirred up by anti-mining activists.

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