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COVID-19 to facilitate mine permitting?

The economic carnage the COVID-19 pandemic will leave in its wake could see a renewed push by governments in Latin America to permit and bring into production mining projects which have previously been stopped by community resistance.
COVID-19 to facilitate mine permitting? COVID-19 to facilitate mine permitting? COVID-19 to facilitate mine permitting? COVID-19 to facilitate mine permitting? COVID-19 to facilitate mine permitting?

Conga in Cajamarca, Peru

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With the formal business sector across the region suffering severe impacts from the inability to operate, unemployment levels are rising while government tax takings are falling, at a time when governments face increased spending demands.

In Peru, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has not ruled out the possibility of reactivating the Conga gold project in Cajamarca or the Tia Maria copper project in Arequipa.

"Everything is possible with the understanding of the environment where the project is located and that is a job that must be done, it has to be retaken. It has to happen, at some point it has to happen. The country requires more resources, it is going to require labour, it is going to require employment, it is going to require these revenues from the treasury to be able to serve the population," deputy mining minister Susana Vilca told local media.

Each project has faced vociferous opposition from local communities which has stalled development.

The government approved the US$1.4 billion Tia Maria project in July 2019, but a decade of opposition saw the government of president Martín Vizcarra suspend its development in January.

The $4.8 billion Conga project of Yanacocha, the Newmont and Buenaventura joint venture, has been paralysed since November 2011 due to social conflict.

In Colombia, the government is pushing hard to obtain community acceptance of AngloGold Ashanti's (AGA) Quebradona project in Antioquia, which is in the environmental permitting process. The government is also keen to see the development of Gramalote in Antioquia, a joint venture between B2Gold and AGA, and Minesa's Soto Norte project in Santander.

Argentina also has major mining projects whose development has been stopped by community opposition, particularly in tourist hotspots such as Mendoza and Chubut—such as Suyai and Navidad. With tourism one of the short-term casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic pressure may mount on the provincial governments to overturn legislation that effectively bans metallic mining.