Peru may give environment ministry more power over new mines

Reuters News

8/29/2012 11:29:12 AM - Reuters News

LIMA (Reuters) - President Ollanta Humala has sent a bill to Congress that would give the environment ministry more power to approve or reject new mines in Peru, an overhaul that critics say is long overdue.

Peru, a top global metals exporter, has a pipeline of new mining projects worth $50 billion.

Local communities who say new mines would cause pollution or hurt water supplies have complained for years that the existing model for approving mines was flawed: the mining ministry alone is tasked with both promoting mining investment and approving the environmental impact studies for new mines.

The proposed law would change that, putting the environment ministry, which has only existed for a few years, in charge of a new commission to approve mitigation plans. The commission will include representatives from several ministries.

"This is important advancement for environmental management by the public sector," Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal said on RPP radio.

Humala, while backing foreign investments, has struggled to defuse hundreds of social conflicts nationwide over mining and oil projects since he took office a year ago.

Many communities say they have been left behind by the country's decade-long boom and have not seen direct economic benefits from new mines.

Humala has vowed to ensure environmental standards are met and to cut rural poverty.

"This will help create what the president has called a 'new relationship' with extractive industries," Prime Minister Juan Jimenez said of the bill.

(Reporting By Terry Wade and Omar Mariluz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)