Water Aspect Named

EIA Findings (WWF, 2012)

Integrative Critique

(see also Vela-Almeida et al., 2016 )

1) “…four lakes to be removed”

Mitigation: “Water storage reservoirs designed to assure a year-round supply of water to downstream users will replace the four lakes to be removed by the Conga Project. The water storage reservoirs will allow for water to be released throughout the year, particularly during the dry season.”

Such very large-scale open-pit extractive operations for gold and copper completely change land use and land cover, with high soil erosion. The use of toxics like cyanide and mercury, and large volumes of tailings and mining waste have high potential to contaminate soils, surface waters and groundwaters through runoff and infiltration. The loss of four natural lakes has major impacts on surface-water and groundwater hydrology. How the storage reservoirs compensate for impacts to flow patterns as well as magnitudes needs to be carefully modeled. Conga amplifies the adverse impacts from Yanacocha: What have these been? How are they projected to change with Conga?

2) “Uses of surface water”

“Agricultural uses for crop irrigation and livestock are the predominant uses of surface water emanating from the project area”.

Given the risks of surface water and groundwater contamination, (runoff and infiltration), soil erosion, and downstream sedimentation, it is likely that crop irrigation and livestock will be impacted by contaminated flows. These adverse flows cannot be eliminated by the replacement of natural flow volumes by storage reservoirs. Again, data on impacts from Yanacocha’s many years of operation need to be used as input data to hydrological modeling of impacts.

3) “Drinking water sources”

“Natural springs serve as the principal source of drinking water for the communities in the immediate vicinity of the Conga Project”.

Springs are outcroppings of high water table groundwaters, and can be seasonal. Aspect #5 is worrisome, esp. the exceedance of standards for metals. Which metals? Mercury is a super-toxic agent, as is cyanide (secondary decay product of hydrocyanic acid). Yanacocha has history of Hg spillage and health impacts. Groundwaters are recharged by the infiltration of precipitation, so aquifers within and down-gradient of the large mining site can be impacted, especially as it would seem (from springs) that they are surficial or near-surface.

4) “High coliform levels”

“Coliform levels often exceed standards due to the presence of livestock and limited sewage management in the area”.

Any changes to water supply sources – e.g. storage reservoirs – should be accompanied by corresponding investments in wastewater sanitation.

5) “Groundwater quality”

“Pre-project groundwater quality reflects the natural mineralization within the project area and exceeds some standards for metals”.

To be clear, the 10-13 years of “baseline” monitoring data used for the EIA are capturing the impacts of Yanacocha Mine. It is important to distinguish which chemicals (metals, inorganics and organics) are natural and which are from mining in order to estimate the projected impacts on groundwaters from Conga.