LIMA — The Peruvian government is finalizing a deal with US mining giant Newmont about a proposed $4.8 billion gold mine that has sparked violent protests, according to Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino.

"The agreement, the ratification will come soon," Merino told reporters on Friday, without providing a target date for what would be the biggest mining investment in Peru.

"We must work toward that goal."

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 mining project in the Cajamarca area of northern Peru.

Construction is due to get underway in 2014.

Merino defended a report by three foreign consultants Peru hired who provided recommendations to minimize the project's environmental impact and allay fears of water pollution and shortages.

The project "will abide by international norms," he said, adding that Cajamarca residents would be informed of the project's benefits.

Conga was approved in 2010 by former president Alan Garcia's government. His successor President Ollanta Humala had been a backer of the project but insists potential environmental impacts must be weighed.

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.

It has drawn protests from local residents, including mine workers, farmers and environmental activists, who fear that contaminated water from the project could despoil the area's lakes and rivers.

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Photo AFP/File, Cris Bouroncle