Peru's gold sales totaled $2.57 billion in the first quarter of this year, making the commodity the country's top export, the National Mining, Petroleum and Energy Society, or SNMPE, said.

Gold accounted for 23 percent of Peru's total exports of $11.38 billion during the January-March 2012 period, SNMPE gold committee chairman Jose Morales Dasso said in a statement.

Peru's mining industry posted exports of $6.64 billion in the first quarter, with gold accounting for 39 percent of the total.

"With these results, gold has become the principal Peruvian export product and this performance is explained by the marked rise in the price of the precious metal on international markets," Morales said.

Gold exports soared 30 percent to $10.1 billion in 2011, generating $2.3 billion more than in the prior year.

Peruvian gold is exported to 14 markets, including Switzerland, Canada and the United States, Morales said.

Mining projects have sparked numerous conflicts in Peru.

The Conga gold and copper mining project, for example, has been rejected by the majority of residents of the northern region of Cajamarca.

The Yanacocha mining company, South America's No. 1 gold producer, plans to invest $4.8 billion in Conga, but the government has set new conditions to reduce the project's environmental impact and secure water reserves.

The company will have to accept the conditions if it wants to move forward with the project, officials say.