Peru has approved private mining projects worth $28 billion out of the $52 billion of projects plannned over the next five years, Energy and Mines Minister Jorge Merino said.

Some 75 percent of private investment in the country goes into the mining industry, Merino told Radio Programas del Peru, adding that the public should "close ranks" to protect the industry.

President Ollanta Humala's administration is currently dealing with 245 social conflicts, the majority of them related to pollution caused by mining and energy companies.

"We cannot grow without investment and we will not have funds to fight poverty," Merino said.

Humala's position is that contracts signed by the state should be respected if companies have received approval for environmental impact statements, the minister said.

The two most serious conflicts the government is dealing with are in Cajamarca region, where a strike over the Conga silver mine has been going for nearly three weeks, and the protests against Swiss mining company Xstrata's copper project in Espinar, a province in Cuzco region.

Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal said Satuday that he planned to meet with Espinar Mayor Oscar Mollohuanca and leaders of grassroots organizations on June 21 to try to end the conflict.

Mollohuanca was jailed for several days following the deaths of two protesters in a clash with police.

The meeting could open the way for "a fruitful dialogue" about pollution in Espinar, Mollohuanca said. EFE