Peru: campesino family scores win against mine

In a reversal for Peru's Yanacocha mining company, campesina Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family, convicted of land usurpation against the company by a local court, had their sentence overturned by the Cajamarca Supreme Court of Justice on Dec. 18. Acuña de Chaupe and three family members faced two years and eight months in prison and a $2,000 fine. The regional high court also ruled that no move should be made by Yanacocha on the disputed plot, although it stopped short of actually overturning the charge against the Chaupe family. The plot, long part of a predio (collective holding) called Tragadero Grande, is coveted by Yanacocha for infrastructure related to the controversial Conga open-pit project. Máxima Acuña de Chaupe became a symbol of the struggle against the Conga project, hailed as the "Lady of the Lagunas." (La Republica, Dec. 18)

In the prelude to the Lima climate summit, Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal announced that he had been assured of Yanacocha's "good will to resolve problems" around the Conga project after a special meeting with leaders of the company at Venezuela's Isla Margarita resort. The announcement was met with outrage by local campesinos, who say their lands are already being polluted by contaminated water flowing from the Conga site. While the project is officially suspended, road-building is underway at the site, as well as reservoirs to "relocate" the alpine ponds (lagunas) that Yanacocha hopes to turn into open-pit mines. (Celendín Libre, Nov. 12; La Republica, Nov. 9)

At a conference on Financing Development with Transparency in Lima last month, Peruvian journalist Raúl Weiner and his co-researcher Juan Torres released findings of an investigation, accusing Yanacohca's majority partner, Newmont Mining of Colorado, of having defrauded Peru's government of $137 million in taxes in 2013 alone. The researchers claim the company owes $1.8 billion in 20 years of back-taxes. The team arrived at the figure by comparing the costs of production claimed by Yanacocha to the costs claimed by other companies in the same sector. (TeleSUR, Oct. 15)

  1. Cajamarca: National Police invade dsiputed campesino plot?

    Gen. Hugo Begazo de Bedoya, regional National Police commander for Cajamarca, rejected charges that members of the elite force DINOES had invaded the lands of Máxima Chaupe and destroyed a cement-brick structure there. He suggested that the incursion had been carried out by the mining company's "Seguritas" (possibly Securitas) private security force. (La Republica, Feb. 3)

  2. Peruvian activists confront Newmont shareholder meeting

    At Newmont Mining's April 22 annual general meeting in Wilmington, Del., shareholders and civil society groups joined a community leader from Cajamarca in calling on the company to live up to its human rights commitments and stop harassing indigenous residents who oppose the proposed Conga gold mine. "Newmont’s leadership must publicly renounce its harassment of Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and other Cajamarca residents who oppose the Conga mine,” said Mirtha Vásquez, director of the local civil society organization GRUFIDES, and legal counsel to Máxima Acuña de Chaupe. "Otherwise Newmont will become globally infamous for discarding their commitments to human rights and community engagement as soon as they become inconvenient." (Earthworks)