Peru: campesino vigilance at Conga mine site

Campesinos in Cajamarca, Peru, continue to organize round-the-clock vigilance at the proposed site of Yanacocha company’s Conga gold mine, in response to reports of construction work at the concession bloc despite official assurances that the project is suspended. Organized in rondas (self-defense patrols), the campesinos are monitoring activities at the high-altitude lakes that would have to be destroyed for the project to proceed. Idelso Hernández of the Cajamarca Unitary Struggle Front said Oct. 12, “Now there are 1,200 people mobilized to protect the lakes. The comuneros have decided to maintain a permanent presence in the zone to block any effort by Yanacocha to transfer workers or equipment there.” Some 600 National Police troops have also been deployed to the site.

Cajamarca’s regional vice president, César Aliaga Díaz, meanwhile said his government will organizing a plebiscite on the project, “to express in formal manner the decision of the people of Cajamarca.” A recent survey by Cajamarca’s Antonio Guillermo Urrelo University found that 73.4% of the region’s residents oppose the project “under any circumstances,” with 61.1% generally opposed, and only 3.4% in favor. (El Comercio, Oct. 12; Celendín Libre, Oct. 11)

US-based Newmont Mining Corporation, majority owner of Yanacocha, announced last month that it was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for a fifth consecutive year—a list of some 300 global companies “identified as leaders in the areas of sustainability and economic, environmental and social performance.” 

“Our employees take great pride in being leaders in safety, environmental stewardship and social responsibility,” said Richard O’Brien, Newmont’s president and chief executive officer. “I’m pleased that, once again, their commitment to our values is being recognized by such a prestigious, independent organization.” Campesino leaders in Cajamarca reacted with incredulity, citing toxic spills and damage to the region’s watersheds by Yanacocha’s existing operations. (Celendín Libre, Oct. 10; Newmont press release, Sept. 12)