As Newmont shareholders gathered near Denver for the company’s annual meeting yesterday, so did protesters concerned about the company’s ties to human rights abuses in Peru.
For nearly a decade, Newmont has faced widespread community opposition to its Conga project in Cajamarca. The project was halted in 2011 after police cracked down on massive protests against the project, killing five and injuring hundreds of others. But the company continued to face off in a David and Goliath battle with subsistence farmer, Máxima Acuña de Chaupe. Máxima has refused to cede her land for the open pit copper mine despite years of constant harassment, violence and intimidation by the Peruvian National Police, agents of Newmont and its majority-owned Peruvian subsidiary Minera Yanacocha.
Newmont finally removed the Conga mine from its project pipeline in 2016 due in large part to the protests. However, the company has continued to lay the groundwork for the project – including stationing security personnel to monitor Chaupe’s homestead and fighting her in court – despite the conflict and community opposition it has engendered. In doing so, Newmont is continuing to follow the same kinds of practices that sparked community conflict in the region.
Campesino leaders from Cajamarca recently denounced Newmont’s attempts to gain support in the area of the proposed Conga mine despite clear community opposition to the project. They warn that the mine is still technically, environmentally, and socially untenable. According to Mirtha Vásquez of Grufides, a human rights organization based in Cajamarca, “Newmont continues with the same policies and so conflict in Cajamarca also continues. We haven’t seen any change in how Newmont is relating to communities in the area of influence of the Conga project.”
At Newmont’s shareholder meeting last week we expressed alarm at Newmont personnel’s violation of the Chaupe family’s rights to privacy and livelihood. We also called on Newmont CEO Gary Goldberg to follow through on his commitment not to pursue this project given the history of violence, conflict, and community opposition. We also urged Newmont to implement company-wide changes in the way it engages with communities, and to step aside when communities make it clear they do not want mining on their lands.
In response, Goldberg stated that Newmont is not developing the Conga project and always seeks consent for its operations.
Try telling that to Máxima.
Newmont’s decision to shelve Conga has not resulted in any relief for her or her family from the hardship caused by this near decade-long fight. In order to make good on that statement, Newmont must drop the lawsuits against Máxima and remove security personnel from lands surrounding Tragadero Grande.
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