Maxima Acuña-Atalaya v. Newmont Mining Corp.

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Maxima Acuña-Atalaya v. Newmont Mining Corp.

A family’s struggle against one of the world’s biggest mining companies.

Country:

Peru

Case Status:

Ongoing

Issues:

Corporate Accountability, Extractive Industries

Harms:

Harrassment, Intimidation, Destruction of Property, Loss of Livelihoods, Physical Harms, Death Threats, Abuse of the Peruvian Legal Process

Summary

The Chaupe family, including Goldman Environmental Prize Winner Máxima Acuña-Atalaya de Chaupe, are subsistence farmers who reside in the rural highlands of Cajamarca, Peru. They obtained the right to a plot of land known as Tragadero Grande in 1994, and have cultivated crops and raised livestock there for many years. Since 2011, when Newmont’s Board of Directors approved Conga, a controversial US$4.8 billion mining project, Newmont’s agents (including public and private security forces) have used harassment and violence to try to evict the family from their farm. The Chaupes allege that they have been physically attacked and threatened, and that Newmont’s agents have destroyed their property and possessions, and killed or attacked their pets and livestock. They allege that Newmont has the power to cease these abuses but has declined to do so because the Chaupes stand in the way of Newmont’s plans to construct the Conga mine.

The surrounding communities have organized and held nonviolent protests against Conga for several years. The protests have been met with violent repression by the Peruvian National Police (PNP), under contract to Newmont’s local affiliate. Two particularly violent episodes occurred in November 2011 and July 2012, when the PNP seriously injured several protestors – including another ERI client, Elmer Campos – and killed five including a 16-year-old boy. Although the Conga project has been temporarily suspended due in part to the opposition of local communities, the Chaupes remain an immovable obstacle: their family farm lies in the path of the mine’s proposed operations.

Plaintiffs

The Chaupe family are subsistence farmers who reside in the rural highlands of Cajamarca, Peru. Máxima Acuña-Atalaya de Chaupe is the family matriarch and a Goldman Environmental Prize winner.

Defendants

Newmont Mining Corporation

Headquartered in Colorado and incorporated in Delaware, Newmont Mining Corporation is one of the world’s largest gold producers. In 2011, Newmont’s Board of Directors approved Conga, a controversial US$4.8 billion mining project, which engendered strong local opposition – including from the Cajamarca Regional Government – due to concerns about the mine’s impacts on local water supplies.

Three additional corporate subsidiaries are also defendants in the case: Newmont Second Capital Corporation, Newmont USA Limited, and Newmont Peru Limited. All of the Defendant Newmont corporations are incorporated in Delaware.

Other Relevant Actors

Minera Yanacocha S.R.L. (MY) is a joint venture between the majority owner, Newmont, the Peruvian corporation, Compania Minera Condesa S.A, and the International Finance Corporation, the private-investment arm of the World Bank Group. Minera Yanacocha is engaged in copper and gold production in Peru; it owns the Yanacocha mine and has attempted to develop the Conga Project.

Securitas AB (Securitas) is a Swedish private security company with operations in Peru that has provided security personnel for Minera Yanacocha since 1993. Securitas personnel have been present during many recent attacks against the Plaintiffs at Tragadero Grande.

The Peruvian National Police (PNP) has provided security services for Minera Yanacocha since at least 2011, through Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs). The MOUs permit Minera Yanacocha to receive security from three units of the PNP. PNP officers were present at and/or participated in many attacks against the Plaintiffs at Tragadero Grande. Minera Yanacocha renewed their contract with the Peruvian National Police in 2017.

Partners

In addition to EarthRights International, the Chaupes are represented by Delaware lawyer Misty Seemans, in a pro bono capacity.

1990s

Newmont Mining Corporation, through its subsidiary Newmont Second Capital Corporation, becomes a majority owner of Minera Yanacocha, a Peruvian gold mining company.

1993

Minera Yanacocha begins operating the Yanacocha mine, the largest open-pit gold mine in South America. The mine is located in the highlands of Cajamarca, Peru.

1994

Máxima Acuña Atalaya and her husband Jaime Chaupe Lozano purchase the possessory rights to a plot of land in Sorochuco, Cajamarca, Peru known as Tragadero Grande.

1996

The Peruvian company Minas Conga negotiates with communities in Sorochuco to purchase land for the Conga Mine Project. The Chaupes never agreed to sell their land.

2001

Minas Conga enters a land sale with Minera Yanacocha that includes land Minas Conga purchased in Sorochuco. Defendants claim that Minas Conga entered a legitimate land-sale contract for 269.52 hectares in the region, including Tragadero Grande.

2010

Máxima and Jaime encounter Defendants for the first time in Tragadero Grande.

2011

In July, Newmont Mining Corporation’s board approves funding for the Conga Mining Project, whose boundaries of operations would include Tragadero Grande.

In August, Defendants orchestrate and implement an intimidation campaign against the Chaupes to pressure them into abandoning their home and farm on Tragadero Grande. At the same time, multiple Peruvian court proceedings are in process to determine who has the rights to the land.

2017

In September, Máxima Acuña Atalaya de Chaupe and her family file a lawsuit against Newmont Mining and three of its corporate affiliates in Delaware. The lawsuit seeks to stop a pattern of harassment and physical and psychological abuse that the Chaupe family has suffered at the hands of security personnel working on behalf of Newmont and its corporate affiliates.

In November, the Chaupes file a motion for a preliminary injunction in Delaware federal court against Newmont Mining Corporation and two of its corporate affiliates to protect the family while the federal court considers the family’s claims against Newmont in the U.S., and Peruvian courts resolve the underlying land dispute.

Legal Issues

The main legal issue that has arisen in this case is that Newmont claims that it has the right, under Peruvian law, to invade Tragadero Grande and destroy the Chaupes’ property in order to preserve its claim to the land. The Plaintiffs argue that Newmont has no right, and no need, to do this, especially while the ownership of the land is being settled in Peruvian court proceedings. In any event, Newmont should not have the right to harass the Chaupes and assault them.

Newmont has also argued that, even though the Chaupes chose to sue the company in its home – the place where it chose to incorporate – the case should be dismissed because it should be litigated in Peru instead.

Case Factsheet

Press

El Cuidadano | Máxima Acuña solicita que Newmont sea juzgada en Estados Unidos | February 12, 2018
Upside Down World | Goldman Environmental Prize Winner Takes David vs. Goliath Battle with Newmont Mining to US Court | September 28, 2017
San Fernando Sun | Campesina demanda a minera Newmont en corte de EEUU | September 21, 2017
La Republica | Máxima Acuña demanda a Newmont en los EEUU | September 21, 2017
Servindi | Caso Máxima Acuña: Llevan a Newmont ante la corte de EEUU | September 20, 2017
Progreso Hispano News | Campesinos de Peru Demandan a la Gigante Minera Newmont | September 20, 2017
Diario Opinion | En Perú demandan en EE.UU. a gigante minera Newmont | September 20, 2017
El Universo | Campesinos de Perú demandan en EE.UU. a gigante minera Newmont | September 19, 2017
Mining.com | Peruvian farmer sues Newmont in US court over alleged use of violence, threats | September 19, 2017
Business Insider | Peru farmer sues miner Newmont in U.S. court over alleged abuse | September 19, 2017
Reuters | Peru farmer sues miner Newmont in U.S. court over alleged abuse | September 19, 2017
20 Minutos | Campesina de Perú demanda a minera Newmont en corte de EEUU | September 19, 2017
Diario Correo | Perú: campesina Máxima Acuña demanda en Estados Unidos a gigante minera Newmont | September 19, 2017
Gestion | Máxima Acuña demanda a minera Newmont en corte de Estados Unidos por presunto abuso | September 19, 2017
Entorno Inteligente | PERÚ: Máxima Acuña demanda a minera Newmont en corte de Estados Unidos por presunto abuso | September 19, 2017

Press Releases

Peruvian Subsistence Farmer Asks Court to Continue Case Against U.S. Company in Delaware | February 9, 2018
Gold Mine Giant Continues to Harass Peruvian Subsistence Farmers, Family Asks U.S. Court to Stop the Abuse | November 1, 2017
> En español
Peruvian Subsistence Farmers Take U.S. Gold Mining Giant to Court  | September 19, 2017

Blogs

“Of course I will keep fighting.”
The Chaupe Family Believes that this U.S. Lawsuit is their only Opportunity for Justice
La reparación por violaciones a derechos humanos también es un derecho y no debe ser cuestionado
Newmont Mining as Champions for Corporate Excellence? We don’t think so.