Peruvian Community Leaders Challenge Largest U.S. Gold Mining Company to Stop Human Rights Violations
Location: Wilmington, DE
Travel from Peru to annual shareholder meeting to demand Newmont CEO and Board stop harassing opponents of Conga gold mine proposal
At Newmont Mining’s annual general meeting today, shareholders and civil society groups joined a community leader from Cajamarca, Peru in calling on the Denver-based mining giant to live up to its human rights commitments and stop harassing indigenous Cajamarca residents who have blocked Newmont’s proposed Conga gold mine.
In a David v Goliath battle, Newmont has responded to community opposition to its mine by using police and private security to harass and intimidate local residents and landowners, including the families of Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and Elmer Campos.
“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, longtime Cajamarca resident, director of the local civil society organization GRUFIDES, and legal counsel to Máxima Acuña de Chaupe. She continued, “Otherwise Newmont will become globally infamous for discarding their commitments to human rights and community engagement as soon as they become inconvenient.”
Ms. Acuña de Chaupe’s rights have been recognized in Peruvian courts and regional human rights bodies, but she still faces intimidation at her home. She could not personally come to the AGM today because she fears what may happen to her home while she is gone. Mr. Campos was injured at a 2011 mine protest where he alleges he was shot by Peruvian National Police officers under contract to Minera Yanacocha, a joint venture corporation majority-owned and managed by Newmont. Due to the paralysis resulting from his injury, he is also unable to attend the AGM. In March, a U.S. federal court ruled in Mr. Campos’s favor and ordered Newmont to turn over evidence relating to police repression of protesters.
“Violence and intimidation are sadly a common tactic against human rights defenders,” said Katherine McDonnell, an attorney at EarthRights International which is legal counsel to Mr. Campos. “They often face additional hurdles in their advocacy efforts, either through direct intimidation or inflated charges that divert their time to direct defense.”
The Cajamarca community opposes the proposed Conga mine because of the huge environmental risks it carries, including the destruction of four mountain lakes upon which the arid region relies for agriculture and drinking water. GRUFIDES’ director Mirtha Vásquez and representatives of the environmental nonprofit group, Earthworks, delivered to Newmont leadership a SumOfUs.org petition signed by more than 150,000 concerned citizens from around the world urging Newmont to respect local court rulings and stop harassing Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family.
“As the western United States is stricken by drought, Denver-based Newmont, of all companies, should understand why the community considers water to be more precious than gold,” said Earthworks’ No Dirty Gold campaign director Payal Sampat. She continued, “Newmont’s scorched-earth tactics in Cajamarca will hurt the company – not just in Peru, but everywhere it operates around the world. Newmont’s misbehavior is not just unethical, it’s bad business.”
For more information:
Peruvian farmer wins land rights dispute against Newmont: http://bit.ly/1D6UyLo
Cajamarca Community Voice: http://bit.ly/1H9PPQW
Earthworks photos of Conga area and Cajamarca (credit as listed on individual photo): http://bit.ly/1be7edq
EarthRights International photos of Conga area and Cajamarca (credit EarthRights/Jorge Chavez): http://bit.ly/EarthRights-Conga-photos