Groundhog Day at the Newmont Shareholder Meeting

Last year, Earthworks attended Newmont’s annual shareholder meeting in Denver, and asked CEO Gary Goldberg to end the company’s harassment of subsistence farmer Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family. We demanded that he follow through on his commitment not to pursue the Conga mine project given its history of violence, conflict, and community opposition.

In response, Mr. Goldberg stated that Newmont is not developing the Conga project and will always seek consent for its operations.

This sounds good, but Newmont’s actions don’t match their words. That’s why allies from the Denver Justice and Peace Committee will be back at Newmont’s AGM again today to ask Mr. Goldman why, if Newmont isn’t developing Conga, does the company continue to harass Máxima?

Despite Newmont’s insistence since 2016 that it has shelved its Conga mine plans, the Chaupe family continues to suffer surveillance, harassment, and now a new round of lawsuits in Peruvian civil court. The purpose of these suits is to strip the family of their legal right to reside in Tragadero Grande, the family farming plot that Newmont is seeking to take over in order to develop what would be the one of the largest gold mines in the world. The civil suits were filed just after Newmont suffered its first loss in Peruvian lower court in its criminal case against Máxima for land invasion in 2014. The company began to aggressively pursue the civil charges after Peru’s Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision, acquitting Máxima of criminal charges in 2017.

“Yanacocha’s [Newmont’s Peruvian subsidiary company] harassment is still a constant in our lives thanks in part to the civil suits. Our family does not have peace or tranquility,” reflected Máxima’s daughter, Ysidora Chaupe Acuña.

Often lasting upwards of 10-years, the civil suits are an extended drain for the family and their allies. According to Mirtha Vásquez of Grufides, the Cajamarca-based human rights and environmental organization, “If the company wins the suit, Máxima would be forced to turn her land over to Newmont and abandon her home. If Máxima prevails she can continue to live on her land, but it’s possible the company and its lawyers would invent some other process to continue suing her… I think that the company started this process because it knows it is another form of harassment that serves to emotionally and economically exhaust the family.”

Earlier this year, Newmont merged with Goldcorp, making the new corporation the world’s largest mining company. In announcing the merger, Mr. Goldberg stated that Newmont would “continue to execute our winning strategy.” We fear that for the Chaupes and other community members in places where Newmont is proposing to mine, this means more of the same mistreatment and lack of consent. We urge shareholders to insist that the company act in a way that protects financial and reputational risk while fulfilling its ethical commitments, and drop its lawsuits, and surveillance of the Chaupe family.

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