Peruvian farmer’s fight to protect land from Newmont Mining comes to US

Stop the abuse.

That is what Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family have asked of US District Court judge in a lawsuit recently filed against Newmont Mining.

For more than six years, Máxima and her family have stood up to the company, refusing to be evicted from their homestead in order to make way for the massive Conga gold mine in Peru. The family and EarthRights International (ERI) filed the lawsuit in Delaware, Newmont’s state of incorporation, in September 2017. It seeks to stop the pattern of abuse the family has suffered from security personnel working on behalf of the company and its affiliates since 2011. This systematic abuse continues despite the fact that in 2016 Newmont reported that it “does not anticipate being able to develop [the] Conga [mine] for the foreseeable future.”

Earthworks joined Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and Mirtha Vásquez at the hearing.

On February 9th, Máxima traveled to the US from her home in Cajamarca to attend the first hearing. Accompanied by Mirtha Vásquez, director of Grufides, a Cajamarca-based human rights and environmental organization, Máxima listened to oral arguments on which country – the US or Peru – is the appropriate forum for the case to be heard. ERI supervising attorney on the case, Marissa Vahlsing, told the judge, “We came here because the courts in Peru are corrupt and Newmont has corrupted them. The people at Newmont in the United States are green lighting the abuses. That is why we are here.” The family and their legal team now await the judge’s decision on whether the case can proceed in US courts.

According to Vásquez, Peru does not have concrete mechanisms in place to protect Máxima and her family from the attacks, and the local authorities have shown an unwillingness to intervene. That’s why ERI also filed a preliminary injunction to protect the family while civil lawsuits in the US and Peru are pending. In May 2017, Máxima and her family were acquitted of the criminal charges filed by Newmont subsidiary, Yanacocha mining, in an attempt to gain access to the families’ land.

Thanks to the generosity of Earthworks donors, the family was able to make some critical security upgrades in December of last year. During her recent visit to the US, Máxima told us, “Every little bit from Earthworks supporters has helped us a great deal. The mine security has been constantly attacking us, using different tactics all the time. With your financial support we were able to repair our video cameras and buy flood lights, which has made us feel safer at our home.”

While Newmont may have shelved the Conga project for now, it is clear it has not shelved its quest to steal Máxima’s land. But Máxima refuses to back down, and neither will we. Next month we’ll be back at Newmont’s Annual General Meeting to demand the company stop the abuse!

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