Newmont Mining Corp: Human Rights/Environmental Violations, Cajamarca, Peru

Newmont Mining Corp. is the principle shareholder of Minera Yanacocha S.R.L, a joint venture between Newmont (51.35%), the Peruvian Buenaventura (43.65%) company, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (5%).[1] Minera Yanacocha owns the Yanacocha mine located in Cajamarca, Peru. Spread across 600 sq. miles, it is the second largest and most profitable gold mine in the world.[2] The Yanacocha open pit mine has generated several controversies since its launch in 1993, particularly for causing severe damage to local water resources.[3]

The familiar view of mining as a driver for local economic development proved false in Cajamarca: after hosting 20 years of mining activities, the region is still one of the poorest in the country.[4] While companies claim to create employment opportunities, many residents in the area have lost their livelihoods.[5] Frequent water shortages, environmental destruction, and the disappearance of arable land in the region all indicate that mining is irreconcilable with the dominant activities in the local economy (i.e. agriculture and tourism).[6]

Minera Yanacocha began construction of the Minas Conga project in 2010. Minas Conga is located at the convergence of five major river basins in the area. Pollution from the mine puts the region’s waterways, livelihoods, and water rights at risk.[7] The Minas Conga Project threatens to destroy four lakes, affect 680 springs, and consume at least 228,000 liters of water per hour in a region already prone to water shortages.[8] The project threatens to drastically alter Cajamarca’s surface water drainage system and would affect multiple water sources, intensifying the community’s existing environmental woes. Furthermore, the Conga project has failed to implement acceptable CSR protocols and continues to operate without consent from the local population. Upon review, the Conga project’s 9,000 page Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was described as “disorganized” and “inadequate” given the scale of investment. Conga’s EIA only recognizes 32 communities in the mine’s range of influence.[9]

According to ILO Convention No. 169, ratified by the Peruvian government, potentially affected communities had the right to be consulted regarding the Minas Conga Project – something the Peruvian government failed to do. Protests intensified in 2011 resulting in violent suppressions by Peruvian police forces and countless human rights violations. In response to the protests, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency, placing Cajamarca under a heavy military presence for three months.[10] The Peruvian government ordered the project’s suspension shortly thereafter, in November 2011. [11]

A formal complaint was filed with the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in April 2012.[12] A survey by IPSOS APOYO published in August 2012 reported that 78% of the population in Cajamarca is against the Conga Project, with only 15% in favor of it.[13]  In July 2012, the Peruvian National Police suppressed a demonstration wounding many and killing five.[14] Locals claim that police arbitrarily detain or arrest peaceful demonstrators and that the mine actively targets social leaders who speak out.

Still, the company and the Peruvian government continue to move forward with the project. On June 22, 2012, Newmont announced its decision to take a “water first” approach, building reservoirs on high-mountain lake areas before building production facilities or commencing mining activities to ensure water supplies for the locals. Construction of the first such reservoir was completed in May, 2013. Newmont claims that these reservoirs will provide year-round water supplies in areas that currently suffer during the dry season. Construction of an access road and other infrastructure related to the project are going on simultaneously. [15]

[1] Yanacocha (2010): Quiénes Somos (accessed 02.09.2013).

[2] Infomine (2010): Yanacocha Mine (accessed 02.09.2013).

[3] Cajamarca, Peru (accessed 02.09.2013); P. Marco Arana Zegarra (2004): Agua y minería en Cajamarca. Defendiendo el derecho al agua, Cajamarca: Grufides: (accessed 02.09.2013), p.12, 6-9.

[4] Ángel Páez (2011): “Distritos del proyecto Conga siguen pobres a pesar del canon”, La Republica, 20 December (accessed 02.09.2013); José De Echave and Alejandro Diez (2013): Más allá de Conga, Rio de Janeiro: Cooper Acción: (accessed 02.09.2013), p. 16.

[5] New York Times (2010): Tangled Strands in Fight over Peru Gold Mine, 14 June (accessed 02.09.2013).

[6] P. Marco Arana Zegarra (2004): Agua y minería en Cajamarca. Defendiendo el derecho al agua, Cajamarca: Grufides (accessed 02.09.2013).

[7] Bank Track (2013): Dodgy Deal. Minas conga mining project (accessed 02.09.2013)

[8] Roxana Olivera (2013): “Standing up to big gold”, The United Church Observer, 4 June (accessed 02.09.2013).

[9] Robert E. Moran (2012): The Conga Mine, Peru: Comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Related Issues, Paper prepared for the Environmental Defender Law Center (accessed 02.09.2013.

[10] Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (2013): Informe anual 2011-2012. Un año del gobierno de Ollanta Humala (accessed 02.09.2013).

[11] Trefis Team (2013): A Closer Look At Newmont Mining’s Stalled Conga Project in Peru 16 September 2013 (accessed 17.02.2014).

[12] Reuters (2013): Peru faces human rights complaint over Newmont gold mine, 11 March (accessed 02.09.2013); Cecilia Jamasmie (2013): Peruvians ask Washington-based human rights commission to halt Newmont’s Conga project, 13 March: (accessed 02.09.2013).

[13] La Republica (2012): Ipsos Apoyo: 78% de cajamarquinos se opone al proyecto Conga, 22 August 22 (accessed 02.09.2013).

[14] Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (2013): Muertos por la intervención policial en contextos de protesta social enero 2011 – julio 2012 (accessed 02.09.2013); Amnesty International (2012): Peru. Appeal for calm after fatal violence at mine protest: (accessed 02.09.2013).

[15] See Supra note 11