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  • Maxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family in the Peruvian highlands.

    Maxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family in the Peruvian highlands. | Photo: 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize

Campesinos pitted against giant Newmont Mining have been subject to ongoing oppression. 

The board of gold mining giant Newmont Mining has called on its shareholders to vote down a proposal for better human rights protections after the company had previously been found of ignoring human rights standards and actively suppressing Peruvian campesinos fighting against environmental degradation.

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Newmont is the world’s second biggest gold mining company and is behind the proposed Minas Conga open-pit gold mine in Cajamarca, Northern Peru through its subsidiary Yanacocha. After ongoing protests from campesino communities, the project was suspended in 2011.

Worth an estimated US$4.8 billion, the project has been touted as the largest gold mining project in South America and threatens to contaminate the water supply and cause shortages for thousands of people living in a community that relies on agriculture and cattle.

At the heart of the campesino struggle against the mine is Maxima Acuña de Chaupe, a subsistence farmer who refused to sell her 60-acre plot of land which sits on the proposed site. In September, Acuña and her partner were reportedly attacked and severely hurt by security staff from the company.

The company has continued to maintain a tight security presence around the proposed mine site and has launched a court case against Acuña’s family for aggravated usurpation of land, but the family says they are the rightful owners.

Acuña won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for the victory against the mining giant.

Meanwhile, international activist organization SumOfUs.org helped to introduce the new proposal for shareholders to reduce Newmont’s human rights violations. It calls on the company to conduct risk assessments for potential and actual human rights risks in its operations and disclose its processes. 

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“The company has suffered significant costs from its failure to investigate human rights violations and comply with its stated commitments,” said Angus Wong from SumOfUs.org. Wong added that shareholders in the company needed to be aware of the risk it poses to human rights violations.

Newmont claims that it has already conducted an independent review into its process that shows that a reevaluation is not needed. But Earthworks, a non-profit that focuses on the adverse impact of mineral and energy development, notes that the review found that Yanacocha had ignored human rights standards in dealing with the local community.

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