Yanacocha report inconclusive
02 October 2016
A new and independent study on the vexed issue of land disputed between Yanacocha and the Chaupe family, commissioned by Newmont Mining, finds the evidence inconclusive. Newmont is the main shareholder in Minera Yanacocha, the firm at the centre of the long-running Conga dispute in Cajamarca.
Entitled ‘Tragadero Grande: Land, Human Rights and International Standards in the Conflict between the Chaupe Family and Minera Yanacocha’, the stated purpose of the study is to identify “factual information related to the following issues: (i) the process of land acquisition by Minera Yanacocha and its conformity to international standards; (ii) complaints of rights violations; (iii) conformance with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights; and (iv) deviation or conformity with Newmont’s policies and relevant international standards.”
The findings fail to much shed light on the key issue in dispute: who has legal entitlement to the land. As Keith Slack, Global Program Director of Oxfam America’s Extractive Industries Team, suggests, this means that although the intention of the report was to establish the facts, ease tensions and help find a way to resolve the dispute, the conclusions will have little effect.
Both the Chaupe family and Yanacocha argue they have the legal right to occupy the land known as Tragadero Grande. Environmental activist Maxima Acuña Chaupe purchased possessory rights in 1994. According to the report “in 1995 and 1996, Minas Conga acquired Tragadero Grande when it purchased two larger parcels of communal land from the Campesino Community of Sorochuco”, but it was not until 2011, when the project Conga was expanding and moving onto the development phase, that the dispute erupted.
Since then there have been several reports about human rights abuses perpetrated against Maxima and her family, as well as damages to what they claim is their property. They say that Yanacocha’s security personnel and the police were responsible. The mine, however, has never accepted responsibility and has denied involvement.
Maxima and her family were beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) in May 2014.
The latest report of such an attack came on 18 September, when Maxima’s daughter says that her mother was beaten up by a group of men who appeared to be in the pay of Yanacocha.
While the study falls short in offering a legal interpretation as to who owns the land, it states that the overall process of acquisition was reasonable. However, it finds that Yanacocha failed to conduct adequate human rights due diligence, did not properly adhere to the Voluntary Principles, and exacerbated the conflict by adopting a “litigation strategy” rather than resorting to dialogue. Nevertheless, it concludes that there is no conclusive evidence as to Yanacocha committing human rights violations.