Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru
On 3 February 2015, approximately 200 people trespassed onto the land of human rights defender Ms Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and demolished the preliminary construction of a new home that her family were building on their land. Allegedly, shots were fired by members of the group, which included employees of the Division of Special Operations of the Peruvian National Police (DINOES) and the private security firm of the Yanacocha mining company, as well as a number of its engineers.
Máxima Acuña de Chaupe is a member of the Asociación de Mujeres en Defensa de la Vida (Association of Women in Defence of Livelihood) and of the Unión Latinoamericana de Mujeres – ULAM(Latin American Women’s Union). The human rights defender has lived on her land in Tragadero Grande, Sorochuco, Cajamarca for 24 years. In 2011, the Yanacocha mining company attempted to buy the human rights defender’s land and when she refused to sell, a campaign of intimidation and violence ensued. Máxima Acuña de Chaupe has become a figurehead of the opposition to the open-pit gold and copper mine, named Conga, and has supported people who have been forcibly evicted as a result of the mining development. Yanacocha is jointly owned by the US Newmont Mining Corporation (51.35%) Peru’s Minas Buenaventura (43.65%), and the World Bank (5%), and will cover an area of 2,000 hectares, including four mountain-top lakes.
At approximately 9:00 am, the armed group entered the property of the human rights defender without authorisation and demolished the building, which was being constructed a few metres from Máxima Acuña de Chaupe’s current residence. No representative of the Public Prosecutor was present during the demolition, and no document authorising the action was presented.
The demolition follows a decision of the Court of Justice of Cajamarca on 17 December 2014, which confirmed that Máxima Acuña de Chaupe was the lawful owner of the property. However, the Yanacocha mining company reportedly maintains that the human rights defender is unlawfully occupying its territory and that the demolition and trespass upon her property were performed “in the defence of its rights and in strict compliance with the law.” Previously, in February 2014, Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family were the victims of an attempted forced eviction and death threats.
Front Line Defenders expresses its grave concern at the invasion of the property of Máxima Acuña de Chaupe and the demolition of her home, which it believes to be directly linked to her peaceful and legitimate land rights activities. Front Line Defenders is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of the human rights defender and her family.