Originally published by Earthworks on 18/04/16.
Máxima Acuña de Chaupe wins prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize
Peruvian farmer Máxima Acuña de Chaupe today won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her ongoing fight to protect her home and community from the Conga mine. The announcement came as Newmont (NYSE: NEM) removed its proposed Conga gold mine in northern Peru from its list of reserves in its annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“We are happy that Newmont has finally faced facts and abandoned Conga,” said 2016 Goldman Prize winner Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, who has been embroiled in a struggle with the multinational mining company for control of her land. She continued, “The fact is our way of life, and the clean water we need to sustain it, is more important to us than Newmont’s new gold mine ever could be. We know from Newmont’s Yanacocha mine that, no matter their promises, we can’t have both the mine and our way of life.”
The world’s second largest gold mining company, Denver-based Newmont’s 2016 10-K SEC filing declared: “Under the current social and political environment, the Company does not anticipate being able to develop Conga for the foreseeable future.” Newmont will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting in Delaware on April 20.
Conga is a US$4.8 billion gold and copper deposit located in northern Peru’s Cajamarca province. Newmont proposed developing Conga in 2010 near its existing Yanacocha project, Latin America’s largest gold mine. The project threatened 4 mountain lakes in these arid Andean highlands, and drew significant opposition from the local community. Mine construction was suspended in late 2011 after lengthy protests. With key construction permits having expired, Newmont has de-listed the deposit from its reserves.
Ms. Acuña de Chaupe gained international support for her struggle to maintain control of her land in the face of legal threats and violence from Newmont’s subsidiary, Minera Yanacocha, and its hired security forces. Máxima and her family live on an 18 acre plot of land near Laguna Azul, one of four mountain lakes critical to Newmont’s development of the Conga project.
“Máxima Acuña de Chaupe has successfully fought a multinational mining company, and in the process, has become a symbol of hope to people around the world fighting to protect their communities from irresponsible mining,” said Earthworks Mining Program Director Payal Sampat. “We congratulate Máxima for this recognition, and hope that Newmont Mining will once and for all call off the security forces and lawsuits that threaten and harass Máxima and her community.“
Earthworks has monitored the Conga proposal since its earliest days, and along with other international allies has repeatedly called on Newmont to respect community opposition to the project. In April 2015, Earthworks and EarthRights International attended Newmont’s shareholder meeting along with Cajamarca-based NGO Grufides to deliver a petition of more than 150,000 signatures generated by the global corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org in support of Máxima.
“We applaud Newmont for mothballing its misguided Conga mine proposal,” said Angus Wong, lead digital strategist for SumOfUs.org. “This globally important decision occurred only after years of local opposition against a multi-million dollar corporate interest and a groundswell of international support, but the work is not over yet. SumOfUs members around the world will continue to speak out against Newmont and other Conga mine backers until Máxima, her family, and her community are left in peace.”
“I have a simple wish. I want to return to the peaceful life I had on my land with my family for almost 20 years,” said Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, who grows potatoes and other crops on her land, where she also keeps sheep and cows.
The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1989 by San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. It is the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists. Goldman Prize winners are everyday people who often take great personal risks to safeguard their communities and the environment. Earthworks nominated Máxima Acuña de Chaupe for the Prize.