Yanacocha is an open-pit gold mine located 3,900 metres (12,800 feet) above sea level. The site is operated by American multinational Newmont Mining Corporation, Peruvian company Minas Buenaventura (part of the Benavides group) and the World Bank International Finance Corporation (IFC). Local residents reported that the Government did not monitor mining activities. Pollution and social distress increased since the start of mining activities. The owners never invested in social programs to compensate for the damage caused by the mine and Cajamarca remains one of Peruâs poorest areas.
Yanacocha is Latin Americaâs biggest gold mine, making Peru the world’s sixth largest gold producer.
Newmont, the world’s largest gold producer, runs the mining site; it also is the major shareholder (with 51 percent) alongside Buenaventura (43 percent) while the International Finance Corporation holds the remaining stake.
Mining operations in Yanacocha have produced serious environmental, economic and social impacts, including:
Chemicals polluting ground and surface water;
Serious mercury contamination - in 2000 a mercury spill in the city of Choropampa poisoned several residents and contaminating local land-;
The partial loss of local biodiversity: discharging toxins, cyanide and arsenic into rivers causes the death of fishes and animals living in areas close to the mine;
The drying up of the land and loss of subsistence farming for local residents;
Worse living conditions for the regional residents, both in economic and health terms (77 percent of the local community live below poverty line, and 50 percent of those live in extreme poverty);
The Corporation has not matched the expectations of rural and urban residents for new jobs;
Local communities opposing the project faced threats and violence.
Land-related issues: the seizure or purchase of land through controversial out-of-court means, pressure, threats, etc.
1992: The Yanacocha company starts buying plots of land from local farmers at 100/s Nuevo Sol (26 Euro) per hectare. Exploration operations begin without any licences. The first complaints of pollution are made by the parish of PorcÃ³n.
1993: Newmont Mining Corporation starts gold mining in Yanacocha.
1994: The first trial against Yanacocha for buying and selling plots of land in Combayo. An out-of-court settlement closes the case.
January 2000: The Ministry of Fishing reports the death of over 10,000 trout in the PorcÃ³n River. Another 11,000 trout are found dead in Bambamarcaâs Llaucano River in. A report on the condition of the Rejo River water shows that cadmium, lead and mercury are above the maximum quantities permitted. Yanacocha admit their part in what the report terms âindustrial assassination.â
June 2 2000: 151 kg of mercury are spilt in Choropampa, poisoning more than 1,000 citizens due to the mercury’s toxicity. Yanacocha makes out-of-court settlements with most of the poisoned citizens, while others file lawsuits in US Courts.
October 2000: The Cajamarca Provisional Government declares Mount Quilish a natural reserve, as the waters coming from the mountain are the main water source for local farmers and Cajamarca residents. Yanacocha appeals to the Constitutional Court against the declaration.
March 2001: The âFederaciÃ³n de Rondas Campesinas Femeninas del Norte del PerÃºâ (FEROCAFENOP - Federation Of Women’s Self-Defense Committees of Northern Peru) and American NGO Project Underground, file a complaint with the World Bank Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) - which performs the role of arbitrator and advisor on issues relating to the social and environmental outcomes of IFC projects - denouncing the impacts of the mine on local water and farming.
June 2001: The CAO assesses the complaint, and sets up a âRoundtable Dialogueâ to begin in September, in order to settle the conflict between the community and corporation. Over 50 public and private institutions take part in more than four years of Roundtable Dialogue. The discussions are based on two complaints: the first, submitted by community leaders, relates to the mercury spill, while the second, submitted by FEROCAFENOP, is on negative social, environmental and economic impacts. The Roundtable does not lead to any positive resolution for the problems outlined by local residents.
November 2001: Roundtable Dialogue, part of the Temporary Council for Regional Administration (CTAR), and active before the installation of Regional Governments, is started in response to the sometimes violent protests carried out by Cajamarca residents. It finally leads to agreement on: an independent International environmental assessment (later carried out by Ingetec); the installation of a water analysis laboratory (never realised); the implementation of a water monitoring plan (partially and unreliably developed by the Water Quality Monitoring Committee or COMOCA); and the protection of water sources. When the Mount Quilish issue is raised, the corporation representative and the Minister for Energy and Mining leave the table.
2002: The year in which the most environmental incidents occur in Yanacocha. Fish continue to die.
2003: INGETEC claims that all the city water sources are affected by the mine and that Yanacocha has not proposed any alternative ideas to the problems.
April 2003: Yanococha requests permission to explore Mount Quilish. The Constitutional Court authorises the exploration and exploitation of Mount Quilish, invalidating the Provisional Government declaration in 2000.
December 2003: A consultancy firm hired by the World Bank analyses the mercury spill in 2000. The results relieve the corporation of any responsibilities and from any obligation to pay compensation.
2004: In March, the Yanacocha Consortium submits an environmental impact assessment for the exploration of Mount Quilish, which is approved in June. In July the Minister for Energy and Mining announces the resumption of explorations on Mount Quilish.
September 2004: On learning of the EIA approval, Cajamarca residents mobilise in order to stop operations on Mount Quilish. Approximately 50,000 rural and urban residents block access to the mine for two weeks. Protesters obtain the enforcement of the 2000 declaration making Mount Quilish a protected area.
2005: Choropampa residents affected by the mercury spill in 2000 file a lawsuit against Newmont to the US Federal Court in Denver.
March 2006: Environmental NGO Grupo de FormaciÃ³n e IntervenciÃ³n para el Desarrollo Sostenible (GRUFIDES - Training and Intervention Group for Sustainable Development) files a complaint with the Latin American Water Tribunal against the impacts produced by mining activities in Yanacocha. The Tribunal accepts the basis of the lawsuit and pronounces an ethical sentence against the Peruvian Government and the corporation. Yanacocha mine workers go on strike for better working conditions. The strike ends on April 17.
August 2006: Community leaders and farmers from Combayo rally outside the mining site, denouncing Yanacocha for disregarding agreements on social investments and job creation. They also denounce the mineâs effects on water quality and quantity. Security guards from the private firm FORZA, including off duty policemen, repress any opposition. Farmer Isidro Llano dies. Several farmersâ leaders are reported to the police. Magistrates from BaÃ±os del Inca find weapons and ammunition in the Yanacocha plant. At the height of tension, the corporation threatens to suspend all activities in Cajamarca. Faced with this threat, mine workers are forced to join the fight against GRUFIDES. The conflict only comes to an end when the Prime Minister intervenes with a set of proposals.
August 2006: The Corporation submits its Carachugo II project, an extension to the Yanacocha mine. Protests break out again between local people and security guards, resulting in one dead, five wounded, and four farmers arrested by the national Police.
November 2006: Edmundo Becerra Corina, President of âA System for Drinkable Water and the protection of Life, Water and the Environment in Yanacanchillaâ, is killed by a soldier. Becerra was about to travel to Lima with a committee opposing the Yanacocha mining project.
December 2006: An investigation by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reveals details of âOperation Diabloâ, a spy operation aimed at vilifying members of GRUFIDES and environmentalist leaders from Cajamarca, the victims of months of death threats.
March 2007: Another mercury spill affects villages in the San Juan region.
March 2007: Police in Cajabamba confiscate 150 kg of cyanide and other chemicals destined for non-specialist mineworkers. The episode reveals the problems of unsafe practices; deaths by poisoning, serious environmental impacts and child labour. A working group is created on the subject. Yanacocha workers file a complaint against the corporation for violating labour laws.
April 2007: According to Law D.S. 015, passed by the central Government, local administrations are no longer allowed to declare new protected areas and municipal preservation areas. Months before, several municipalities started the procedures necessary to convert mining related areas into protected areas.
May 2007: Residents of San Juan report the presence of mercury. The Regional Committee for Civil Defence makes enquires but Yanacocha rejects any connection to the incident. The General Directorate of Environmental Health (DIGESA) states that there is no evidence of mercury contamination. Newmont shareholders, worried about the conflicts with Peruvian, Ghanaian and Indonesian people, almost unanimously decide to change corporate policy towards local communities.
June 2007: Farmers from the Totorocoche community, in the La EncaÃ±ada region, protest against the Yanacocha mine. The Police and corporation security guards repress the protests and arrest 13 farmers. There is fighting in front of Cajamarca Police station.
August 2007: There is increasing tension between Quishuar irrigators and the Yanacocha Company, who are blamed for water pollution.
September 2007: Attempts are made to block roads in PorcÃ³n in protest at a lack of work and the violation of worker rights; the Police violently disperse protesters in PorcÃ³n Bajo marching against the contamination of irrigation ditches. Inspectors in Cajamarca report employment irregularities in several Yanacocha firms.
December 2007: The Supreme Court meets to decide whether Choropampa citizens can file another complaint over the mercury spill. The Mayor of PorcÃ³n Bajo and other 32 citizens are put on trial for being part of the September 11, protest rally.
January 20, 2008: Melanio Silva, the ex-Director of Rondas Campesinas (Autonomous peasant patrols), is murdered.
January 30, 2008: Yanacocha appeals for the cancellation of the municipal order protecting the Northern Peru Lagoons Area.
February 2008: A possible hydrocarbon spill in the âLinda Chinaâ yard belonging to Yanacocha intoxicates workers as they clean it. The workers are taken to Lima without their families’ authorisation.
March 2008: Road blocks are erected in La Ramada to demand the restitution of water from Monte Negro; businessmen block the road from Cajamarca to Bambamarca demanding fairer treatment from Yanacocha. In Huambocancha Alta citizens block the same road for a week demanding water purification. Protest marches against water pollution take place in several towns.
April 18, 2008: Judges in Cajamarca demand a 6-year prison term, plus civil damages, for 28 PorcÃ³n Bajo citizens involved in the roadblock. Citizens hold protest rallies demanding that the trial is cancelled.
The Supreme Court of Justice rejects the appeal by Choropampa citizens against the Yanacocha mine and the RANSA Company for the mercury spill in 2000.
April-May 2008: The Police repress several protests.
June 2008: A dispute arises between Yanacocha and the Northern Peru Lagoons Defence Front.
December 2008: The Civil Court and the Lima Supreme Court reject Yanacocha demand for the cancellation of the order protecting Northern Peru lagoons.
The exploration and exploitation of Minas Congas is supposed to finish in 2008 but, due to a fall in the price of raw materials and a lack of funds for new investments, any decision on the mining project is postponed until early 2009.
May 5, 2010: The European Parliament adopts a resolution calling for a ban on the use of cyanide mining technologies in the EU.
OLCA -Observatory on socio-environmental conflicts
No Mines Organisation
System for Drinking Water and Protection of Life, Water and Environment in Yanacanchilla
CAO (Consultancy firm in charge of controlling CFI projects)
Corporation security agency: FORZA
Digesa - General Directorate of Environmental Health
Ministry for Environment
Ministry for Energy and Mining
Municipality of Cajamarca
Northern Peru Women Farmers Federation (FEROCAFENOP)
Conflictos mineros en los Andes:
Contradicciones entre lo nacional y local
En Cajamarca varias poblaciones enfrentan a mineras y exigen que se retiren
Yanacocha gold mine in perÃ¹
EvaluaciÃ²n de la calidad del agua en Cajmarca, PerÃ¹
Violencia en Carachugo
Responsabilizan banco mundial
Hacia una EstimaciÃ³n de los Efectos de la Actividad Minera en los Indices de Pobreza en el PerÃº. Torres Victor. 2005.
MinerÃa y Comunidades Testimonios Orales y GrÃ¡ficos. CooperacciÃ³n. 2000