Peru: Water Tribunal Calls for Stop to Conga Mining Project

The population of Cajamarca defends its water against mining

Nov 14, 2012

The Latin American Water Tribunal (TLA) in Buenos Aires has called on the Peruvian government to firmly put an end to the Conga mining project. In the opinion of the tribunal, the Peruvian government and Yanacocha, the company responsible for Conga, are violating the human rights to water and a clean environment.

In public hearings from the 5th to the 9th of November 2012, the judges noted numerous irregularities in the awarding of mining permits. The tribunal condemned the increasing privatization of water resources by mining companies due to their operations in sensitive areas of the public water supply. Another point of criticism pertained to the modest powers of the Peruvian Ministry of Environment. With its limited authority, the ministry is not in a position to guarantee the rights of the people to a healthy environment and sustainable development.

Furthermore, the judges condemned the criminalization of social movements opposed to Conga and violence against representatives of environmental and farmers’ organizations by state security forces.

With the Conga project, both the Peruvian government and Yanacocha are violating Peruvian and international laws to protect the environment and human rights, the judges said.

The local organizations GRUFIDES and Institutional Platform Celendin (PIC) from Cajamarca were the complainants before the tribunal.

The internationally recognized, but not legally binding judgment of the Latin American Water Tribunal underscored the findings of independent researchers, who had already noted Conga’s violations of environmental and social standards in previous studies. 

With the Conga project, Yanacocha is planning a wide-ranging expansion of its gold mine in the Andean highlands region of Cajamarca. Several lagoons – vital parts of the local ecosystem and the regional water supply for the population – are located in the area slated for the open-pit operation by the Peruvian government and the mining company.  A majority of the population of Cajamarca therefore opposes Conga and has protested against the project for the past year. The government imposed a military state of emergency in a number of provinces of the region on two occasions last year, violently suppressing the peaceful protests of the local population. With international support, the inhabitants of Cajamarca were able to temporarily prevent the further expansion of the Conga project until 2014. According to eyewitness accounts, however, Yanacocha is continuing to build workers’ camps in violation of the agreements.  

Rainforest Rescue has supported the struggle of the people of Cajamarca with protest campaigns

The complete ruling (in Spanish) of the Latin American Water Tribunal on the Conga project can be found here.