Peru is the largest producer in gold of Latin America; on a worldwide scale it comes in as the 6th most productive country. The second biggest mine in the world, Yanacocha, is in the North-Peruvian Andes mountains of Cajamarca.

The American multinational Newmont Mining owns 51% of the Yanacocha mine, 43% is owned by the Peruvian company Bueanaventura. The World Bank also owns 5% of shares. Before 1994 a French state-owned company also had a considerable amount in concessions.  The mine has been in use since 1993 and expected production for 2011 was 77.5 tons of gold. In 2010 Yanacocha had an average profit of more than $150 million per quarter.


Human rights violations and pollution

Cajamarca is the region where a crucial 16th Century battle took place between the Spanish conqueror Pizarro and the Inca king Atahualpa. At stake in the battle were the already notorious gold reserves of Cajamarca.  Ever though the mine is immensely profitable five centuries later; the level of poverty amongst the population is at an all-time high.

The majority of the population in the area of the mine exist of traditional agricultural communities. Who live from small-scale farming and tending to their livestock. Farmers and environmental organisations have protested against the immense use of water and the cyanide pollution in the water sources because of the mine. In 2000 a lorry from the mine spilt a 150 kilogram load of mercury. Nine hundred residents were poisoned as a result, later suffering from respiratory problems, impaired vision and kidney problems.

In 2004 more than ten thousand people from the area protested against plans to expand the mine to Cerro Quilish, a mountain that is immensely important for the water supply in the area. This is a (temporary) success; Yanacocha was forced to stop these exploration plans. In 2006 the leader of the farmers Isidro Llanos Canvar, was killed and several people were wounded during further protests against yet more plans for expansion. In 2007 the environmental activist Edmundo Becerra Corina was killed, a few days before a meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Mining.

Yanacocha and its private security company ‘Forza’ use a strategy of intimidation and violence. Journalists and documentary makers brought hard evidence of spying on the environmental organisation GRUFIDES that supports the farmers’ organisation. Activists and farmer leaders get regular death threats.


Unexploited gold

Mining is a central focus for the economic development of Peru. It accounts for more than 70% of exports. So logically there are still a number of projects for wide scale gold exploitation in the future. Yanacocha for example, plans to expand with the Minas Conga project, the largest mining investment in Peru in history.

In Northern Peru people speak of the ‘copper and gold-belt’ that stretches from Cajamarca to the boarder of Ecuador. A mountain range that has is rich in valuable minerals. Yanacocha is not the only project that is linked to a conflict. Meanwhile, in the north of the Cajamarca region, along the tropical eastern side of the Andes Mountains, local coffee farmers protest against a new large scale project, Rio Tobacconist. The project would be in the middle of the pristine Tabaconas-Namballe nature reserve and would seriously threaten the biodiversity of the local agricultural economy.