Frente de Defensa de Choropampa
The Yanacocha Gold Mine began operations in the department of Cajamarca in 1993. Yanacocha, the largest gold mine in South America, comprised of six open pit mines, four leach pads and three processing facilities. In June 2000, a contractor to Minera Yanacocha spilled 151 kg of elemental mercury along a 41 km stretch of road between the mine site and the town of Choropampa. A number of local people, unaware of the nature of the chemical, were exposed and subsequently experienced adverse health effects. In July 2000, CAO oversaw an independent investigation into the spill, which found there were significant discrepancies in the company’s waste management and emergency procedures.
In December 2000, the Frente de Defensa de Choropampa lodged a complaint with CAO on behalf of citizens affected by the mercury spill. The complaint alleged that the adverse impacts being experienced by those exposed to the mercury had worsened and that Yanacocha failed to honor its commitments to affected individuals.
Despite mine projections conceiving of a 10 year operational life span, tremendous exploratory success witnessed the significant continuation of operations. The company is a consortium of three shareholders- Newmont Mining Corporation, Compania de Minas Buenaventura S.A. and IFC. A group of individuals affected by the spill also filed suit against Newmont Mining in U.S. and Peruvian courts and deliberation continues in both jurisdictions.
In response to the complaint, CAO conducted meetings with all the relevant parties who agreed that the instigation of an Independent Health Evaluation (IHE) process would ease certain concerns raised by the complaint. CAO continued to help implement recommendations derived from the IHE for over two and half years, despite encountering various hurdles posed by the Ministry of Health and civil society organizations. CAO decided against pursuing a health study due to a lack of institutional and social support and closed the case in November 2003.