SAN FRANCISCO-The formerly proposed Conga Mine was the source of years of struggle by the people of Celendin, Cajamarca, Peru. Denver’s Newmont Mining allegedly attempted to remove Maxima Acuna de Chaupe from her home on several occasions through intimidation, repression, litigation, and even assault by its security forces. Newmont attempted to seize her land for years to construct a mining operation for gold. Locals cite past experience with Newmont’s existing mining operation nearby called the Yanacocha Mine, Latin Americas largest gold mine. Newmont wanted the land of Acuna de Chaupe to construct a tailings pond to store mining waste.
The Goldman Environmental Prize recognized this sacrifice that Acuna de Chaupe made to protect the lakes and environment in her community. The yearly award has honored others throughout the planet who have made similar sacrifices in the name of protecting resources.
In its annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, Newmont has removed the proposed Conga Mine from its list of reserves. This move brought reactions of celebration among groups who have supported Acuna de Chaupe over the years including among members of the 2010 Global Justice and Peace Award honoring the Peruvian environmental group GRUFIDES given by the Denver Justice and Peace Committee.
At the Goldman awards ceremony, Acuna de Chaupe chose to sing a song instead of presenting a speech. She calls it Jalaquenita:
I am a woman from the highlands who lives in the mountain ranges.
Tending to my sheep in mist and heavy rain.
When my dog barked the police arrived.
My hut they burned down, my things they took away.
Food I did not eat.
Only water I drank.
A bed I did not have.
With hay I covered myself.
Because I defend my lakes
They want to take my life.
Engineers, police, they robbed my sheep.
Sheep’s head soup they drank,
In the mining camp of Conga.
And with this now I say goodbye.
Dear friends, I wish you well. I will go on.
I defend the land and water, because it is life.
I am not afraid of corporate power.
I will continue the struggle.
I dedicate the prize to those who have died in Celendin and Bambamarca
And for those in Cajamarca who continue the struggle.
photos: KGNU News (from the COP20 People’s March held in Lima, Peru in December of 2014)
top photos: protesting the proposed Conga mine.
In the bottom photo the sign reads: Water yes! Gold no!, a common chant heard throughout Central and South America.