LIMA May 3 Peru's Supreme Court ruled on
Wednesday in favor of a farmer who Newmont Mining Corp
claimed had illegally occupied its land, dealing a blow to the
U.S. miner's long-stalled efforts to build a $5 billion gold
mine in the Andean country.
A lower court had ruled in favor of potato farmer Máxima
Acuña in 2014, a decision Newmont appealed. While
the court's Wednesday ruling upholding the lower court's
decision in the criminal case is final, two civil cases to
determine ownership of the land are still winding through the
Newmont put plans to build its Conga mine on hold after
violent protests broke out in Peru's northern Cajamarca region,
one of the country's poorest and its second-largest in gold
production. Environmentalists said the mine would poison local
water sources and displace people living and farming there.
Acuña had said her home was destroyed as part of the mine's
construction, and that the family's attempts to rebuild it have
been blocked. Newmont's Peruvian unit Minera Yanacocha SRL, in
which Peru's Buenaventura SAA is a junior partner,
took her to criminal court, saying she had "usurped" its land.
"I feel happy and relieved that here in the capital [the
court] has also provided justice," Acuña, who won the Goldman
Prize for environmental activism last year, said after the court
hearing on Wednesday. "I only hope not to suffer more abuse from
Speaking to reporters after the court decision, Yanacocha
lawyer Christian Schroder said the company considered the
disputed lands part of its property. Yanacocha is open to
"dialogue with the family to not continue all these cases
underway," he said.
Yanacocha's namesake mine, also in Cajamarca, has
historically been the country's largest, but production has
fallen in recent years. Conga has been expected to offset
dwindling output at the aging Yanacocha, and Buenaventura told
Reuters earlier this year it was studying a long-term business
plan with Newmont that could include Conga.
In a statement, Yanacocha said it would respect the Supreme
Court decision and would "continue defending the company's
rights" through the pending civil court cases.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by