Newmont Mining Corp’s attempts to build the $5 billion Conga gold mine in Peru were dealt another legal setback when Peru’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a potato farmer who occupies part of the land the company wants to develop for the mine.
In 2014 a lower court ruled in favor the farmer, Máxima Acuña, a ruling that Newmont appealed, saying that Acuña usurped its land.
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.
The ruling by the lower court was upheld by the Supreme Court, however, two civil cases to determine ownership of the land are still winding through the courts, Reuters reported.
The project was first put on hold by Newmont when 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.
“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. “I only hope not to suffer more abuse from the company.”
Newmont's Peruvian unit, Minera 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.