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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 March 2001, the Federation of Rondas Campesinas lodged a complaint with CAO on behalf of local farming communities experiencing adverse social and environmental impacts as a result of mining activities.
Community-mine conflicts intensified subsequent to the mercury spill and communities expressed a number of other concerns such as a lack of consultation with affected individuals and failure to distribute mining benefits in an equitable fashion. In recognition of widespread, local demand for a comprehensive approach to addressing the conflict, CAO supported the creation of a multi-stakeholder dialogue roundtable in September 2001. For four and a half years, the Mesa de Dialogo y Consenso (Mesa) sought to create an open forum for dialogue to help prevent and resolve conflict between the communities and Yanacocha. With the participation of over 50 public and private institutions, the Mesa facilitated conflict meditation training, undertook capacity building workshops for community members and mine staff, oversaw an independent participatory water impact study and subsequently led a participatory water monitoring program. These efforts promoted dialogue, transparency and public understanding, which attracted positive recognition from a variety of community, company and government participants. In February 2005, CAO commissioned an independent evaluation of the Mesa, which was completed in May 2005.
Case Status: Closed
Since the Mesa was established in 2001, CAO has sought ways for the Mesa to become a fully Cajamarcan entity. Therefore, CAO concluded its phased withdrawal and the complaint was closed in March 2006. In June 2007, CAO published a series of monographs synthesizing the history, challenges, and lessons learned from its involvement in Cajamarca.