Peru: “Water Yes, Mine No”

18 December 2015 - 3:15pm

“Water Yes, Mine No” has long been the call of indigenous people in Peru in their fight against Yanacocha, the world’s second largest gold mine.

Part owned by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the mine has operated in the Peruvian province of Cajamarca for more than 20 years. Its impact is stark.

“Five people have been killed and many more injured and imprisoned because of the struggle to defend our land and water,” says Milton Sanchez of grassroots movement and new War on Want partner, Plataforma Intermunicipal de Celendin.

A contaminated water supply in Cajamarca province, northern highlands.


When the trucks rolled in and the drilling began, Cajamarca province was the second poorest in Peru. The people were promised progress.

Two decades on, Cajamarca remains one of the poorest provinces in the country. Years of gold digging have exploited communities and wrecked land and water sources.

As Milton explains, “Reservoirs have been contaminated and people’s health is deteriorating.”


Meanwhile, the demands of local people have been violently crushed by Peruvian armed forces, defending the interest of the mine owners who continue to rake in the profits.

Yanacocha is now looking to open three new mines around the town of Celendin. If given the go-ahead, the so called ‘Conga Project’ will destroy four lakes and further devastate the environment and water sources of the region.

‘The lake’s guardian’

The people of Cajamarca don’t want another mine – they want to preserve their land and water resources.

War on Want stands in solidarity with the people of Cajamarca, supporting their fight against theYanacocha Mining Company.

Maxima Acuna, an indigenous woman referred to as the ‘the lake’s guardian’, refuses to leave her land. She has been assaulted, had her home destroyed and been taken to court countless times.

Organsing, mobilising and defending their land

In 2014 Maxima won in court – proving she owned her land before the mine owners started operations – although the Yanacocha Mining Company is appealing the decision.

Maxima’s courage and resolve, and that of so many others just like her, is clear. In the face of violence and intimidation the people of Cajamarca province are standing firm – organising, mobilising and defending their land. 

They’re fighting back.

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