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Hearing in London High Court in claim by Peruvians against mining firm

Peruvian community take one of the world's leading mining companies to the High Court in London over claiming it is responsible for the killing and injuring of protesters near a mine in Peru in 2012

Posted on 24 February 2016

Members of a local community in Peru are taking one of the world’s leading mining companies to the High Court in London claiming it is responsible for the killing, injury and unlawful detention of protestors demonstrating near the Tintaya mine in the Espinar Province of Peru during a disturbance there in May 2012.

At the time the mine was owned by Xstrata Tintaya S.A. (renamed Companía Minera Antapaccay) a subsidiary of the London-based Xstrata Limited, which became part of Glencore Xstrata plc in 2013. 

Xstrata denies responsibility, saying in a statement at the time that it “deeply regretted the violent events that resulted in the loss of human lives”, and is robustly defending the legal action. In its Defence it states that whilst it paid a large fee to the Peruvian National Police (‘PNP’) and gave accommodation, food and drink to some of the 1,500 officers who were policing the protests, it nevertheless bears no responsibility for the actions of the PNP.

A preliminary hearing will take place on 25 February. The three-week trial, due to take place in June 2016, will hear claims that on 28 May 2012 following days of protest the PNP shot at protestors, killing and injuring many of them as they legally demonstrated near the mine. The Claimants say that the PNP were operating under the instruction and control of the mine company’s management, a claim denied by the company, Those injured, and the families of those killed, claim the police were paid almost half a million dollars by the company to protect the mine.

Many protestors, who were opposing the environmental impacts and social effects of the mine, claim they were also assaulted, abused and unlawfully detained inside the mine compound. The company denies that any violence took place within the compound itself.

The Tintaya mine was an open pit copper mining and processing operation located in the Yauri district of Espinar Province, Cusco region, Southern Peru.  It has recently been decommissioned and production has moved to the Antapaccay mine, which is located a few miles away.

Those injured, killed or imprisoned by the police include human rights activists, students, mine workers and farmers from the rural population living in Espinar Province.

Three demonstrators were killed. The injured and relatives of those killed are represented by Leigh Day.

Clinicians from the US-based organisation ‘Physicians for Human Rights’ have assessed a number of the claimants and found that they sustained serious life-changing physical and psychiatric injuries and have significant ongoing care needs.

One of the claimants, Mr Yohel Colqque, was hospitalised for 16 months after being shot in the head. He is now unable to walk and is confined to a wheelchair.

He was a student at the time of the protests and was shot while filming a woman being abused by a police officer on his mobile telephone. Yohel is now unable to continue his studies, work, or live independently due to the severity of his injuries.

According to Physicians for Human Rights, the injured man’s family do not have the means to support him. He urgently requires rehabilitation and equipment, including a wheelchair, as well as access to medication for the epilepsy that he has developed since he was shot and for the pain that he experiences on a daily basis.

Xstrata says it conforms to international guidelines on the risk of human rights abuses such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, and is a signatory to the UN Global Compact.

According to the Voluntary Principles: “The primary role of public security should be to maintain the rule of law, including safeguarding human rights and deterring acts that threaten Company personnel and facilities. The type and number of public security forces deployed should be competent, appropriate and proportional to the threat.”

Gene Matthews a partner within the International and Group Claims Team at Leigh Day, who is representing the Peruvians, said:

“The population of Espinar had longstanding concerns about the environmental impact of the Tintaya mine. 

“This company, whose headquarters are in the UK, must take full responsibility not only for the actions of its staff and private security forces but also for the direction and control the Claimants allege it exerted over the Peruvian National Police.

“Multinational companies must be held to account, and do more than pay lip service to international human rights principles and guidelines. Lawful protest should never result in deaths and serious injury”.