Mining in the Andes: Complaint and lawsuit filed against Swiss firm Glencore, Switzerland and Peru
Mining projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America often give rise to environmental problems as well as forced displacement and social conflict. In many cases the rights of local populations are ignored in corporations’ pursuit of profit. This was confirmed by a number of case studies analyzed by ECCHR together with its partner organizations from Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Germany and Switzerland in a series of workshops.
Water pollution and health problems around Glencore’s Tintaya Antapaccay mine in Peru
The Tintaya Antapaccay copper mine in Peru is one example of this phenomenon. The mine is run by a local subsidiary of the Swiss-based Glencore plc, the world’s biggest mining and commodities trading corporation. The communities living near the mine have for a long time raised concerns about heavy metals polluting the water and associated health problems.
Glencore rejects any responsibility for the harm caused. The Peruvian authorities have made little progress with their investigations on the causes of the pollution and on remedial measures. In 2012 two protesters died when a local demonstration highlighting the situation was brutally quelled by police.
UN complaint on Glencore against Switzerland and Peru
In May 2015 ECCHR – together with affected persons and the organizations Multiwatch from Switzerland and Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras and CooperAcción from Peru – submitted a complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur for the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations. The alliance is calling on UN experts to examine whether Peru, Switzerland and/or Glencore are violating their obligations under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Summary Legal Report: Water pollution in area of Glencore mine in PeruSummary_Glencore_Water contamination_May 2015.pdf (544.3 KiB)
Peru and Switzerland are obliged to prevent corporations from engaging in harmful activities, such as water pollution, in or from their territory. Glencore has a duty to ensure that its business activities do not violate human rights including the rights to water and health.
Switzerland prepared to examine causality of problems near Glencore mine in Peru
Switzerland reacted swiftly to the complaint made to the UN. In June 2015 the Swiss government declared it was prepared to support an international study exploring Glencore’s potential responsibility for the pollution, on the condition that Peruvian authorities did the same. Glencore continues to deny any responsibility for the environmental and health problems around its mine in Peru.
Locals affected by Glencore mine submit constitutional complaint in Peru
As far as ECCHR and its partners can establish, the Peruvian government has to date not responded to the Swiss offer to support a study. A group of local farmers affected by the pollution have now turned to the courts in Peru. Together with the Peruvian organization Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) they submitted a constitutional complaint in 2015 that is now pending on appeal before the Corte Superior de Justicia in Cusco.
The claimants are calling on the Peruvian authorities to protect their health and environment. ECCHR is supporting this complaint and in October 2016 submitted an amicus curiae brief to the court on the responsibility borne by Glencore and on the question of how to apply human rights and environmental standards given the kinds of causality issues that are so common in such cases.