Mining company in court over allegations of police violence in Peru

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Police holding shields in front of the Tintaya mine in Peru

Xstrata, a UK-registered company part of Glencore plc (an Anglo–Swiss commodity trading and mining company) is in court in London accused of hiring the Peruvian National Police (PNP) to oppress environmental protesters who were demonstrating against the Tintaya copper mine in a remote region of the Andes in 2012.

Two of the demonstrators were killed, and others were seriously injured after being attacked by police and private security. The lawsuit brought by 22 Peruvians - represented by legal firm Leigh Day - states that the company failed to take reasonable steps to prevent police abuses during the deadly protests. According to the legal firm’s press release, “the claimants allege that the PNP, whose attendance at the protest was requested by the mine, used excessive force including the use of live ammunition, beat and kicked protesters, subjected them to racial abuse and made them stand for prolonged periods in stress positions in the freezing cold.”

Leigh Day argues that the company paid £700,000 for the services of roughly 1,300 members of the PNP, and provided them with weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas, and food and accommodation. The company signed an agreement with the police for the provision of security at the mine; activists have criticised these agreements, arguing that they encourage police forces to be loyal to companies rather than upholding the law.

Xstrata are also accused of “covertly monitoring” community meetings, employing informants, and sharing information with the police. The court has been told that the private security guards were armed with metal bars and planks of wood, and that the police used live ammunition from shot guns and machine guns.

Xstrata denies the allegations, and says that the National Police were operating independently and that the company had no control over their behaviour.

Sergio Huamani, a farmer who was involved in the protests and has travelled to London to hear the court case, said: “I was attacked severely by the police and beaten on my head and nose because I was protesting about the environmental impact of the copper mine. I hope we will find justice here. The mine is still producing copper and has expanded. It is working without social or environmental responsibility.”

The Tintaya mine is owned by Xtrata’s Peruvian subsidiary Xstrata Tintaya S.A. Xstrata was bought by Swiss-based company Glencore in 2013.

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