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9 Jul 2021

EarthRights International

Peruvian Environmental Defenders Take their Fight to the U.S. Supreme Court

This week, Maxima Acuña Atalaya and her family filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in their case against Newmont Mining Corporation. The family is requesting that the high court review a flawed procedural legal doctrine that frequently blocks cases based on the notion that it is more “convenient” for a U.S. corporation to litigate in a foreign court rather than in its home state. The petition argues that without guidance from the Supreme Court, lower courts will continue to adopt conflicting rules in applying the doctrine that fails to safeguard a fair hearing and depart sharply from the doctrine’s original justifications. The filing follows a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit last December that upheld a lower court decision that the family’s case against the U.S.-based corporation should be heard in Peru rather than in the United States...

Farmers and land defenders from the rural highlands of Cajamarca, Peru, Maxima, and her family, sued Newmont in the United States for abuse at the hands of the company’s security forces. Last March, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed the case in favor of sending it to Peru, without ruling on the underlying facts. In December, the Third Circuit upheld that decision, ruling that the result was permissible despite “recent, serious allegations of corruption” in the Peruvian judiciary. After almost four years, U.S. courts have not reached the merits of the family’s claims. The district court’s dismissal was “without prejudice,” meaning that U.S. courts have left open the possibility that the family could return to the U.S. if the Peruvian courts refuse to hear the case or if Newmont doesn’t abide by the conditions of the dismissal. 

In their case, Maxima Acuña Atalaya and her family allege that Newmont has intimidated and sent police and security to physically attack them, killing their animals and destroying their property, all to force them from their farm to pave the way for a massive open-pit gold mine...