Written by Maria Athayde
A beautiful aerial shot of the Andes mountains in Peru filled with lush green and crystalline waters draws you in. Contrasted against aerial images of the earthy and brown tones of the Yanacocha Mine, established in 1993, located in the Andes, the second largest mine in the world. There are two problems. First, the mine is running out of gold. The second, and most important obstacle is Màxima, a landowner and subsistence farmer who refuses to give up her land to the Yanacocha Mine for its Conga Expansion Projects.
With its opening and contrasting shots, this documentary hooks you in immediately. Using a mixture of first-hand testimonies, archival footage, amateur-video, court hearing footage, security camera footage, drone footage, and secret recordings this story spans 27 years as Màxima Acuña fights against the Newmont Mining Company, who declined producers request to appear in the documentary, and the Buenaventura mining company. This film is much more than the quest of one woman to assert her property rights against a gigantic multinational corporation that uses a campaign of violence and intimidation. It is about basic human dignity, resilience, resistance, and environmentalism.
Throughout the documentary I found myself caught up in Màxima’s fight and infuriated by the greed and disdain the Yanacocha Mine ownership exhibited. I was particularly infuriated to discover that the World Bank through its private sector arm The International Finance Corporation (IFC) owned a 5% stake in the Yanacocha Mine before it sold it off in 2018. IFC’s stake in this project however was diametrically opposed to its core values of “impact, integrity, respect, teamwork, and innovation”. There are several instances throughout the documentary in which these core values are violated.
For example, the Yanacocha mine has the lowest production cost of gold in the world. It costs $120 dollars to produce 1oz of gold in an area when the average cost of production for 1oz of gold is usually $300. The cost is so cheap because of Peru’s lax environmental rules and an alleged corruption scheme between the mine owners and high-ranking officials of the Peruvian government that turns a blind eye towards these violations. There are also environmental impacts of mining in the Cajamarca region that are directly felt by local community members including a mercury spill that happened in 2000, and an increased level of lead and mercury in water sources that feed directly into local communities. The film ends on a hopeful note as the Peruvian Supreme Court rules in favor of Màxima’s land ownership. But this victory was short-lived as the Yanacocha mine started a civil lawsuit against Maxima’s land ownership in a trial that could last up to 10 years. Just as it began as the movie ends we see more stunning aerial images of the Andes Mountains and their surrounding lakes. I am positive this is not the last we heard of this story. But, for now, the best way to remember this film is to remember through Màxima’s own words “our dignity has no price.”
Learn more at: https://www.standwithmaxima.com/
Màxima is now in limited theatrical release and available to rent or purchase on VOD.