In January 2024, El Melon’s trade association of farmers and livestock farmers sent this public letter to Anglo American about conflicts over common land near the company’s El Soldado copper mine in Chile.

The company has responded with this letter: 

Board of Directors

Asociación Gremial de Agricultores y Ganaderos de El Melon (AGAGEM)


20 March 2024

Re. Letter of 25 January 2024 sent to London Mining Network.

Dear Board of Directors,

Thank you for contacting us and raising your concerns through the London Mining Network.

For Anglo American, operating responsibly and in accordance with our procedures and best practices is of paramount importance. We see this communication as an opportunity to establish an avenue of engagement that generates a greater understanding of the commons near El Soldado.

The letter raises a number of concerns about our actions related to the commons, and we would like to clarify a few points.

Anglo American’s approach to the commons aims to ensure the safety of our El Soldado operation and the neighbouring communities. Our aim is to ensure the operational continuity of El Soldado, so therefore, we legally purchased some rights in the commons between 2012 and 2017, paying a fair market price.

These rights make Anglo American one more holder among all those who own rights to the commons, which means that no one alone owns them and that all decisions related to them must be decided among the community members. Anglo American currently owns 21% of the rights to BCE1 and 23.4% of the rights to BCE2. We do not have any ownership rights to any specific land, nor do we have or aspire to have a majority interest in the ownership of the rights to the commons.

In recent years, irregularities have been observed related to the use of the land that forms part of the commons, which has generated changes in land use and uncertainty for the other community members, including Anglo American. Because of this, Anglo American, in coordination with other owners of rights in the commons, have applied to the competent court of justice for the appointment of an independent administrator (proindiviso), following the procedure established by law. The administrator to be appointed in the proceedings before the courts of law must seek to protect the interests of all the holders of rights in the common property by majority vote.

This initiative will not only benefit Anglo American and other holders of rights in the commons, but may also help to create opportunities for all in the area. For example, the proindiviso manager will be able to generate economic development opportunities that are agreed upon by the majority of the commoners. The commons constitute a vast land area of over 12,000 hectares, which is why we believe that this legal procedure of appointing a proindiviso administrator is an opportunity that can benefit the commoners as a whole, thus minimising social tensions.

We appreciate you raising your concerns with us. We are working through this legal procedure to find the best solution that reflects the agreement of the co-owners. We seek in good faith to achieve legal stability in the administration of the common property referred to and, at the same time, to resolve the tensions generated by the irregularities in the use of the land.

However, as the letter contains a formal complaint, we have activated our internal protocols in accordance with our social performance policy. All Anglo American’s operations apply a grievance management system in line with the effectiveness criteria described in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which is why we have registered the aforementioned letter in our El Soldado grievance procedure.

As a result of the above, registration of this letter as a formal complaint has meant that your letter has been forwarded to our head office in Santiago and to El Soldado management. Our El Soldado claims team is now investigating the complaint received and the reasons for the problem described, and, accordingly, our team in Santiago will contact you to seek a solution.

In addition, we have tasked our Santiago-based Social Performance Manager with addressing the issues raised in the letter. In view of his expertise in matters of this nature, he will oversee the local social performance teams and be the contact person leading the resolution of this formal complaint.

I hope that we can establish a more structured and constructive form of engagement through the formal registration of this complaint, whose procedure will allow for substantive exchanges on the concerns raised and seek to move towards their resolution.

Our aim is to strive to be a good neighbour to the communities around El Soldado, and we will continue to operate unwaveringly responsibly and with a focus on generating value for neighbouring communities and with high safety standards so that mining contributes to improving people’s lives.

Yours sincerely

Ruben Fernandes

Regional Director for the Americas

The original letter in Spanish is here:

El Melon’s trade association of farmers and livestock farmers has responded to Anglo American with this letter:

23 April 2024

Mr Ruben Fernandes

Regional Director for the Americas

Anglo American plc group

Re: Letter 20 March 2024 to El Melon’s trade association of farmers and livestock farmers

Dear Ruben:

We hereby reply to your letter of 20 March 2024, which was issued by your company in response to our communication of 25 January 2024.

In your letter, you state that this new communication can be considered “an opportunity to establish a relationship that will allow for a better understanding of the commons near El Soldado”. You also describe the company’s interests and objectives in relation to these commons, mainly aimed at ensuring the safety and operational continuity of El Soldado. This is intended to be achieved through the acquisition of rights to use the commons, which form part of the 12,800 hectares of the El Melón mountain range, declared a Biodiversity Conservation Area in 2007. In order to achieve this, the company – together with a minority of rights holders – is pursuing a judicial process to appoint a ‘proindiviso’ administrator (in charge of the commons), bypassing the current committee elected in accordance with the law. We believe that this is not the way to achieve good relations between neighbours. We set out below the reasons that support our argument:

First of all, as you may know, the property rights of the peasants come from the Chilean agrarian reform, a historical social process in our country in which the State allocated part of the land to peasants and their families to carry out their agricultural work. These lands have low agricultural productivity, as indicated by their soil classification (class VI). However, they are of great value to each member of the community. The rights to use the commons, apart from those sold to your company and a few private individuals, are part of the family and cultural heritage of this community. For this reason, the majority of our members decided some time ago to undertake a legal process that would allow them to delimit their property rights to a specific piece of land so that they could settle their homes and those of their families there. These plots are limited to the flatter areas, without affecting the steeper areas, which we believe should be left in their natural state.

This legitimate right to land is considered by your company to be an “irregular act”, a view not shared by the Chilean justice system. The accusation that you supported in the Criminal Court of La Calera under the number CR 1587-2019, which accused the board of the association of irregular land division, unfair administration and fraud, was rejected by the judge who heard the case. We believe that it would be more correct and better for everyone if your company and our association worked together to carry out this process of land distribution in a good way, which is what the majority of the associates want.

Second, going back to the historical context, this community grew up with the El Soldado mine as a prosperous neighbour. However, they suffered one of the greatest disasters of their lives – and of the country – when many of their family and friends died as a result of the collapse of the El Cobre tailings dam during the 1965 earthquake. This tragedy, still remembered and deeply felt, has left our community living in constant fear of another collapse, this time of the El Torito tailings dam. The way in which the safety and stability of the dam is managed has not been clearly communicated to the community by your company, and only recently has a working group been convened to draw up an emergency evacuation plan. As we live in a country with high seismic activity, we need to find a way to directly involve our entire community in the implementation of emergency plans that include efficient monitoring systems and automatic alerts for each resident in the zone of influence, which should also be very clearly demarcated. In addition, we are asking your company to inform the people who live in the zone of influence of the tailings dam and to carry out evacuation drills so that every family knows where and how to get to safe areas.

When it comes to land use, it is important to remember that our agricultural and farming activities do not have a significant impact on the environment, unlike your company’s mining operations. El Soldado has repeatedly failed to comply with environmental regulations regarding our native vegetation and has negatively impacted groundwater quality through seepage from its tailings dams. Until we are completely clear about Anglo American’s objectives regarding its involvement in our commons, we cannot help but see its extractive activities and possible expansion as a threat to our collective interests.

Finally, we appreciate your previous letter. In this letter we sincerely answer to the problems that have distanced us, in order to find a way to overcome them together.

Yours sincerely.



Our view

At LMN, we believe it is extraordinary that Anglo American has been allowed to purchase rights to the use of common land around El Melon. How can a multinational mining company based in London have any right (including moral right) to interfere in the organisation of common land which is the patrimony of a community of people in Chile making a living by farming and raising livestock? 

Now the company seems to want to benefit from the tensions and divisions caused by its presence by exercising influence over the governance of this common land. Whatever the legal position, this is ethically unacceptable. And the well-known strategy of breaking and dividing communities by putting the company’s economic benefit over people and the environment. 

The situation mimics the enclosures of land in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when rural communities were deprived of land and livelihood by large landowners who muscled in on their common patrimony with the support of laws passed in the interests of the mighty.

We will be discussing this topic at the public event called: Who Controls the Land and Why Does it Matter? on Monday 29 April. Please register here. Join us to welcome Luis Acevedo and support El Melon’s trade association of farmers and livestock farmers in their search for justice!