Oxfam urges miner to address community engagement practices

By mborum

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WASHINGTON, DC — As Newmont Mining Corporation convenes its annual shareholders' meeting in Delaware today, International aid group Oxfam America urges the mining company to use this opportunity to discuss strengthening relationships with local communities near mining projects in Peru, Ghana, Indonesia and Nevada.

Last month, Newmont released the results of an independent review, which provides information about the company's community relationships and important recommendations for improving operations on the ground. The review, the first of its kind by a major mining company, came at the request of shareholders, led by New York-based Christian Brothers Investment Services, concerned about protests and environmental problems at Newmont's mining projects around the world. The company will formally present the results of the report to shareholders at the annual meeting.

"We commend Newmont for conducting a critical assessment of their community relationships. As shareholders gather this week, plans for urgent action to improve relations with the communities living near its operations should be at the top of the agenda," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

Recommendations from the report include handling community conflicts at an earlier stage, holding management accountable for community relations, and establishing effective grievance processes at all sites. The report indentifies problems with Newmont's community interaction at several locations, including sites in Ghana and Peru.

Nearly 10,000 villagers, mainly poor farmers, were displaced by the Newmont's Ahafo mine in Ghana. The report identified the long-term success of the resettlement as one of the greatest risks confronting the project and called on Newmont to actively monitor the implementation of resettlement. Newmont and the World Bank (IFC) will be conducting an audit of the resettlement program this year. Oxfam urges Newmont to make the audit process transparent and participatory.

Newmont's Yanacocha mine in Peru has been the site of repeated protests and violence in recent years. In 2007, local mining activists were the targets of harassments and death threats.

"The report identified an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among local residents at the Yanacocha mine, who worry about speaking out against the company out of fear of harassment by the mine's security forces," said Offenheiser. "It is very troubling that people are afraid to peacefully express their concerns. Newmont must address this situation immediately."

Communities affected by mining projects should have a role in decision-making about how the project will affect their lands and livelihoods. The report recommends an action plan that includes clarification of Newmont's commitment to the principle of free, prior and informed consent for communities.

"Newmont's endorsement of the principle of free, prior and informed consent for communities would be an important step forward," said Offenheiser. "The key now is to engage with local communities and apply this principle to company practice. We are pleased that Newmont's board of directors has accepted the report's analysis and recommendations and directed management to engage with affected communities on the report's findings."

The Newmont report also highlighted community concern about lack of access to information about the revenues the company pays to local and national governments, leaving communities unable to hold their governments accountable for how mining revenues are used.

"Newmont has been a leader in committing to greater transparency and can help address community concerns about revenue sharing by recommitting to disclose all payments made to host governments," said Offenheiser. "Endorsing mandatory public disclosure policies like the Extractive Industries Transparency Disclosure Act would be an important first step."

Oxfam advocated passage of the Extractive Industries Transparency Disclosure Act, legislation that would require all mining, oil, and gas companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose the payments made to foreign governments. The bill, which was introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) in the 110th Congress, is expected to be reintroduced shortly.