Oxfam urges miner to improve community relations

By mborum

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Washington, DC — International aid group Oxfam America commends the Newmont Mining Corporation for conducting a review of its community relationship management practices and calls on the mining company to fully implement the review's recommendations to improve relationships with local communities near mining projects in Peru, Ghana, Indonesia and Nevada.

The independent review, released today, is the first of its kind by a major mining company and provides information about community relationships and important recommendations for improving the company's operations on the ground. The review, carried out over a two-year period, 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 review is important for two reasons. First, it was driven by shareholders concerned about social impacts of Newmont's mining activities. And, second, the review confirmed that Newmont needs to take urgent action to improve relations with the communities living near its operations," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. Oxfam will advocate for other companies to build on this experience in undertaking their own independent reviews.

The report indentifies problems with Newmont's community interaction at several locations, including sites in Peru and Ghana. 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.

Oxfam stresses the critical importance of community consent, meaning communities affected by mining projects should have a role in decision-making about how the project will affect their lands and livelihoods. According to the report, Newmont has endorsed this principle but has not fully implemented it.

"Newmont's endorsement of the principle of free, prior and informed consent for communities is 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 breadth of issues covered and the role of the advisory panel were encouraging aspects of this review," said Offenheiser. "However, the panel did express concerns about the company's resistance at times to providing requested information and laid out important suggestions for taking similar reviews forward."

Oxfam has particular concerns about the findings related to Newmont's Yanaocha mine in Peru—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."

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.