WASHINGTON — In advance of tomorrow’s annual meeting of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation, community groups from around the world urged the company to address human rights and environmental concerns at its gold mining operations and investments in Indonesia, Ghana, Peru, the United States, and Romania. The company’s projects have been beset by protests, lawsuits, and controversies, prompting shareholders this year to file two resolutions calling on the company to review its policies on community engagement and waste disposal.
“It’s time for Newmont to take a serious look at how it conducts its business,” said Keith Slack, senior policy advisor for Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization. “It should call on experts who are completely independent of the company and won’t just say what it wants to hear. It should also seek input from affected communities themselves.”
Earlier this year, the Christian Brothers Investment Services and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a corporate accountability organization, filed a shareholder resolution asking Newmont to review how it engages with affected communities and addresses local opposition. In filing the resolution, the shareholders cited a pattern of community resistance to the company’s operations, including protests in Peru and Ghana which led to deaths and injuries. Concurrently, the New York City Comptroller filed a resolution on behalf of the New York City Pension Funds asking Newmont to review the environmental and public health impacts of its Indonesian operations. Both resolutions will be voted on at tomorrow’s shareholder meeting, which the company moved from its headquarters in Denver, Colorado to Wilmington, Delaware.
“Newmont shareholders are right to be concerned about community opposition and environmental risk measures. These issues can influence a company’s reputation, share price, and ability to obtain permits,” said Radhika Sarin, international campaign coordinator for environmental group EARTHWORKS.
“Newmont is not fulfilling its commitments to respect the human rights of communities affected by its projects,” said Father Marco Arana, a Catholic priest and president of GRUFIDES, a local group in Cajamarca, Peru, site of Newmont’s Yanacocha gold mine. Arana and his colleagues have received death threats in recent months and were the targets of a spying operation linked to the private security firm hired by the mine. “The company must investigate and hold accountable any employee responsible for making threats, harassment, spying or any other form of abuse.”
Newmont’s operations in Indonesia have also been sharply criticized over the company’s practice of dumping mining waste into the ocean at the now-closed Minahasa Raya gold mine and its larger Batu Hijau gold and copper mine. A verdict in the criminal case brought by the Indonesian government against Newmont’s Indonesia unit and its head, Richard Ness, over pollution charges is expected this week. Ocean dumping of mine waste is effectively banned in the United States under the Clean Water Act.
“Newmont must stop dumping mining waste into ours oceans,” said Chalid Muhammad, national director of WALHI, Indonesia’s largest environmental group. “It can’t use this destructive practice in its own country, and it should not do so anywhere else either.” Last month, WALHI filed a civil suit against the company over negligence in the dumping of mine waste into the ocean.
Rural livelihoods are at stake in Ghana, where more than 10,000 poor farmers have been displaced to make way for Newmont’s Ahafo gold mine, and another 10,000 will be displaced when the mine expands to the north. The company has also come under fire for trying to develop the Akyem gold mine in Ghana’s Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve. Construction of the mine is on hold because Newmont has been unable to secure an environmental permit from the government of Ghana.
“Ghana’s forests have been severely deforested in the last 40 years. The remaining forest reserves are invaluable and must stay off-limits to mining,” said Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, executive director of the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining, in Ghana.
Groups in Romania are urging Newmont to divest its19 percent stake in Gabriel Resources, a small Canadian mining company that wants to develop a gold mine on top of the historic town of Rosia Montana in Romania. Newmont’s investment, which has boosted Gabriel Resources financially, has led local families to question why Newmont wants to be linked to such a highly controversial and risky project.
“We want Newmont shareholders to know that the Rosia Montana gold project is a bad investment. Over 96 percent of Romanians oppose this project so we are confident it will never be developed. Why is Newmont putting its reputation on the line by getting involved?” asked Eugen David, president of Alburnus Maior, a local association of property owners in Rosia Montana opposed to the mine.
Closer to home, in Nevada, Newmont operates several mines on the traditional lands of the Western Shoshone – with neither their consent, nor compensation to the Shoshone for past and present gold extraction. The Western Shoshone have been asking Newmont for a formal policy regarding their concerns, including disputed land, fair compensation, and the right to free, prior, and informed consent for any new mining and expansion projects.
“As long as these disputes continue under the discriminatory 1872 Mining Law, Newmont is party to violations of our human rights, including our cultural and spiritual rights. According to the Supreme Law of the Land, the Treaty of Ruby Valley, these mines are guests of this land, and they should be held accountable,” said Larson Bill of the Western Shoshone Defense Project in Nevada, citing the treaty between the US government and the Western Shoshone recognizing the Shoshone as the landowners.