Oxfam calls on mining company to respect human rights

By Oxfam

WASHINGTON, DC — Following the release of an independent review of Newmont Mining Corporation's human rights practices at Yanacocha gold mine in northern Peru, international aid agency Oxfam America urges the mining company to address human rights concerns at the Peru gold mine.

Newmont, the largest US-based mining company, agreed to the review in 2007 following allegations of serious rights abuses by police and private security forces hired to protect the mine. Among other recommendations, the review calls on the company to more rigorously investigate human rights abuses, disclose contracts with police forces, consider severing ties with a private security contractor, and promote greater dialogue with local communities.

"This report contains a number of important recommendations for addressing ongoing human rights problems at Yanacocha," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "Given the current tensions around mining projects in Peru, we urge Newmont to take immediate action to implement these recommendations."

The report is the result of a two-year mediation process between Newmont and Oxfam America under the auspices of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, a global initiative bringing together mining and oil companies, governments, and nongovernmental groups. Newmont and Oxfam entered the mediation after Oxfam filed a complaint over abuses by security forces at Yanacocha in three separate incidents throughout 2006-2007. These included the fatal shooting of a local farmer involved in protests at the mine and the surveillance and harassment of members of a local human rights and environmental group.

Peru has been hit by a recent wave of protests around mining and oil projects. According to government estimates, there are more than 70 active conflicts at mine sites in various parts of the country, some of which have turned violent. Tensions reached a boiling point in early June when actions by the national police to quell protests by indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon, who were protesting government decrees designed to open up more land to mining and oil operations, resulted in a tragic loss of lives and a large number of wounded police officers and indigenous peoples.

"Newmont can help reduce the level conflict in Peru by implementing these recommendations," said Keith Slack, extractive industries program manager at Oxfam America. "Doing so would be an important confidence building measure among local community members affected by mining operations."

The report recommends that Newmont more vigorously implement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which include ensuring that security forces employed by companies do not have a history of human rights abuse. The report further calls on the company to review the results of psychological examinations of all security personnel before employing them at the mine.

"This is a critical first test of the complaints mechanism of the voluntary principles," noted Slack. "Newmont's compliance with these recommendations is important for the continued credibility of the initiative."

This report follows a previous independent review of Newmont's community relationship management practices, the results of which were released in March. Oxfam encourages Newmont to continue taking leadership in this type of review process and to fully implement the resulting recommendations to improve relationships with local communities near mining projects.

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