Yesterday I attended Newmont Mining Co.’s annual shareholder meeting. The meeting took place in a small hotel banquet room in a Wilmington, DE hotel. The Denver-based company has held its annual meeting here ever since 2007 after meeting in Denver became a lightening rod for annual protests against their irresponsible mining operations. However, while Newmont may have hidden away from protestors outside their meetings, they continue to face criticism inside their shareholder meeting.
Earthworks went up to the meeting to voice our concerns regarding Newmont’s continued lack of a robust community consultation and a free prior and informed consent (FPIC) policy for their mine projects, most recently at their proposed Minas Conga project in Peru. Here’s our statement and question to the Newmont Board of Directors:
The House Majority recently introduced HR 4402 a bill called the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012. The authors cleverly spell out the purported purpose in a series of whereas clauses that form the bill’s preamble. Ostensibly, the problem wants to solve is a dearth of domestic production of so-called rare earth or critical minerals. These minerals consist mainly of those elements in the bottom two rows of the periodic table and have varied applications in electronics, hybrid technology, renewable energy, and defense industries.
After delay and behind the scenes discussions, the EPA issued the final New Source Performance Standards and New Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants regulations for the oil and gas sector. These federal rules – the first to cover oil and gas exploration and production, including fracking – were the result of a lawsuit by environmental groups.
Generally, the rules will lead to a greater transparency from this industry through required accounting for the numerous sources of emissions that are currently ‘invisible’ due to the lack of regulation. The rules will also provide health benefits to those who live close to the thousands of gas facilities covered by these rules.
Strong enforcement efforts, in combination with this much-needed first step, should better protect the health of families that showed the need for the new rules in the first place.
Today is a red-letter day for grassroots mining activists around the world: Fr. Edwin Gariguez is awarded the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize for his work to stop irresponsible mining development on Mindoro Island in the Philippines. I’m looking forward to seeing Fr. Edwin receive his award at the San Francisco Opera House this evening, along with 5 other amazing Prize recipients from around the world. (By the way, if you can’t be there, make sure you watch this video clip about Fr. Edwin, narrated by Robert Redford.)
Fr. Edu, as he is affectionately known, is being recognized by the Goldman Prize for working to defend the Indigenous communities and biological diversity of Mindoro from a giant nickel mine proposed by Intex, a Norwegian mining company. The mine would be built in two key biodiversity areas, and within one of Mindoro’s major watersheds, which provides drinking and irrigation water to many lowland communities. If developed, the nickel mine would destroy vast swaths of tropical forests, and would produce several million tons of toxic waste. Mindoro’s Mangyan Indigenous communities would also be hurt by the mine, as the proposed mining area is within their ancestral land. As Fr. Edu has said, “For the indigenous Mangyan people living on Mindoro Island, the struggle to protect our threatened ecology is a matter of survival.”
Last week, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced S.2268 the Fracturing Regulations are Effective in State Hands Act (FRESH Act). The bill would remove all authority from the federal government to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Even on Federal lands. Instead, states will enjoy the sole province of fracking regulation. Honestly, we should have seen this coming. For months now, many members of Congress have touted the benefits of local fracking regulation and complained about federal government overreach. A number of states with prevalent hydraulic fracturing industries have regulated resource extraction for generations. Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado, for example, contain resource rich lands and populations very familiar with oil and gas development. Along with the extensive experience some regions have in this arena, many state and Congressional officials argue that differences in geology, geography, and hydrology suggest that the more local the regulator- the better.
Last month Ecuador did something it had never done before. It signed contracts for the first large-scale mining project in the history of the country. Prior to President Rafael Correa's championing of mega-mines in Ecuador, Ecuador was the last Andean country without a large-scale mine. It was also the last Andean country to not have to deal with major water contamination from cyanide run-off. It was the last Andean country to not have to deal with the millions of tons of toxic mine tailings each mine site must dispose of, often in water sources. That's all changed now.
Despite growing protests because of Correa's decision to open up the country to multi-national mining corporations, the President has remained defiant and steadfast in his decision. Even as thousands of people poured into the streets last month for a two week march in defense of water and in opposition to large-scale mining, Correa proclaimed: "We will not be beggars sitting on a sack of gold.";
A new article in the Santiago Times describes a recent toxic spill at Anglo American's Los Bronces mine in Chile. According to the article, a truck transporting ammonium nitrate veered off the road near Santiago on March 28, spilling 20 tons of its toxic cargo just feet from a river feeding the Aguas Cordillera water treatment plant.
This incident was apparently one of many along the road, including a spill in 2011 of 790 gallons of ammonium nitrate spilling into and contaminating a nearby creek.
The article quotes a nearby resident saying, "Since the arrival of Anglo American in 2000, it has become impossible to live here."
These spills highlight one of the significant risks of the proposed Pebble Mine, where Anglo American is proposing to build a massive copper and gold mine at the headwaters of the world's largest wild salmon fishery. To transport the ore, a 100 mile road must also be built, which will cross important salmon streams, and provide ample opportunity for spills like this one.
For more on Anglo American's environmental and social track record, and a long list of spills, go to: http://ourbristolbay.com/pdf/anglo_trackrecord_final.pdf