Yesterday, Earthworks and our partners at SumOfUs.org attended the Annual General Meeting of the world’s second largest gold mining company, Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation. The meeting is open to all shareholders and is where shareholders (and their proxies) vote on standard resolutions about corporate governance and CEO pay. Importantly for communities, shareholder-led resolutions are also considered.
This year, SumOfUs.org introduced a proposal to increase transparency for the human rights risks present in Newmont’s current and future mining operations. Newmont is currently waging a number of lawsuits related to their proposed Conga mine in Peru. But for years, the company has harassed, intimidated and sued community members opposing the Conga mine, including Goldman Environmental Prize winner Máxima Acuña de Chaupe. An investigation commissioned and funded by Newmont itself found that the company’s Peruvian subsidiary ignored human rights standards and “prioritized eviction and litigation over dialogue.” But Newmont refuses to acknowledge the harm they are doing. They claim they are doing enough to protect human rights and mitigate risks to the point that the company actively opposed SumOfUs.org’s human rights shareholder resolution.
28% of shareholders disagree. In spite of a recommendation from the Board of Directors to vote against the proposal, an impressive 28% of shareholders voted in favor of the proposed human rights risk assessment. At the meeting, I addressed the Board directly and specifically asked them to drop their lawsuits against Máxima, but they evaded Earthworks’ request.
Ignoring human rights abuses poses a real and significant risk to shareholders. Industry analyst EY issues an annual report that consistently ranks “social licence” among the top risks to the mining business. Gaining social licence is highly dependent on a strong human rights record that shows a deep commitment to community engagement and support.
When asked about their commitment to sustainability and human rights Newmont points to their site-by-site analysis and ranking on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, but, as we have previously pointed out, this says more about the lack of credibility of the DJSI than it does about Newmont. If Newmont is truly a leader in the area of human rights they would engage in the shareholder-requested assessment and stop hiding behind “best of the worst” rankings.