Denver – Representatives from Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, Romania, and Nevada today called on Newmont Mining, the world's largest gold producer, to urgently reform its human rights and environmental practices at its global operations. Speaking at the company's annual shareholder meeting, representatives demanded that Newmont fully respect human rights, stop intimidation of farmers, community members and individuals critical of its operations, and stop dumping mine wastes into the ocean. They also called on the company to permanently cancel plans for new, open-pit mines on densely populated farmland in Romania, in a Ghanaian forest reserve, and on a mountain in Peru that is a source of community drinking water.
“Although we come from five different continents, we share many similar experiences with Newmont's operations. We also share similar demands: we ask that the company stop polluting our oceans and freshwater with mining waste, stay out of our protected forests, and that it only mine with the informed consent of communities,” said Daniel Owusu-Koranteng of Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) in Ghana.
Newmont is facing multi-million dollar lawsuits in Indonesia and Peru. Community protests in Peru nearly forced the closing of the company's most profitable mine, Yanacocha, in September 2004. In 2003, The World Bank declined to finance a proposed mine in Romania in which Newmont recently invested — a mine that the European Parliament has said could cost Romania entry into the European Union.
The visiting representatives also criticized Newmont for intimidation of its critics, including filing a defamation lawsuit against an Indonesian professor, Dr. Rignolda Djamaluddin, who spoke publicly about Newmont's practice of dumping mine waste in Buyat Bay. “I am here because Dr. Rignolda cannot be here as a result of this lawsuit that is meant to intimidate us and stifle our voice,” said Nur Hidayati of Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI). “Our communities demand Newmont end its practice of dumping mine wastes into the ocean. This irresponsible practice poses high risks to the environment and the community — and it is not allowed in the United States where Newmont is based.”
Members of the international delegation highlighted the hardships faced by hundreds of farmers in Rosia Montana, Romania, and villagers in the Ahafo region of Ghana, who are being displaced from their homes to make way for large, industrial gold mines owned by Newmont and its partners.
“I have come from Romania to tell Newmont that the people of Rosia Montana will not be forced from our homes and our land,” stated Stephanie Roth of Alburnus Maior, a community group of farmers and property owners in Rosia Montana. “Newmont has not obtained the community's consent to operate in Rosia Montana. It's time for them to cut their losses and leave the project.”
“We have been trying to engage with Newmont for several years and have yet to see real change in their practices,” said Father Marco Arana of Grufides, an environmental and social justice organization based in Cajamarca, Peru. “It took 30,000 people protesting in the streets of Cajamarca for them to finally recognize there were serious problems.”
Newmont has had trouble with its operations much closer to home as well. In Nevada, the Western Shoshone people continue to defend their right to live off of their own land, in their traditional lifestyle. “Any damage to our land has a direct impact on our people, our home, and our cultural and spiritual way of life,” said Kristi Begay, a member of the Western Shoshone Nation, and a Wells Band Council Chairwoman. “Although our elders are passing on, as the younger generation, we will continue this fight until our issues and concerns are resolved.”
While each member of this international delegation has unique concerns, all representatives have these demands in common and call on Newmont Mining to:
Respect human rights by:
- Fully respecting all human rights and not committing human rights violations, including intimidation of community members and activists.
- Refraining from projects that have not secured the free, prior, and informed consent of the communities concerned.
- Fully disclosing information about the environmental and social impacts of projects.
- Providing fair and just compensation for local communities affected by mining.
- Respecting the spiritual and cultural values of communities.
Respect the environment by:
- Ending the practice of ocean dumping of mine wastes.
- Protecting water resources from pollution and depletion.
- Keeping sites of spiritual significance and protected areas off limits from mining.
- Ensuring that operations will not result in sulfuric acid drainage to water and soil.
- Providing guaranteed funding, before beginning a project, that will fully cover reclamation and closure costs.
- Addressing needs left behind by closed mines such as clean-up, reclamation, remedying health impacts, and making land compensations.
A brief profile of each representative follows.
STEPHANIE ROTH, ROSIA MONTANA, ROMANIA
Roth is a former researcher and editor at the London-based magazine The Ecologist who was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize this week for her work with Alburnus Maior, a community group working with farmers and property owners in Rosia Montana, Romania, to halt development of Europe's largest open-pit cyanide leach gold mine. The proposed mine, owned by Gabriel Resources and Newmont Mining Corp., would displace 2,000 residents and put four huge open pits and an unlined mine-waste lagoon in this densely populated agricultural region.
KRISTI BEGAY, WELLS, NEVADA
Begay, a member of the Western Shoshone Nation, is the Wells Band Council Chairwoman. Begay is working to protect Western Shoshone cultural and spiritual sites threatened by gold mining.
MIKE ANANE, ACCRA, GHANA
Anane is a veteran environmental journalist and founder of Ghana's League of Environmental Journalists. In 1998, Anane won a United Nations Global 500 award for his coverage of toxic pollution and other environmental issues in Ghana. Newmont owns significant interest in two Ghanaian mines: the Akyem mine, which is located inside one of Ghana's forest reserves and scheduled to begin production in 2007; and the Ahafo mine, which is scheduled to begin production in 2006. Anane represents the League of Environmental Journalists and is a member of the National Coalition of Civil Society Groups Against Mining in Ghana's Forest Reserves.
DANIEL OWUSU-KORANTENG, ACCRA, GHANA
Daniel Owusu-Koranteng is Executive Director of the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), a Ghanaian community-based non-profit organization with a mission to protect the environment, natural resources, and the rights of marginalized communities affected by mining. He cofounded WACAM in 1998 with his wife, Hannah Owusu-Koranteng.
MARCO ARANA, CAJAMARCA, PERU
Marco Antonia Arana Zegarra is a diocesan priest and executive director of GRUFIDES, an environmental and social justice organization based in Cajamarca, Peru, that trains people in communities affected by mining in advocacy and environmental monitoring. In 2004, Arana was awarded the National Ángel Escobar Jurado Human Rights Prize in recognition of his key role in resolving conflict between Newmont Mining Company/Minera Yanacocha and the communities in Cajamarca. Awarded by Peru's National Coordinator of Human Rights, it is Peru's most prominent human rights prize.
MIRTHA VASQUEZ, CAJAMARCA, PERU
Mirth Vasquez is a member of the Cajamarca community and a lawyer with GRUFIDES, an environmental and social justice organization based in Cajamarca, Peru.
NUR HIDAYATI, JAKARTA, INDONESIA
Nur Hidayati is with Indonesian Forum on Environment, one of the Jakarta-based environmental organizations monitoring the Buyat Bay pollution case. She works on mining campaigns in support of local communities across Indonesia, and she is also involved in the campaign to protect Indonesian forests from mining.
For more information, contact Harlin Savage (720) 352-2246.