MAC: Mines and Communities

Newmont Ghana does not deserve excellence award

Published by MAC on 2016-02-28
Source: Statements (2016-02-25)

The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs announced the ten finalists for the 2015 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) last month.

The Secretary of State has awarded the ACE each year since 1999 to recognize 'American companies that are leaders in responsible business conduct worldwide.'

Among the finalists this year is Newmont Ghana. The company was nominated "for partnering with private and public security forces to train and equip them in protecting mine sites as well as communities in a way that respects human rights".

Residents of Kenyase, a small farming community in the Brong Ahafo Region, say they will resist any attempt by the US State Department to award Newmont for its excellence in human rights practice in Ghana.

Residents say Newmont does not deserve the award since its human rights record in Kenyase is appalling. In a three page petition to the US State department filed on 11th February 2016, the residents outlined a number of brutalities they have suffered in the hands of Newmont Ghana.

By its part, EarthRights International (ERI) expressed grave concerns about the nomination of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, because its human rights and environmental record – whether in Ghana or Peru – is no model for the “exemplary” corporate conduct the award intends to recognize.

See previous article on MAC: Community deaths at Newmont and Chinese gold mines in Ghana

Newmont does not deserve excellence award - Kenyase residents

Ghana Web 

25 February 2016

Residents of Kenyase, a small farming community in the Brong Ahafo Region, say they will resist any attempt by the US State Department to award Newmont Ghana Gold Limited for its excellence in human rights practice in Ghana.

The residents say Newmont Ghana Gold Limited does not deserve the award since its human rights record in Kenyase where it operates a concession is appalling.

In a three page petition to the US State department filed on 11th February 2016, the residents outlined a number of brutalities they have suffered in the hands of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited.

PETITION AGAINST THE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN HUMAN RIGHTS PRATICE IN GHANA TO NEWMONT BY U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

We the undersigned people living in Kenyase where Newmont Ghana Gold Limited is operating its Ahafo mine have learnt that Newmont Corporation is a finalist for the award of excellence in human rights practice in Ghana to be awarded by the U.S. State Department.

We are compelled to petition against the award of excellence in human rights practice in Ghana. Our petition is premised on the human rights violations that the indigenous people of Kenyase, Ntotroso and surrounding areas have suffered since Newmont started operating its Ahafo Mine.

Before the advent of the company’s operations, Kenyase and surrounding communities were prosperous farming communities with clean environment. This situation has changed and our communities have become areas of conflict because of the negative social, economic and environmental consequences of the operations of Newmont Ahafo mine. We catalogue below some of the cases of human rights abuses to buttress our petition:

Military brutalities against the people of Ntotroso

On 6th of June 2006, the people of Ntotroso which is one of the communities affected by the operations of Newmont embarked on a demonstration to complain about the effects of Newmont’s operations on the people. The military who were transported into the Ntotroso community in Newmont vehicles attacked the demonstrators and entered homes and brutalised even people who were not part of the demonstration including Nana Apraku a blind man and a former Chief of Ntotroso was brutalised by the military in his home. Some of the victims of the military brutalities meted out to the people of Ntotroso in the incident aforementioned include but not limited to Nana Apraku a blind man and an ex-chief of Ntotroso, Alhaji Sani, Rose Djan, Akosua Safoa and Ruth Ntim.

Newmont Ahafo Mine provided logistics such as food and transport to the military to carry out the intimidation of the Ntotroso community after the military raid of the community which caused many of the indigenous people including old people and children to flee from the community for fear of brutalisation by the military.

On 2nd September 2005, ex-employees of Newmont who were laid off by Newmont demonstrated against the company for non-payment of redundancy award. The Police shot at the demonstrators and wounded some of them.

Cyanide spillage of Newmont Ahafo Mine and discharge of faecal waste in Community Rivers

On 8th September 2009 Newmont Ahafo Mine spilled cyanide into river Yaakye which flows into River Subri. Though the spillage affected the Community Rivers, Newmont tried to hide the effect of the cyanide. It took NGOs such as Wacam and the affected community people to expose Newmont’s attempt to hide the effect. As a result of the attempt of Newmont to hide the cyanide spillage, the government of Ghana imposed a fine which was equivalent to $5 million on Newmont.

Similarly, Newmont discharged faecal matter into some rivers in 2005. The community people complained about the disposal of faecal waste into River Asuopre by Newmont. The river served as the drinking water for some of the communities located downstream of the river especially Asuopre community. Newmont paid compensation of about $ 14 and a hamper comprising a bag of rice, a gallon oil, and 4 tins of corned beef to the affected people. Some of the affected people have instituted legal action against the company on this case which is pending

Military brutalities against the people of Kantinka

Kantinka is a farming community where Newmont Ahafo Mine has created Rock Waste Dump which has surrounded the village. The establishment of the Rock Waste Dump which is about 50 metres from the community has created problems for the people of Kantinka such as dust pollution, noise pollution, floods, and sicknesses among others. Despite persistent demands of the people of Kantinka for the payment of compensation for destroyed farms and the resettlement of the people by Newmont because of the extreme hardships created for the people of Kantinka by the operations of Newmont, the company has not heeded to the demands of people.

Newmont has refused to build houses for some farmers in the Subika East expansion project with the excuse that the owners of the farm houses in the affected areas have relatives resettled in the past so they do not qualify for resettlement houses. Some of the people who got compensation for their farm houses received compensation as low as five hundred Ghana Cedi (500.00 about US$130) in the Kantinka community.

The people of Kantinka undertook a demonstration to prevent Newmont from continuously dumping rock waste on them without negotiating and payment of compensation for the community people to relocate. A joint security team of military and Newmont security who were transported in vehicles belonging to Newmont attacked the peaceful demonstrators of Kantinka and brutalised the people on 29th June 2015.

Some members of Kantinka community who suffered injuries from the brutalities included Peter Effah and Madam Debora Fosu. Some of the community people were beaten, arrested and sent to the Kenyase Police Station where they were granted bail.

Environmental and Safety problems

The operations of Newmont is creating environmental and safety problems for the people. There have been situations where some community people have been drowned in the environmental dams of the company. For example three people have been drowned in the Subri dam with the latest being a community person by name Issaka.

Newmont’s operations have created environmental and safety problems for people in communities such as Yaro Grumah Community where the operations of Newmont had polluted River Apensu.

Newmont has created a barrier at the entrance of road that leads to Ananekrom with state police and the company’s security who harass the community people. This has denied the community members free access to their community thereby restricting their freedom of movement. There have been some instances when pregnant women were carried on human back and others delivering when they were carried on human back and others delivering when they were compelled to walk to the road side to board vehicles. Also sick people and others who had snake bites were carried on human back to the road side before boarding vehicles to hospitals.

When the Member of Parliament for Asutifi North, Mr Joseph Daha and a team of Parliamentarians, Ministers of States from Senegal and NGOs were on a visit to Yaro Grumah on 30th of August 2015, the team was denied access to the Yaro Grumah community which is part of his electoral area because Newmont has erected a barrier on the access road. The denial of assess roads is not limited to Yaro Grumah community. The State Fire Service sent their fire tender with serine signalling that lives and properties were in danger to Ntotroso where there was an outbreak of fire. The only access road was NGGL’s Ntotroso by-pass road which leads to Amomah pit and which could be used by fire service. The sad thing was that the company which claims to be observing the best safety practices denied the fire service access to use their road, disregarding the fact that there was a gas filling station close to the source of the fire outbreak.

Based on a petition signed by over 1,500 community people against the Ahafo project, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of USA reviewed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) document of the Newmont Ahafo mine which revealed serious weaknesses in the EIA of the Newmont Ahafo Mine.

The resettlement of affected communities and the payment of low compensation which does not have bearing in the law and do not restore the livelihoods of the people have resulted in the exacerbation of poverty in the affected communities.

We can say without doubt that it is in consideration of these gross human rights violations that the organisers of the Public Eye award conferred on Newmont two Public Eye awards for irresponsible corporate behaviours in January 2009. The Public Eye awards are shaming awards given to companies that have been complicit to human rights violations. The situation that necessitated Newmont winning the Public Eye Award has not changed It is in the light of the aforementioned that we request the US State Department not to grant this prestigious award to Newmont Ghana Gold Limited.


Charles Rivkin
Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

February 17, 2016

Dear Assistant Secretary Rivkin,

On behalf of EarthRights International (ERI), we write to express grave concerns about the nomination of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited as a finalist for the Secretary’s Award for Corporate Excellence. Newmont was nominated for its partnerships with private and public security forces to train and equip them in protecting mining operations and respecting the human rights of surrounding communities in Ghana. But Newmont’s human rights and environmental record – whether in Ghana or in Peru, where ERI has extensive experience – is no model for the “exemplary” corporate conduct the award intends to recognize.

Last year we made a similar objection to the notion of giving an award to a company for one aspect of its work in one corner of its global operations, without considering the company’s overall record of human rights, environmental, and labor rights responsibility. This practice puts the State Department in the position of abetting the whitewashing of corporate reputations, undermines the Department’s credibility as a promoter of responsible business practice, and lends support to the outdated and wrongheaded notion that “corporate social responsibility” can somehow offset or be assessed separately from the overall impacts of a corporation’s activities.

Newmont’s overall record in Ghana

We have received communications from Ghanaian communities, opposing Newmont’s candidacy for the award on the basis of its human rights and environmental record in Ghana. We have encouraged them to write separately to you to register their concerns. From our own research, however, we have noted that the company has been responsible for toxic spills and severe disruption of the local environment, and has been implicated in the use of force against communities – including an incident as recent as June 2015. An unclassified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Accra confirms Newmont’s negligence in the case of a 2009 cyanide spill:

Newmont's senior executives in Ghana acknowledge that the mining managers made a number of blunders in handling and responding to the incident. These missteps included:

-- Using an overflow "event pond" to store cyanide solution while the mine was temporarily shut down for three days. This was an inherently unsafe practice that is inconsistent with both Newmont's own internal controls and with standard international mining practices....
-- Mine managers failed to immediately notify Newmont's management in Accra, the local community, and the Ghanaian mining and environmental regulators of the incident. Newmont's management in Accra only learned of the incident 24 hours later on October 9, and no one notified the local community or GOG authorities until nearly 48 hours later on October 10.
-- The company failed to properly trace and contain the spill after it escaped from the event pond....

“Newmont to pay dearly for chemical spill,” Cable 10ACCRA84_a (Jan. 28, 2010).

Whatever Newmont’s recent record may be, it has not convinced the local communities that it is a reformed company. In April 2015, a public hearing on Newmont’s proposed expansion of its Ahafo mine reportedly registered strong opposition to the proposal.

Beyond Ghana: Security, Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability Worldwide

As noted above, the State Department should take an expansive view when considering which corporations best reflect American values of respect for human rights, environmental protection, and respect for local communities. While “Newmont Ghana” is the nominee this year, Newmont is a globally integrated corporation whose own website does not distinguish between business units in different parts of the globe. Thus operations in other parts of the world, especially Newmont’s record of abuse in Peru, should be taken into consideration.

Security and human rights abuses in Peru

ERI has extensive experience with extractive industries in Peru and operates a local office there. Even assuming that Newmont’s partnerships with private and public security forces in Ghana are worthy of praise, the reverse is true in Peru. Although Newmont purports to implement the United Nations Global Compact, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, numerous allegations of excessive force against unarmed protestors, unlawful surveillance of environmental defenders, and harassment and intimidation of land owners indicate otherwise.

Newmont is the majority shareholder of the Peruvian gold and copper mining company, Minera Yanacocha, which operates in the Cajamarca region. Minera Yanacocha receives security services through contracts with the Peruvian National Police (PNP) and the private security company Securitas. Although the Peruvian company Buenaventura and the International Finance Corporation partly own Minera Yanacocha, Newmont is at the top of the “chain of command” for all Minera Yanacocha’s security operations, including those provided by the PNP and Securitas. Newmont also has responsibility to ensure that security providers are adequately trained on human rights.

PNP forces under Newmont’s control have repeatedly been accused of retaliating against peaceful protestors critical of Minera Yanacocha’s operations with excessive force. For example, on November 29, 2011, members of the PNP fired ammunition against unarmed protestors. Dozens were injured, including Eduardo Campos Álvarez, who was shot in the back by a police officer and became paralyzed, and Carlos Chávez, who was shot in the leg. During a series of violent protests in the Cajamarca region against Minera Yanacocha’s operations in June 2012, over thirty civilians were injured and five civilians, including a minor, were killed by gunshots. During these protests, roughly 40 police with riot shields and batons arrested environmental defender Marco Arana while he was sitting on a bench in the city of Cajamarca. According to Arana’s lawyer, the police did not show a warrant or give a reason for the arrest, and the police repeatedly physically attacked Arana. In March 2014, police providing security services for Minera Yanacocha allegedly disrupted peaceful vigils of environmental defenders by firing live ammunition and tear gas and destroying the defenders’ property. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has granted precautionary measures to 46 local leaders in 2014 because of threats to their physical security by public security forces.

The State Department has repeated recognized the conflict over mining in Cajamarca in its annual human rights reports, but typically omits identification of the company at issue. All of the following refer to protests against Newmont’s operations through Minera Yanacocha:

On December 4, the government decreed a 60-day state of emergency in four provinces of Cajamarca Region to quell protests against a mining project. . . . On December 6, six members of the Cajamarca antimining coalition, including one prominent leader, claimed to have been improperly detained for 10 hours after participating in a congressional hearing in Lima.

Peru Human Rights Report, 2011.

On July 3-4, security forces allegedly killed four persons participating in demonstrations against the Conga mining project, in the towns of Celendin and Bambamarca, Cajamarca Region. . . .

On July 4, during antimining protests in Cajamarca, national police used allegedly excessive force in a confrontation with human rights lawyers Genoveva Gomez, from the Ombudsman’s Office, and Amparo Abanto, from the National Human Rights Coordinator, who were monitoring the detention of protesters at the Cajamarca Regional Police Station. . . .

On July 4, authorities detained Marco Arana, an environmental activist who protested against the Conga mining project in Cajamarca. Authorities stated that Arana was protesting during a declared state of emergency decreed on July 4. Human rights advocates argued that the state of emergency was not announced until July 5 and that Arana was arrested without a warrant but later released. Arana alleged mistreatment while at the police station, and at year’s end an investigation was pending. . . .

On July 4, the government declared a 30-day state of emergency in three provinces of the Cajamarca Region after weeks of protests against a large mining project that interrupted daily activities, caused shortages in the region, and led to clashes between protesters and police in which five persons were killed and 21 injured. . . .

Human rights activists expressed concern about their safety while working, particularly in situations of social unrest such as the antimining protests in Cajamarca.

Peru Human Rights Report, 2012.

During the year the Ombudsman’s Office appealed the decision of a prosecutor to archive the case in which human rights lawyers Genoveva Gomez and Amparo Banto alleged that police used excessive force during a 2012 antimining protest in Cajamarca. . . .

Human rights activists expressed concern about their safety while working in situations of social unrest, in regions including Cajamarca . . . where there were conflicts over natural resource extractive activities.

Another alarming aspect of Newmont’s relationship with the PNP is the new Peruvian “license to kill” law. As noted in the 2014 Peru Human Rights Report:

On January 14, Congress modified the law regarding the use of weapons by security forces. The modified law states that security forces may be exempt from criminal prosecution if they kill or injure civilians in the line of service. The new language allows security forces to use any type of weapon, not only their officially issued firearm to which the previous code restricted them. It also removes language that required the officer’s act(s) to be in accordance with official guidelines for weapons use. Human rights groups and the Ombudsman’s Office criticized the changes, arguing they support impunity.

These alleged incidents and changes in Peruvian law call into question whether Newmont adequately takes into account human rights impacts when it administers human rights trainings and makes strategic decisions to deploy the PNP; it also raises doubts about whether it is possible to contract with public security in Peru in a way that respects and protects human rights. The “license to kill law” promotes impunity for Peruvian security forces, and its applicability is unclear when the PNP is providing security to Minera Yanacocha as opposed to performing its general public security function. Thus Minera Yanacocha enjoys the security services of an entity that may operate with impunity when anti-mine protests occur, which means that they may feel free to respond with even more excessive force than before the law was passed. To date, as far as we know, Newmont has never publicly denounced this policy change or the violence against protestors, nor has it made efforts to properly investigate and compensate the harms that protest violence victims and their families have experienced.

Aside from alleged excessive force against protestors, public and private security forces working for Minera Yanacocha have been implicated in unlawful surveillance of environmental defenders and harassment of landowners. In 2006, employees of Forza (Minera Yanacocha’s private security firm prior to Securitas) allegedly carried out “Operation Devil,” a campaign that systematically targeted local environmental defenders, campesino leaders, and members of the NGO Grufides, through digital surveillance, intimidation, death threats and defamation. International entities including the United Nations and the Organization of American States condemned Operation Devil. Although Minera Yanacocha denied its involvement with Operation Devil, we are unaware of any efforts to investigate or condemn the human rights abuses that were allegedly carried out by the security forces acting on its behalf.

Since 2011, Minera Yanacocha has been in a landownership conflict with the Chaupe family, which has accused the company’s private and public security forces of physical and psychological harassment, intimidation, and destruction of their property. Some of the most recent allegations date to earlier this month. Due to security concerns for the Chaupe family, the Inter-American Commission granted them precautionary measures in 2014. Even if the land in question legally belongs to Minera Yanacocha – a possibility that the family vigorously contests – there are means to gain ownership through the Peruvian legal system without resorting to violence. This is another situation in which both Newmont and Minera Yanacocha have denied the existence of any human rights violations, despite publicly available documentation, without showing any inclination to investigate the conduct of security forces working on its behalf.

Whether or not Newmont deserves praise for its track record in Ghana – a question that Ghanaian civil society groups can answer better than we can, but for which there is certainly some doubt given the incidents cited at the beginning of this letter – these incidents in Peru clearly demonstrate that Newmont frequently does not display the “exemplary” conduct that should be the touchstone of the ACE Award. To recognize Newmont for its human rights security trainings in Ghana would ignore the apparent shortcomings of its security policies and practices in Peru.

Environmental record worldwide

In addition to security and human rights concerns in Peru, Newmont’s global environmental record also bears scrutiny. Throughout the world, including the United States, Newmont has repeatedly been accused of violating environmental regulations.

In Indonesia, Newmont reportedly dumped more than 4 million tons of toxic waste directly into Buyat Bay between 1996 and 2004. Due to the environmental contamination, declining fish populations and adverse health impacts, over 60 traditional fishermen families had to relocate. In 2005, the Indonesian government initiated a criminal case against Newmont’s Indonesian subsidiary arguing that Newmont had illegally dumped arsenic and mercury in Buyat Bay. Newmont allegedly continues to dump 120,000 tons of tailings daily into the Senunu Bay.

According to a report by Great Basin Resource Watch, Newmont’s U.S. operations have also entailed unlawful contamination. The Gold Quarry operation in Nevada received an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notice of violation in 2008 because of hazardous waste disposal. The EPA also sued Newmont for the costs of removing radioactive waste linked to its subsidiary’s uranium operation in Washington.

In Peru, the protests described above have largely been in relation to the Conga expansion of the Yanacocha Mine. (In fact, just yesterday, protesters gathered in various cities across the country to object to the project, as well as the ongoing abuse of the Chaupe family and others.) The Yanacocha Mine is controversial and has been surrounded by allegations of violence and environmental damage since its inception. For example, in 2000, a Minera Yanacocha truck spilled 330 pounds of mercury along a road in Peru. Many local residents became ill from contamination, and the Peruvian government fined Minera Yanacocha. The Denver Post reported that the World Bank condemned Minera Yanacocha for not having proper guidelines for mercury transportation. The Conga expansion is even controversial, as it will involve the destruction and attempted relocation of four lakes that are sacred to local indigenous groups and provide a critical source of water for local farmers and the entire city of Cajamarca.

Given that the State Department values environmental sustainability, awarding Newmont for its “excellent” human rights efforts in Ghana would undermine the Department’s effort to promote exemplary environmental practices. These reported incidents throughout the world demonstrate that Newmont is far from a paragon of environmentally conscious behavior.

Conclusion

To hold up a company such as Newmont as a model of corporate excellence would both make the State Department complicit in the whitewashing of Newmont’s human rights and environmental record, and insult the numerous American businesses who actually make efforts to ensure that their activities benefit, rather than destroy, local communities around the world. Moreover, it would undermine the State Department’s credibility as a strong supporter of responsible business practice worldwide. We strongly believe that the State Department’s Award should honor a corporation that that demonstrates human rights and environmental excellence in all of its global operations. Newmont fails this test.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide further information in relation to Newmont Mining and our concerns about its fitness for the ACE Award.

Sincerely,

Marco Simons
General Counsel
EarthRights International
marco[at]earthrights.org

Jonathan Kaufman
Legal Advocacy Coordinator
EarthRights International
jonathan[at]earthrights.org

Maryum Jordan
Staff Attorney
EarthRights International
maryum[at]earthrights.org

Cc:
Jonathan Finer, Chief of Staff
Catherine A. Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Sarah B. Sewall. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Richard A. Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

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