Crowd Inside And Out: Newmont Meeting Draws Shareholders And ProtestersPublished by MAC on 2006-04-26
Crowd inside and out: Newmont meeting draws shareholders and protesters
By Joanne Kelley, Rocky Mountain News
26th April 2006
ARAPAHOE COUNTY - Protesters outnumbered shareholders Tuesday at Newmont Mining Corp.'s annual meeting, but tight security kept most of the company's critics from getting close to the official event.
Company CEO Wayne Murdy, speaking before a standing-room-only gathering at the Inverness Hotel, spent a few minutes recounting the gold mining company's strong financial results.
He spent the rest of the meeting defending Newmont's record in the far-flung communities where it does business.
"It's all about balance," Murdy said in response. "Can we make everybody happy? No. We don't live in that kind of world."
Several shareholders or their proxies peppered Murdy with questions about everything from water quality to wages in some of the countries where the company operates its mines. Most of the concerns centered on operations in Nevada, Peru, Indonesia and Ghana.
"It's clear you have the impression progress has been made on many fronts - how do you account for the continuing level of protest?" asked Paula Palmer, executive director of Boulder-based Global Response, an environmental group.
The Rev. Marco Arana, of Peru, and Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, of Ghana, again traveled to the annual meeting to ask the company to do more for local residents or for the environment in their respective countries.
Newmont backed off plans to expand a mine near Arana's home base in Cajamarca, Peru. But Arana, who also heads an environmental organization there, wants Newmont to address his concerns about water quality and pay levels for local mine workers.
Murdy contended Newmont has brought "some good advantages," such as new schools and steady jobs, to areas where rural peasants depend largely on "subsistence farming and fishing."
In several cases, he said he would try to resolve some of the contentious issues raised by those who traveled to the meeting.
Down the road from the meeting, more than a dozen deputies from the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office blocked the entrance and kept a close watch on several dozen assembled protesters.
Mark Tilsen, a community organizer from Porcupine, S.D., stood in the cold to hold up one side of a banner that read: "Our lives are more precious than gold."
Many of the protesters arrived on a red double-decker bus arranged by some of the protest organizers after the company changed the meeting site from downtown Denver because of concerns about security.
At the hotel, screeners used handheld security wands to check shareholders and guests before permitting them to enter the meeting room. Despite the handful of pointed questions aimed at Murdy, most Newmont stakeholders stayed mum until after the meeting.
The company's stock has increased about 7 percent this year.
"The stock is up - we're very pleased," said Clark Upton, a retiree who lives in Greenwood Village and came to the meeting with his wife, Pat. "I feel like investing in Newmont is a better way to participate in the rising price of gold."