MAC: Mines and Communities

Newmont CEO meets critics from across globe

Published by MAC on 2005-04-27

Newmont CEO meets critics from across globe

By Greg Griffin Denver Post Staff Writer, The Denver Post

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Some of the environmental activists in Denver for Newmont Mining's annual meeting are, from left, Stephanie Roth of Romania, Daniel Owusu-Koranteng of Ghana, Nur Hidayati of Indonesia and Michael Anane of Ghana. Other protesters come from Peru and the United States.

Newmont Mining Corp.'s opponents used to taunt executives from the sidewalk at the company's annual meetings. Now they meet with the CEO in the company's high-rise headquarters.

About a dozen environmental activists from five countries are in Denver for Newmont's shareholder gathering at the Brown Palace hotel this morning.

It's a bigger protest group than Newmont usually faces on its turf, and the first time the company has put chief executive Wayne Murdy in a room with annual-meeting protesters. The company faced growing opposition to its operations across the globe in 2004, particularly in Indonesia and Peru.

The activists - from those countries as well as Ghana, Romania and the United States - said they're hopeful the meetings will lead to continued dialogue over a host of environmental and social problems they blame on Newmont. But they said meetings with Murdy on Tuesday produced little progress.

"We were able to touch on the principal issues that we have between the company and the communities, but in reality, they are old issues," said Marco Arana, who has led protests against Newmont's Yanacocha gold mine in northern Peru. "Perhaps the fact that we spoke with Wayne Murdy will help Newmont make important decisions."

Murdy was not available for comment Tuesday. Newmont spokesman Doug Hock said the first meetings on Tuesday were "very good, very productive."

"We took the time to listen and learn, and we look forward to more productive dialogue going forward," he said.

The activists will be at the 10 a.m. annual meeting. They can make two-minute statements.

Arana said he may ask Newmont to outline its growth plans for Yanacocha. Massive protests last fall forced the company to halt a major expansion of South America's largest gold mine and remove about 2 million ounces of gold from its reserves. During their meeting Tuesday, Murdy would not commit to ruling out the expansion forever, Arana said.

"I want to know where they think they will grow," he said. "If they think they'll do it in the same way as in the past and grow with no control, they better be careful because they're going to have a violent situation."

Two U.S. environmental groups, Oxfam America and Earthworks, organized this week's protests. They helped pay some of the activists' travel expenses and accompanied them to Denver.

In Ghana, where Newmont is developing two large gold mines, activists say they're seeing problems they've heard about in Peru and Indonesia, including polluted water, forced removal of farmers from property and meager compensation for land.

"We are concerned that Newmont is coming to Ghana with all these experiences and repeating all their mistakes," Ghanaian environmentalist Daniel Owusu-Koranteng said.

Staff writer Steve Raabe contributed to this report.

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