Newmont under attack globallyPublished by MAC on 2005-10-25
Newmont under attack globally
It's the world's biggest gold producer. With global opposition to gold mining (even the very concept) now at an unprecedented level, inevitably Newmont is attracting a great deal of criticism. More than its fair share? That's what the company would have us believe, claiming it always enjoys a "social licence" to operate. But communities in Peru, Indonesia and Ghana vehemently disagree.
Last month two New York Times journalists, and the TV programme Frontlineworld, examined in detail allegations of bribery and environmental destruction made against Newmont in Peru. The investigation revealed not only "moral ambiguities" on the part of Newmont but also disgraceful "arm twisting" by the French government and French companies - including Normandy, later taken over by Newmont. There were also highly dubious interventions by the US state department and the CIA on behalf of the US company. Yanacocha has become one of the most profitable mines on the planet - for the company that is, but not the majority of local people.
Also in October, Indonesia's leading mining advocacy organisation, JATAM, revealed the disturbing consequences of Newmont's appropriation of fresh water for its huge Batu Hijau mine. This report coincided with the tragic deaths of two young men at the company's Ahafo project in Ghana, whem they sunk into a dam constructed by Newmont on the Subri river.
The Cost of Gold -Treasure of Yanacocha Tangled Strands in Fight Over Peru Gold Mine
By JANE PERLEZ and LOWELL BERGMAN New York Times
October 25, 2005
SAN CERILLO, Peru - The Rev. Marco Arana drove his beige pickup over the curves of a dirt road 13,000 feet high in the Andes. Spread out below lay the Yanacocha gold mine, an American-run operation of mammoth open pits and towering heaps of cyanide-laced ore. Ahead loomed the pristine green of untouched hills.
Then, an unmistakable sign that this land, too, may soon be devoured: Policemen with black masks and automatic rifles guarding workers exploring ground that the mine's owner, Newmont Mining Corporation, has deemed the next best hope.
"This is the Roman peace the company has with the people: They put in an army and say we have peace," said Father Arana as he surveyed the land where gold lies beneath the surface like tiny beads on a string.
Yanacocha is Newmont's prize possession, the most productive gold mine in the world. But if history holds one lesson, it is that where there is gold, there is conflict, and the more gold, the more conflict.
Newmont, which has pulled more than 19 million ounces of gold from these gently sloping Peruvian hills - over $7 billion worth - believes that they hold several million ounces more. But where Newmont sees a new reserve of wealth - to keep Yanacocha profitable and to stay ahead of its competitors - the local farmers and cattle grazers see sacred mountains, cradles of the water that sustains their highland lives.
The armed guards are here because of what happened in the fall of 2004 at a nearby mountain called Cerro Quilish. For two weeks, fearing that the company's plans to expand Yanacocha would mean Quilish's desecration and destruction, thousands of local people laid siege to the mine. Women and children were arrested, tear gas was thrown, the wounded hospitalized after clashes with the police.
In the end, the world's No. 1 gold-mining company backed down. Father Arana, who runs a local group formed to challenge the mine, helped negotiate the terms of surrender. Newmont withdrew its drilling equipment from Quilish - and the promised reserves from its books. Now, in large part because of the loss of Quilish, the company says production at Yanacocha may fall 35 percent or more in two years.
The forced retreat, a culmination of years of distrust between the peasants and the mine, was a chastening blow for an industry in the midst of a boom. It underscored the environmental and social costs of the technologies needed to extract the ever-more-valuable ore from modern mines. And it showed how a rising global backlash against those costs was forcing mining companies to negotiate what has come to be known as "social license" if that boom was to go on.
But the history of Yanacocha, pieced together in a six-month examination by The New York Times and the PBS television program "FrontlineWorld," is also an excursion into the moral ambiguities that often attend when a first-world company does business in a third-world land.
Gold miners say they have no choice but to go where the ore is; they cannot choose the governments they deal with. Yanacocha shows how one company maneuvered in a country, Peru, dominated by a secret web of power under a corrupt autocracy.
Newmont gained undisputed control of Yanacocha in 2000 after years of back-room legal wrangling. Behind the scenes, Newmont and its adversaries - a French company and its Australian ally - reached into the upper levels of the American, French and Peruvian governments, employing a cast of former and active intelligence officials, including Peru's ruthless secret police chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.
Much of that arm-twisting has been dragged into the light, in secret recordings by the spy chief. The tapes, apparently intended to blackmail and manipulate Peru's powerbrokers, surfaced in 2000 and led to the downfall of Mr. Montesinos and the president he served, Alberto K. Fujimori.
The tapes captured everything from plotting to fix elections to shopping bags of money being unloaded for payoffs in Mr. Montesinos's office at the Peruvian National Intelligence Agency.
They captured Newmont's maneuverings, too. In one audio recording, the No. 3 Newmont executive at the time, Lawrence T. Kurlander, is heard offering to do a favor for Mr. Montesinos.
"Now you have a friend for life," Mr. Kurlander tells the spy chief.
"You have a friend for life also," Mr. Montesinos replies.
Last year, a Justice Department investigation into whether Newmont's victory resulted from bribing foreign officials was dropped after the Peruvian government failed to cooperate fully and the statute of limitations expired, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the case. The Peruvian government investigated the Yanacocha affair without bringing charges.
Mr. Kurlander has agreed to speak out publicly about his meeting for the first time. He says he regrets seeking out Mr. Montesinos, now in jail charged with everything from corruption to gun running and drug trafficking. But Mr. Kurlander and Newmont are adamant that no bribes were paid, nothing illicit done, at least not by them or their allies.
"Everybody involved on the American side, in the American government, that went to see him or spoke to him, asked for a level playing field," said Mr. Kurlander, who retired in 2002. "Not a single person asked for him to influence the outcome of the case."
Newmont's senior executives declined repeated requests for interviews for this article, though they did allow Times reporters to make an extensive visit to the Yanacocha mine. But in a written statement, Newmont said of its legal battle for the mine, "We are satisfied that the company complied in all respects with applicable laws."
Whatever the past environmental problems, Newmont says Yanacocha now meets all Peruvian and international standards. And the company says it is committed to gaining and maintaining the approval of the community.
Still, to many of the local people, the continuing struggle for Yanacocha evokes a tale of treachery nearly any Peruvian school child can recite.
In 1532, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro captured the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa, in Cajamarca, the provincial capital 28 miles from Yanacocha. The young Inca, a god to his people, was held for months while he scrambled to amass a ransom: enough gold to fill a room as high as his arm could reach.
He turned over his gold, expecting to be freed. But Pizarro killed him anyway.
Living on Water
At first, people here saw possibility in the mine. Yanacocha - "black lake" in the indigenous Quechua tongue - sits in one of the poorest agricultural regions of Peru.
"When Yanacocha began its operations, we would only hear about how everyone was happy," Father Arana said. "The mine was going to bring jobs, improve roads." No one thought much, he said, about the inevitable collisions.
The collisions began almost immediately.
In the Andean peasants' universe, water is the heart of the land. The people depend on it - for their animals, for drinking, for bathing. Community life is organized around it.
But the mine lives on water, too. The bits of gold here, so small they are called "invisible gold," can be mined profitably only by blasting mountains, then culling the gold with vast quantities of cyanide diluted with similarly vast quantities of water.
It was not long before the peasants began to complain. Streams and canals were drying up, they said. They were filled with murky sediment. The water smelled foul.
But on the ledger books, Yanacocha was a fast success.
The mine had started with 1.3 million ounces of reserves in the ground. Within a year, it claimed over 3 million. It was the biggest foreign investment in Peru.
"Everywhere we drilled and looked, there was gold," said Len Harris, Yanacocha's first general manager.
Celebration soon gave way to strife.
A year before, a partnership had been formed to develop the mine: Newmont; a Peruvian partner, Buenaventura; and a French government-owned company, Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM). No partner had a controlling interest. The World Bank's investment arm, the International Finance Corporation, later took a 5 percent stake, hoping to promote development in a country plagued by economic chaos and roiled by a Maoist insurgent group, Shining Path.
With the mine expanding and the guerrilla leader captured, BRGM announced plans to sell a large part of its increasingly valuable stake to an Australia-based company, Normandy Poseidon. Newmont, considering the involvement of another major mining company unacceptable, sued, arguing that the partnership agreement gave it and Buenaventura first right of refusal on any sale.
Twice, Peruvian courts agreed. Then, in September of 1997, the Peruvian Supreme Court issued a startling ruling, agreeing to review a case Newmont thought it had definitively won. Stunned and suspicious, the company called in Mr. Kurlander.
Mr. Kurlander, then 56, had spent most of his life in government, as a prosecutor and as chief criminal-justice adviser to Gov. Mario M. Cuomo in New York. He later moved to corporate work and was recruited by Newmont in 1994. He had no experience in mining, but in an industry known for its rough edges, he became a top Newmont executive, valued for his political contacts and easy ability to walk between the halls of government and the corporate suite.
On his arrival in Peru, Mr. Kurlander says, he was told by Newmont's lawyers and security chief that the French were "behaving inappropriately in the litigation."
"The mere fact that they were doing this," he said in an interview, "was unseemly at best and corrupt at worst."
Newmont, he said, was at a distinct disadvantage: the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forbids American companies to pay anything of value to a foreign official in exchange for a "result." By contrast, in 1997, most European countries, France included, did not prohibit paying bribes.
The French ambassador to Peru at the time, Antoine Blanca, said in an interview that no one connected to the embassy had ever offered bribes or otherwise acted improperly.
Still, what emerges from documents and interviews with participants is a picture of three years of increasing pressure and intimated threats by Normandy and the government of France.
In the Peruvian press, the French ambassador insinuated corruption of the judiciary; French government emissaries suggested to Peruvian officials that there would be consequences if Newmont was awarded the disputed shares.
Normandy recruited Patrick Maugein, a well-connected French businessman. By phone, fax and letter, Mr. Maugein placed Newmont and Buenaventura on notice that the dispute had become a "matter of state"; the French, he warned, "had every intention of fighting it to the bitter end." Mr. Maugein had ties to the French president, Jacques Chirac, and soon Mr. Chirac wrote to President Fujimori, urging a Supreme Court review and his personal intervention.
Mr. Maugein declined to be interviewed for this article, but in a letter wrote that any allegations of illicit activity "come from people who have been paid to make them."
From Lima, in the days after the Supreme Court agreed to take the case, Mr. Kurlander headed to Washington to enlist help on the American side. By the end of October 1997, Stuart E. Eizenstat, under secretary of state for economic affairs, wrote Peru's prime minister to press for "a fair and impartial hearing," according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
"A politically tainted decision would adversely affect U.S. investment in Peru," he wrote
On Jan. 5, 1998, Peru's Supreme Court came back with a preliminary decision; 3 to 2 for the French, one vote shy of victory.
As the Peruvians prepared to assign two more judges to the case, Mr. Kurlander says, he and Buenaventura's chief, Alberto Benavides, appealed to Mr. Fujimori.
Soon after, Mr. Kurlander said, the president's office sent word about the man to see.
Spy Chief's Favor Bank
Vladimiro Montesinos's titles never matched his stature. Officially, he was "counselor" to Mr. Fujimori and de facto head of the National Intelligence Service. In reality, he was the second-most-powerful man in Peru - "Rasputin, Darth Vadar, Torquemada and Cardinal Richelieu" rolled into one, according to an American Army intelligence report.
The National Intelligence Service was also on the payroll of the C.I.A., which gave Mr. Montesinos a million dollars a year for his supposed help in combating the narcotics trade, according to former C.I.A. officials who approved the payments.
This was the man Mr. Kurlander headed to see alone on Feb. 26, 1998. While he says he knew that Mr. Montesinos was "an extremely bad man," he maintains that the extent of the government's corruption and human rights abuses were not well known at the time. There was, however, one case he was aware of.
Not long before, the Fujimori government had seized the television station of a Peruvian-Israeli businessman, Baruch Ivcher, after it began broadcasting reports tying the intelligence chief to drug trafficking and corruption. Mr. Kurlander knew that publicity about the case was threatening to become a headache for Peru's government.
As the secret tape rolls, Mr. Montesinos says he is aware of Mr. Kurlander's problems and is "very glad to do whatever I can for you."
Mr. Kurlander describes his own links to the intelligence community and how he has enlisted "friends" - two former C.I.A. officials - to assist him, because the French side "has been acting quite strangely."
Their conversation is interpreted by Grace Riggs, a lawyer and former lover of the spy chief who had a child with him.
Soon Mr. Kurlander raises the Ivcher case. Mr. Montesinos assures him that the pursuit of Mr. Ivcher is not an anti-Semitic "persecution," and Mr. Kurlander offers to help by lobbying his fellow Jews in the United States and abroad.
"Tell him I going to help him with the voting," Mr. Montesinos directs his translator. He is well aware of the "tricky practices of the French government," he says, making a joke about "The French Connection."
The reference, in English, gets the men laughing. Soon spy chief and executive are pledging friendship for life.
The spy chief then proceeds to discuss with another man, who has never been identified, the lawyers and judges who may need to be influenced. The conversation is in Spanish, which Ms. Riggs does not translate.
Finally, she tells Mr. Kurlander that because he helps Mr. Montesinos "without expecting anything in return," the spy chef "wants to do the same thing for you."
"I appreciate that," Mr. Kurlander replies.
"Amor con amor se paga," Mr. Montesinos exclaims.
Love is repaid with love.Still, Mr. Kurlander says, he had doubts. In the following weeks, "nothing happened," he said. "I was very worried that we were lost." In fact, the channel between Mr. Montesinos and the Americans was open and bustling.
Peter Romero, then assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, acknowledged in an interview that he had twice called Mr. Montesinos to show that the case was being "monitored" in Washington.
"He seemed to be a nice enough fellow," he recalled.
The "compelling reason" to get involved, he said, came from Peruvian and American Embassy officials who confirmed the direct involvement of President Chirac and others at the top of the French government.
"We wanted to ensure that that was neutralized," Mr. Romero said.
Two and a half years later, Mr. Romero left government and was hired by Mr. Kurlander as a consultant on Peru for Newmont, where he remained for 18 months.
On April 14, six weeks after the Montesinos-Kurlander meeting, the video cameras were rolling for a visit from the C.I.A. station chief, Don Arabian.
As the meeting nears its end, Mr. Montesinos says he has been collecting information on the French attempt to influence the case and will not let them use "extortion, blackmail and other gangster" methods.
"I'm not working with the telephones, but we will if necessary," Mr. Montesinos says, an apparent reference to wiretapping. "We'll sort out the technical support." The men laugh.
Mr. Arabian, who recently retired, declined a request for an interview.
On May 8, the sixth Supreme Court justice voted in favor of Newmont and Buenaventura. With the vote deadlocked, 3-3, the court administrator appointed a final judge, Jaime Beltrán Quiroga. He was summoned the next day by Mr. Montesinos.
A videotape shows the justice settled on the couch as Mr. Montesinos talks about how, as a lawyer he, too, would normally "keep a distance" from events. But "in these cases," he says, "one has to intervene directly."
Mr. Montesinos avoids direct pressure - "as if we are imposing on you" - but reminds the judge that the case is a matter of national interest: the United States is a key guarantor of coming deliberations over Peru's border conflict with Ecuador.
There is no discussion of payoffs, but the spy chief does question the judge about his professional ambitions. The men reminisce.
"Well, doctor, you have a friend here," Judge Beltrán says.
"My dear, Jaime, then, a pleasure to see you, brother," Mr. Montesinos replies, assuring his guest that he will soon be transferred to Peru's Constitutional Court.
Judge Beltrán's vote was announced two weeks later: Newmont and Buenaventura were awarded BRGM's share - at the purchase price set in 1993: $109.7 million.
When the final transfer was negotiated a year later, the stake was valued at more than five times that.
Today Mr. Kurlander says that whatever his reservations at the time about meeting Mr. Montesinos, he went ahead because nearly everyone told him, "If the French were to be stopped, he was the only one in Peru who would dare to do it."
The transcript is "terribly unfair," Mr. Kurlander says, and leaves out a number of his statements that all he wanted was a "level playing field."
Mr. Kurlander's name has been attached to the meeting and his reputation harmed, he says, though he insists the meeting was no secret. He says his Newmont superiors and his partners in the Benavides family were thoroughly briefed.
"It was my government who recommended - strongly - that we speak with him," Mr. Kurlander said at his home outside Denver. "Tell me what my option is at that point. Do I lay down and just fold, fold up and go home? Or do I fight for what I think is right and fair and just?"
In an interview at his Lima offices, Mr. Benavides, now Buenaventura's chief executive, insisted, "We didn't know what Mr. Kurlander was doing," and added that he did not learn about the Montesinos meeting until the tape was made public several years later.
The Mercury Spill
At Yanacocha, year after year, the mine's geologists had kept striking gold. And with every ton of earth sifted, it became ever clearer that the mine had not just ripped up the landscape; it had remade the social architecture, too.
There were growing class divisions, between the many campesinos who had received well-paying jobs - Yanacocha would eventually employ as many as 2,200 people, two-thirds locals, full time, and up to 6,000 on shorter-term contracts - and the tens of thousands more who had not. People migrating to the region in pursuit of work brought overcrowding and rising crime.
In June 2000, a truck contracted to carry canisters of mercury, a byproduct of mining, spilled 330 pounds of the poisonous metal over 25 miles of road around Choropampa, 53 miles from the mine.
The villagers believed that the mercury was mixed with gold. They scooped it up. Some took it home to cook on their stoves. A World Bank report later said the mine delayed reporting the accident to the national authorities and initially played down its seriousness to the bank.
In the end, the Peruvian government fined the mine $500,000; the company says it has paid $18 million more. A class-action suit has been filed against Newmont in Denver, charging that more than 1,000 people were harmed, some for life.
The extent of that damage has been in dispute from the start. Even so, the spill left deep psychic scars. It became common mythology that mercury had killed newborn babies and caused cancer and other diseases, Dante Vera, a former Peruvian Interior Ministry official hired in 2004 as an adviser to Newmont, wrote in a report to company executives.
At Newmont, it was becoming increasingly clear that the social turmoil was a business problem. The spill, Mr. Kurlander said in a speech a year later, "served as a wake-up call for us."
Soon, he was headed back to Peru, to lead an environmental audit of the mine.
Newmont kept the audit's results within the company, never acknowledging them publicly - either to its shareholders or to the local people. Mr. Kurlander found "a high level of mistrust" of the mine.
But the 44 findings of Mr. Kurlander's audit, which was given to The Times, also confirmed many of the villagers' specific complaints: that fish were disappearing and that lakes, streams and canals were being contaminated, at least one with cyanide.
One stream, Quebrada Honda, had 13 fish per kilometer in 1997, but none by 2000, the audit said. Thousand of tons of rock not processed for gold recovery were generating dangerous acidic runoffs.
In a letter after the audit, Mr. Kurlander says that as the mine expanded, "we eliminated many environmental safeguards that were in the construction and environmental management plans." In all, he wrote to Newmont's new chief executive, Wayne Murdy, the findings were so serious that they could jeopardize the mine's continued operation and leave senior executives subject to "criminal prosecution and imprisonment."
Mr. Kurlander's tough words came on the heels of another memo to Mr. Murdy about the spill: On Jan. 18, 2001, Mr. Kurlander recommended that all the top executives, including himself and his boss, take cuts in their bonuses, of 50 to 100 percent, and that the punishment be made public. Mr. Kurlander singled out the company's environmental team, saying that despite public pledges, Newmont had failed to adhere to American environmental standards.
To his disappointment, Mr. Kurlander said, some bonuses were indeed reduced, but without public notice and much more modestly than he had recommended.
In a letter to Mr. Kurlander three years later, Mr. Murdy said the company had learned from the accident and the audit. Newmont, he said, spent $100 million to fix the environmental problems, including $50 million for a water-treatment plant and $20 million on two dams to prevent sediment from clogging streams and canals. Mercury is now shipped inside triple-sealed, stainless-steel containers and escorted by a convoy of cars.
To Mr. Kurlander, the spill showed the folly of a company ignoring the people, particularly the people most set against the mine. In a memo, he warned that with the mine sunk so low in the peasants' esteem, Newmont would never be able to mine Quilish.
"We have come to this because we have been in denial," he wrote. "We have not heeded the voices of those most intimate with our mine - those who live and work nearby."
It was less than a year after the audit that he retired.
The Peasants Protest
The protests began not long after people began seeing the drilling machines up on the cone-shaped hill above Cajamarca.
Quilish had long been on Newmont's drawing boards. Last year, Newmont mined three million ounces at Yanacocha, its most profitable single source of gold. But the more it pulls from the ground, the more it must replace to remain No. 1.
Back in 2000, the local government had passed an ordinance declaring Quilish and its watershed a protected natural reserve. But Newmont had persuaded a Peruvian court that it had the right to mine because it had acquired the concession years before. In August 2004, the machines moved in.
To many people, that was the final betrayal, said Mr. Vera, the former Newmont consultant. He quit this summer, saying his advice had been ignored.
On Sept. 2, deploying boulders, vehicles, anything they could find, hundreds of campesinos blockaded the narrow mountain road that runs from Cajamarca to the mine.
Several hundred armed officers, including 150 special operations police officers from Lima, were sent in to guard the mine.
The first day was the most violent; protesters were arrested, many of them women and old people, according to Father Arana's colleague, Jorge Camacho. At times during the siege, the police used tear gas. One man was shot in the leg. The company kept the gold coming out of Yanacocha, but only by helicoptering the workers in.
On Sept. 15, there was a regionwide strike, with street demonstrations in Cajamarca. The message, on one of the blizzard of placards in town, was: "Listen Yanacocha. Cajamarca is to be respected."
The protests were organized by the peasants themselves, Mr. Camacho and others say. But the 43-year-old Father Arana, son of teachers from Cajamarca, had been nurturing the movement for many years, even before he founded his group, Grufides, in the late 1990's. (These days, it receives financial assistance from Oxfam.)
The campesinos call him Father Marco, and he is a devoted adherent of liberation theology and its doctrine of social activism for the poor.
He is not the easiest of men. Last spring, he met Newmont's chief, Mr. Murdy, on the sidelines of the company's annual general meeting in Denver. As the priest recalls it, Mr. Murdy tried to be conciliatory, saying he lived by his mother's motto: "We are given one mouth but two ears to listen with." Father Marco says he rebuffed the overture, replying, "In the Bible, there is a saying about some people have eyes that don't see and ears that don't hear."
As the siege ran on at Yanacocha, the priest became a key negotiator between Newmont, the peasants and the Ministry of Mines. It was not long after the demonstrations in Cajamarca that the company surrendered. The machines came down from Quilish. At Newmont's request, the ministry withdrew its permit, too.
What remains up on the mountain is a symbolic wall of mud and straw that the campesinos built to keep the miners at bay.
Standing down at Quilish, with its 3.8 million ounces of reserves, has only intensified the need for new reserves.
"The pressure feels like you're laying track and knowing there's a locomotive right behind you," said the mine's exploration manager, Lewis Teal.
So Newmont is looking elsewhere, in the highlands near San Cerillo, where the jade-green lagoons and peaty grasses act as a store of water for the peasants below.
Many people there worry about the effects of a new mine. Which is why, after Quilish, Newmont is paying for the Peruvian police units protecting the drilling team, said the mine's manager, Brant Hinze.
Even so, Mr. Hinze said, leaving Quilish was the right thing to do. "The thing that the company did - both Newmont and Buenaventura - is listen to the communities, and they said this is something we want you to stay away from," he said.
Newmont's Peruvian partner, Mr. Benavides, argued that exploration of Quilish had not been abandoned, simply suspended.
"We have the concession, and we have the land," he said. He added: "I do not understand what social license means. I expect a license from the authorities, from the minister of mines. I expect a license from the regional government. I don't expect a license from the whole community."
Still, the idea of social license is at the heart of the agreement that ended the siege: If Newmont hopes ever to mine Quilish, it first must win the community's consent.
Company Social Work
So to promote Yanacocha's well-being and expansion, Mr. Hinze has become the kind of mine manager he never imagined being. He says he had asked for the job running Yanacocha because of its sheer scale - "it's big, it's profitable," is how he puts it. Fifty years old, silver-haired and steely eyed, 6 foot 3 and 255 pounds, he is a man of scale himself. His idea of recreation, he says, is riding his Harley or swimming with hammerhead sharks.
Now, he says, he spends 70 to 80 percent of his working time on social issues. On a recent day, he ate roasted guinea pig at a lunch with a peasant group. A few days later, he attended a ceremony celebrating a gift of $500,000 for a new road around San Cerillo.
"Modern mining can coexist with cattle, agriculture and tourism," he told one gathering. "Today we begin a new history for communities around here."
Newmont says that it paid $180 million in taxes to Peru's government last year, and that under a new law, half was returned to the Cajamarca region. But to its frustration, the company says, the local government has largely been unable to use the money to benefit the people - and most of the people here remain achingly poor.
So the company, albeit ambivalently, has become something of a surrogate government. It is contributing money for schools and clinics and building some small water treatment plants in the villages. In all, the company says it will spend nearly $20 million this year on social programs.
Water remains a divisive issue: Father Arana and his allies argue that a new, every-three-weeks testing protocol is insufficiently independent. The peasants continue to complain.
But company and local officials say there have been no environmental accidents at Yanacocha in more than two years, and the mine says it manages its water to ensure there is enough for the community.
But the biggest issue is the one looming over every modern industrial gold mine: What happens when the ore that lured the miners here is gone?
Over 13 years, Newmont has moved mountains for gold - 30 tons of rock and earth for every ounce. By the time it is through, the company will have dug up a billion tons of earth. Much of it will be laced with acids and heavy metals.
Three years ago, after Newmont acknowledged that 36,700 fish were missing from a river contaminated by the mine, the World Bank hired an American geochemist, Ann Maest, to study the streams and canals flowing from the mine.
In the short term, she concluded, the water was safe for human use. But long term, she said in an interview, the company's own tests show that all the components are in place for the huge piles of rock to leak acids that will pollute surface and groundwater.
The only preventive, she said, would be "perpetual treatment."
Mr. Hinze, who was recently appointed head of Newmont's North American operations, insists that the company's plan for closing the mine will take care of long-term treatment and cleanup.
"We plan on being here a very long time," he said.
Newmont has yet to put aside money for long-term treatment, though it says it will comply with a Peruvian government requirement due to take effect in 2007. But to pay for cleanups, the company needs to keep profits high. To keep profits high, it needs to keep finding and mining more gold. Yet increasingly, the unmovable reality is that to keep mining more gold, it has to make peace with the people who will be here long after the miners leave.
Mr. Hinze and Newmont insist that that can - in fact, must - be done, even if some people may never be won over. "There will always be a level of mistrust," he said. "Unfortunately, we can't please everyone."
Mr. Vera, the former Newmont consultant, is not so confident. He says he sometimes thinks that the clash between the mine and the peasants is so fundamental as to be beyond even the best intentions.
"Mining negatively affects the Andean cosmic vision of the unity of nature," he said. "The conflict cannot be settled with money. Mining generates resentments that are difficult to heal."
Marlena Telvick and Natasha Del Toro contributed reporting for this article.
PBS mines the trouble for Newmont in Peru
By Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post TV Critic
October 23 2005
The visuals elevate a "Frontline/World" documentary airing this week, produced in conjunction with The New York Times. We've read much of the substance of this report over the past four years, but at least on an emotional level, seeing is believing.
"The Curse of Inca Gold" - Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Channel 6- KRMA - is a dramatic tale about the power of a Third World community over the faraway multinational corporation in a gleaming Denver skyscraper. It's also about social responsibility and history repeating itself. Further, it suggests two first-rate journalism outfits are better than one when it comes to mining a rich story spread over two continents.
For local viewers who have followed the financial and legal dealings of the Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. in Indonesia and South America, the conflict between the Peruvians and the gold miners is just another chapter in what might be called "The Curse of Newmont Gold."
The investigative report "provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at how a multinational company does business in a developing country rife with corruption," Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lowell Bergman says.
Bergman, a frequent contributor to The New York Times and a producer and correspondent for PBS's "Frontline," was previously a producer with CBS's "60 Minutes." He's best known for his exposé of the tobacco industry, chronicled in the feature film "The Insider."
International intrigue, accusations of bribery, environmental despoliation, sickened villagers, bricks of gold, secret recordings and a crooked Latin American dealmaker who turns out to be a CIA plant - it's all in this compact 30-minute account (to be accompanied by a series in The New York Times beginning today). The facts are familiar; the documentary scores a first, however, in getting a former Newmont executive talking on camera.
Newmont chief executive Wayne Murdy declined to be interviewed for the broadcast.
However, Heatheryn Higgins, spokeswoman for Newmont in Denver, did respond to a request for comment from The Denver Post. Noting that the company was not allowed to preview the broadcast, she said, "We engaged with journalists, opened doors on our mining operations in the U.S., Ghana and Peru in an effort to demonstrate our focus on safe and sustainable mining, to show our support for communities where we operate and to highlight our environmental practices. We tried to address the often negative stereotypes of the mining operation. Still, we believe the stories will be presented in a negative manner."
In the documentary, the former Newmont executive Larry Kurlander is featured throughout. He emerges as the conscience in the drama, newly aware of the world beyond the corporate suite. Brant Hinze, the general manager of the mammoth Yanacocha mine, plays the good company man, telling Bergman the company has "close to $2 billion" invested in the site and hopes to be a neighbor "for a very long time."
Secret video recordings show Kurlander meeting with the notorious Vladimiro Montesinos, Peru's corrupt intelligence chief and main adviser to then-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. Kurlander reportedly lobbied Montesinos, just as he lobbied the U.S. State Department, for help in the court battle over ownership of the Yanacocha mine.
In the recordings, made in Montesinos' office, Kurlander is seen asking for Montesinos' help in dealing with the French. Kurlander claims the French were trying to bribe Peruvian politicians to influence the judges. The dispute went all the way to Peru's notoriously corrupt Supreme Court. In another videotape, Montesinos meets with the Supreme Court justice who will cast the deciding vote. Newmont won that round.
Didn't these guys learn anything from the Nixon tapes? Always assume someone is eavesdropping.
"When the Montesinos secret videotapes turned up on Peruvian television, they led to his downfall and the collapse of the Fujimori government," Bergman notes. That's part of a larger story, beyond the scope of this half-hour. Looking back, Kurlander says he regrets meeting with the thug Montesinos.
Is it possible both sides may have attempted to corrupt the court? Denials are issued all around - "each side insists that the evidence against them was either unreliable or forged."
Bergman weaves Conquistador history into the report, reminding viewers that foreigners always have descended on Peru seeking gold. Some 500 years ago it was the Spanish, today it's a Denver-based company that digs half a million tons of earth a day, "literally moving mountains."
Hinze explains how the microscopic, so-called "invisible gold" is mined. "We carry the ore, the rock that has gold in it, place it on the leach pads, and then we'll sprinkle the weak cyanide solution over the leach pads."
Cyanide? That cues a discussion of the campesinos' mistrust of the mining methods, their concerns about the environment, ill effects on plant and animal life, and how hundreds of pounds of toxic mercury, a byproduct of gold mining, accidentally spilled throughout the village. More than 1,000 people are suing in a U.S. federal court, alleging they still suffer serious health problems as a result.
After the spill, Kurlander was dispatched back to Peru to conduct an environmental audit. He broke the bad news, warning in a memo that Newmont's senior executives could be subject to criminal prosecution and imprisonment.
At that point, Bergman says, Kurlander had an epiphany, "a transformation, if you will." Less than a year later Kurlander retired.
Parting shots reveal a sea of Peruvian villagers protesting the Yanacocha mine, overflowing the town square and shutting down mine operations. Newmont is significantly cutting its production of gold at Yanacocha, in part because the protesters have forced the company to stop expansion.
Kurlander gets the last word, a chastened executive: "Communities are more and more becoming involved in their own destinies. Without the community support you'll be out of business eventually. They will force you out of their community, and it doesn't matter how much government support you have."
TV critic Joanne Ostrow can be reached at 303-820-1830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUNGER STRIKES COMMUNITY AROUND NEWMONT BATU HIJAU MINE
Statement from JATAM, Indonesia
October 20 2005
For the last three months, communities in Sekongkang district, West Sumbawa regency have been suffering from a water crisis. It causes the majority of farm lands to fail to produce crops, threatening people with hunger. The crisis location is adjacent to the location of PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (PT NNT) mining site in Batuhijau. Newmont Batuhijau mining is currently the biggest gold miner in Indonesia which and was just recently received Green Award in the PROPER (Industrial Performance Assessment Program) of The Ministry of Environment.
"We have submitted proposals for food aid to the Government through the district government three months ago, but no response whatsoever until now", said Sahar, chairman of P3A (Water User Farmers Union) of SP1 (Residence Centre 1) in a meeting with JATAM.
At least 75 percent of farmers' rice plants in the area fails to harvest, leaving only a few farmers who manage to harvest. Many of the growing plants do not contain any rice in them. In the second cultivating season of this year, the farmers cannot plant any more rice because no water is available for irrigation. Only a few hectares of land can get water from a dam (embung puja) built by PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (PT NNT). The dam, however, can only water around 7 hectares of rice fields in Tongo Sejorong village, while hundreds other fields are remain deserted.
Water Crisis near Newmont Mine
The water crisis has ocurred because PT NNT dammed two of the biggest rivers in Sekongkang district, namely river Sejorong and river Tongo, and uses the water for its gold processing in Batuhijau. Both the rivers used to be main irrigation source for local people's ricefield. Newmont once tried to solve the crisis by building artificial irrigations. However, since the rivers' springs are situated next to the open pit of Batuhijau mine, which is much deeper than the springs, the rivers are unable to water the entire fields. The blocking of those two main rivers has put an end to people water supply, especially for agricultural purpose.
Besides building dams, PT NNT also built wind-generated drilling wells. But these wells were also incapable of fulfilling the need for water because the water supply has drastically decreased since mine operations took place. Why doesn't Newmont pump out the water from the wells it built itself?
Agriculture is the only life support to most people in SP1, SP2, and Tongo Sejorong villages, because people can no longer get additional income from forest products or marine catches as in the past. There used to be many sources of additional income like palm sugar, rattan, or wood from the forest. But today, none of these can be obtained to get more income. Newmont prohibites people from entering the forest and palm plantations that were considered included within Newmont's contract of work (CoW) area. A twig can even take them to jail.
The same thing goes for marine products. People used to earn quite a lot from gathering fish. But these are gone since PT NNT started dumping 120,000 tonnes of tailings per day into Senunu Bay, the coastal area of Tongo Sejorong village, Sekongkang district, West Sumbawa Regency. Since tailings dumped into the bay, fishes, crabs, shells, and other sea animals have gone and it is the same with fishing folks' income.
Water Crisis Turns into Food Crisis
Due to their condition, people are expecting the government to seriously think about their fate. Because of harvesting failure, people are hoping that the government will provide them with rice (food) aid. Farmers are also urging Newmont mining to compensate them for closing their access to economic resources in the forest.
Even if farmers were able to grow plants, the yield is too little. Most of them can only obtain 5 to 6 sacks of rice from their lands. This is certainly incompatible with the costs they have to pay for maintaining the plants.
(Data compiled by JATAM West Sumbawa Region (August 11 2005).
Tragedy Strikes At Newmont
Michael Boateng and Clement Boateng Dokyikrom, Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
October 20, 2005
The dam constructed on Subri River by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited at Dokyikrom near Kenyasi in its Ahafo Project has become a death trap to the people living around the area.
Recently, two persons drowned when they were crossing the dam, using a heap of damp sand across it.
The construction of the water dam on River Subri had blocked the access road of the people in Dokyikrom area and cut off its surrounding hamlets.
The people in Dokyikrom and its environs were compelled to walk about seven miles, using a footpath around the water dam, to link up with other communities. The heap of damp sand across the dam however, made the distance shorter.
When The Chronicle visited the spot where Kofi Agyekum and Yaw Frimpong met their untimely death, it was evident that everybody who wanted to cross the dam would be tempted to use the heap of damp sand, regardless of the risk involved, due to the fact that it was a shorter route as compared to the winding seven-mile one.
Narrating the incident to the paper, the Odikro of Dokyikrom, Nana Kyei Bonsu, said the two were reported to have gone to the various hamlets at the other side of the dam to inform the people about a proposed meeting between Newmont and the people on several concerns, including the threat posed by the dam.
"The two sank into the deeper waters of the dam because the heap of sand had portions at its base eroded, leaving the two to struggle to death in the dam, after an attempt by an eyewitness to rescue them had failed," the Odikro said.
The police and the company's rescue team were alerted and the bodies of the two were recovered and conveyed to the mortuary.
Nana Kyei Bonsu intimated that the incident had clearly demonstrated how heartless the management of Newmont was towards the community, since several petitions had been sent to them about the inconveniences created by the construction of the dam.
Nana Kyei Bonsu stated that regardless of the plight of the people in the community, Newmont had failed to respond to any of the petitions.
He revealed that as the Odikro, the youth had, on several occasions, come to him, seeking permission to demonstrate against Newmont's "insensitivity" to their plight.
He believed that certain rituals should have been performed before the construction of the dam but Newmont refused to attend to his call, let alone perform those rites.
"This means that Newmont has total disrespect for our customs," he said, adding, " Before the corpses were conveyed to the mortuary we should have also performed some rituals but that was also ignored."
Nana Bonsu hinted that hundreds of children of school-going age had been denied access to education because it was difficult for them to walk an additional seven miles to school.
He stated that farmers on the other side of the dam faced difficulties in transporting their produce to the village.
Mid-way through the interview with Nana Bonsu, his elders and the community, the Asutifi DCE, Mr. Opoku Peperah in the company of the Brong Ahafo Regional Police Commander, ACP Opare-Addo, District Police Commander, DSP Allotey and some Newmont officials came to console the community.
Mr. Peperah admitted that though what had happened was very painful, it must be handled with care in order to avoid acts of lawlessness.
"No one knows whether that (what had happened) was their destiny, because it is impossible for us humans to escape our destiny," he said.
He pledged that he would facilitate the interaction between the community and Newmont and ensure that the right things were done.
A Communications Consultant to Newmont, Stephen Baffoe, denied there was a proposed meeting between the community and Newmont, hence the deceased were not sent by the company to disseminate information to the people.
He stated that the people had even been warned not to swim, fish, urinate or throw rubbish into the dam, indicating that signposts had been erected around the dam. However, when the Chronicle reporters went to the scene, no signpost was seen, especially at the particular spot where the incident occurred.
Mr. Baffoe admitted that there had been complaints about the residents inability to cross the dam but insisted that the people should use the seven-mile winding route created for them at the northernmost part of the dam.
He stated that Dokyikrom was not a part of the mine-take area but fell under concession. Therefore the company really had no business with people of Dokyikrom in particular, except some hamlets that fell within the mine-take area.
Mr. Baffoe said plans were far advanced to train the people around the dam on how to utilize the water in the dam for fish farming, irrigation and other water-driven income-generating activities.
On behalf of the Company, Mr. Baffoe extended his condolences to the families of the deceased and assured them that Newmont would not hesitate to assist the community when the need arose, "But for now, we are waiting for the results of the police's investigations," he added.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued and signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Daniel Owusu Koranteng, the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) had held Newmont directly responsible for the death of the two young men. It therefore called on Newmont Gold Ghana Limited to grant the demand of the people of Dokyikrom for resettlement, so as to end the violations of their rights, which could lead to more deaths in the future.
The statement recalled that the water problems of Dokyikrom and other problems associated with the construction of the dam on River Subri formed part of the community concerns that organizations like WACAM, League of Environmental Journalists, Earthworks, Global Response and Oxfam America raised with officials of Newmont at its headquarters in Denver, USA, early this year.
The statement expressed WACAM'S heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased, who had died because of the desire of Newmont Gold Ghana Limited to maximize its profit at the expense of nearby communities like Dokyikrom.
Miercoles 26 de Octubre del 2005
Por Ángel Páez
El influyente diario investigó cómo la empresa Newmont, propietaria de Yanacocha, logró el control de la mina con ayuda de Montesinos y la CIA.
Lawrence Kurlander es un nombre y un apellido que para la mayoría de peruanos no suenan a nada. Pero este hombre cumplió un dramático papel que determinó que la corporación estadounidense Newmont Mining controlara Yanacocha, la mina de oro más productiva del mundo.
El periódico The New York Times, luego de seis meses de investigación, relata en un amplio reportaje la historia oscura de Newmont y cómo hasta ahora la justicia peruana se hace de la vista gorda.
Un documento capital es la grabación que hizo Vladimiro Montesinos de la reunión que sostuvo con Lawrence Kurlander, el 26 de febrero de 1998, cuando este era el número tres de la compañía. En el Perú la ubicación del audio en la práctica no ha tenido ningún efecto, lo que sorprende a Lowell Bergman, el periodista que piloteó la investigación para el diario neoyorquino.
"El año pasado, el Departamento de Justicia (de los Estados Unidos) dio por finalizada una investigación sobre el presunto pago de sobornos a funcionarios gubernamentales peruanos, luego que el gobierno del Perú rechazó cooperar estrechamente y expiró el estatuto de limitaciones, de acuerdo con autoridades judiciales familiarizadas con el caso", escribió Lowell: "El gobierno del Perú investigó el caso Yanacocha y no denunció los sobornos".
Fue el Ministerio Público el que informó que no había en curso una pesquisa sobre la reunión entre Montesinos y Kurlander, y el Departamento de Justicia norteamericano dio por terminado el asunto.
El reportero Lowell logró que Lawrence Kurlander, ahora retirado, hablara después de muchos años.
Kurlander le dijo que estaba apenado por haber ido a buscar a Montesinos, aunque "aseguró que no hubo sobornos, ni nada ilícito, al menos en lo que respecta a la empresa y nuestros aliados". El ex consejero de Montesinos, Rafael Merino Bartet, dijo otra cosa a las autoridades anticorrupción.
Habló de que sí hubo dinero de por medio, alrededor de US$ 600 mil, y que Montesinos se los entregó a su ex amante, Grace Riggs Brousseau, quien precisamente estuvo como traductora del asesor de Fujimori en la reunión con Kurlander. Riggs está detenida y procesada por su relación con las cuentas de Montesinos en Suiza.
"Cualquiera que estaba de lado de los Estados Unidos, o en el gobierno estadounidense, y quería verle o hablarle (a Montesinos), debía pertenecer a las grandes ligas", señaló Kurlander para explicar por qué recurrió a Montesinos: "Ninguna persona le habló para que influyera sobre el curso del caso".
La mano de Rasputín
Pero, como anotan Lowell Bergman y Jane Perlez, la periodista que también participó en la investigación, la grabación Montesinos-Kurlander, y los hechos posteriores, ponen en duda lo que dice el ex funcionario de Newmont.
Kurlander dijo que intervino en el caso Yanacocha porque se enteró que la empresa francesa BRGM, que se disputaba judicialmente con Newmont la propiedad de un importante paquete de acciones de la mina aurífera, tenía "un comportamiento inapropiado" y que presionaba a los jueces para ganar el litigio.
El cinco de enero de 1998, la Corte Suprema votó 3 a 2 a favor de BRGM, pero necesitaba un voto más para ganar. Poco después, el 26 de febrero, Kurlander buscó a Montesinos, por recomendación de gente del gobierno estadounidense y de Newmont.
Kurlander dijo a The New York Times que "sabía que Montesinos era un hombre extremadamente malo", pero desconocía que estuviera implicado en casos de corrupción y violaciones de los derechos humanos. Los informes de esa época del Departamento de Estado norteamericano lo contradicen: ya eran conocidas las actividades delictivas de Vladimiro Montesinos.
El mismo Lowell desestima la versión de Kurlander, porque en la grabación se registra cuando el hombre de Newmont le ofrece sus contactos a Montesinos para acallar al empresario Baruch Ivcher, quien se encontraba en Washington denunciando que Fujimori y Montesinos le arrebataron la nacionalidad peruana con la finalidad de capturar Frecuencia Latina.
Es más, Kurlander le propuso a Montesinos hacer lobby con sus "amigos judíos" en Estados Unidos, para desestimar la versión de Ivcher de que era "víctima de una persecución antisemita" por parte del SIN.
Kurlander no fue la única ficha que movió Newmont. También intervino el secretario de Estado para Asuntos Latinoamericanos, Peter Romero --quien luego renunciaría y se convertiría en asesor de Kurlander--, y el jefe de la estación de la CIA en Lima, Don Arabian. Lowell lo identificó en el "vladivideo" del 14 de abril de 1998.
Según la transcripción de la conversación, Montesinos relata a Arabian la operación de espionaje que había montado contra los franceses de la BRGM. "No estoy haciendo trabajo con los teléfonos, pero si es necesario lo haré", le comunica Montesinos a Arabian la disposición de utilizar los equipos de "chuponeo" del SIN para apoyar los esfuerzos de Yanacocha. Lowell recuerda que la CIA abonaba US$ 1 millón al año a Montesinos para supuestas acciones de inteligencia del SIN.
Catorce días después, el ocho de mayo, el vocal supremo Jaime Beltrán Quiroga se sumó al voto de su colega Elcira Vásquez, y Newmont ganó.
DE RESPETO. Lowell Bergman, el reportero que piloteó la investigación para The New York Times, es conocido por haber revelado las maniobras corruptas de las grandes compañías tabacaleras. La película El informante (The insider) relata la historia.
PRESTIGIO. El año pasado, Lowell ganó el Premio Pulitzer por haber expuesto los graves accidentes que sufrían los trabajadores de grandes corporaciones que habían reducido su presupuesto destinado a la seguridad de los empleados.
En el Perú el caso Yanacocha quedó en nada
El ex número tres de Newmont Mining, Lawrence Kurlander, aseguró a The New York Times que la reunión con Vladimiro Montesinos "no fue secreta" porque "sus superiores de la corporación y sus socios de la familia Benavides (copropietaria de Yanacocha) estaban profundamente enterados".
Pero Roque Benavides, el director ejecutivo de Buenaventura, que comparte la propiedad de Yanacocha con Newmont, rechazó la versión de Kurlander. "No sabíamos qué es lo que estaba haciendo Kurlander". Y que recién se enteraron de la entrevista de este con Montesinos cuando se hizo público el descubrimiento del audio.
Si bien ningún alto funcionario de Newmont Mining, cuya sede se encuentra en Denver, Colorado, la compañía remitió al periódico una carta en la que asegura que durante la batalla legal contra la francesa BRGM, "la empresa respetó totalmente la aplicación de las leyes".
The New York Times cita un documento desclasificado del Departamento de Estado y que está fechado a fines de octubre de 1997. Es una carta del subsecretario de Estado para asuntos económicos, Stuart E. Eizenstat, dirigida al primer ministro Alberto Pandolfi, a quien le pide un proceso judicial "justo e imparcial" y le advierte que "una corrupta decisión política podría afectar la inversión norteamericana en el Perú".
Fuentes de la Procuraduría del Caso Fujimori-Montesinos informaron a La República que sobre el caso Yanacocha sólo se investigó a un grupo de magistrados presuntamente sobornados por Newmont. Pero el expediente se archivó porque no se halló nada. Ni la Procuraduría ni la Fiscalía apelaron.
El procurador Ronald Gamarra Herrera solicitó que se investigara a los funcionarios estadounidenses vinculados con los hechos, entre ellos Lawrence Kurlander y Peter Romero, así como a los franceses que tuvieron participación. Gamarra fue separado del caso debido a presiones gubernamentales.
Fuentes de la Procuraduría confirmaron que después que la Fiscal de la Nación, Nelly Calderón , archivó el caso contra los magistrados presuntamente involucrados, no se ha vuelto a hacer nada respecto a Yanacocha. "Cuando ingresó el procurador Antonio Maldonado el caso ya estaba archivado, y el plazo para apelar se encontraba vencido, por ello no fue posible hacer nada", remarcaron las fuentes de la procuraduría. A pesar de la existencia del audio, nunca se abordó judicialmente a Kurlander.
Newmont guardó en secreto contaminación en Yanacocha
Jueves 27 de Octubre del 2005
Lawrence Kurlander, el ex número tres de la poderosa compañía minera norteamericana, confesó al periódico The New York Times y al programa "Frontline" que en 2001 advirtió a los directivos que irían a la cárcel porque se habían vulnerado los estándares de protección del medio ambiente. Sus reportes fueron encajonados.
Por Ángel Páez
Newmont Mining contrató en 1994 a Lawrence Kurlander, a pesar de su inexperiencia en el negocio minero, debido a su peculiar habilidad para desplazarse tranquilamente tanto por los corredores del poder en Washington como por los vericuetos de las grandes corporaciones. Larry era lo que se llama un tigre.
De política, leyes y juegos entre bambalinas, aprendió mucho cuando trabajó como procurador y asesor de justicia criminal del gobernador de Nueva York, Mario Cuomo. Por sus cualidades saltó rápidamente al puesto número tres de la empresa aurífera más importante del planeta. Allí también aprendió bastante.
Larry Kurlander les contó a los periodistas Lowell Bergman y Jane Perlez, del periódico The New York Times, que las cabezas de Newmont y sus socios peruanos de Buenaventura le encargaron resolver el problema que tenían con los franceses de la empresa BRGM, que pretendía vender sus acciones de Yanacocha a la corporación australiana Normandy, principal competidor de Newmont. El caso llegó a la Corte Suprema. Le dijeron que hablara con Vladimiro Montesinos Torres.
"Él era el único que podía detener a los franceses", dijo Kurlander a los reporteros. Luego de reunirse con Montesinos, a quien le prometió de todo si intervenía a favor de la minera estadounidense --y el asesor presidencial le respondió que "amor con amor se paga"--, la Corte Suprema resolvió a favor de Newmont. Ese, sin embargo, no fue el único trabajito de Larry en Perú.
Uña negra, diente de oro
Los dueños de Newmont y Buenaventura negaron que enviaron a Larry a que hablara con Montesinos. Larry se molestó y dijo que no era verdad: "Fui forzado a negociar con un tipo como ése, se trató de un asunto terrible". Para demostrar que solo cumplía con tareas de alto nivel de la corporación, Kurlander reveló a The New York Times la nueva misión que le encomendaron.
Cuando el dos de junio de 2000 un camión de un contratista de Yanacocha accidentalmente derramó 151 kilogramos de mercurio a lo largo de 41 kilómetros, afectando la localidad de Choropampa, la población protestó contra la minera porque consideraba que no hacía esfuerzos por reconocer y reparar los daños. Para resolver la tensa situación, Newmont convocó a Kurlander.
El famoso programa "Frontline" de la cadena norteamericana PBS, que investigó el caso de Yanacocha junto con The New York Times, divulgó la entrevista que le hizo Lowell Bergman a Larry Kurlander. En el diálogo, el ex número tres de Newmont afirma que practicó una auditoría ambiental y halló "veinte problemas de alta prioridad" originados por la explotación minera.
La situación era tan preocupante que Larry informó por escrito al más alto ejecutivo de Newmont, Wayne Murdy, de que los responsables de la minera "podrían ir a parar a la cárcel como resultado de las denuncias criminales", dijo Kurlander.
La auditoría de Larry no gustó mucho que digamos a los mandamases de la más importante compañía aurífera del mundo. Larry cayó en desgracia y no tuvo más remedio que pasar al retiro, seis meses después de sus informes.
Para Kurlander, sus reportes fueron entregados en un momento crucial para la corporación: "Mientras pregonábamos a los cuatro vientos que éramos los guardianes de la conservación ambiental, de pronto descubrimos que no era así. Eso fue como un puñetazo en la boca del estómago", expresó el ex ejecutivo de Newmont a "Frontline".
"Nadie se ha muerto", fue la respuesta del socio de Newmont, Roque Benavides, cuando Lowell Bergman le preguntó por la tragedia de Choropampa: "No todo ha sido tan malo".
Para la compañía es cuestión de números.
Newmont afirma que ha gastado más de US$ 100 millones en medidas de protección del medio ambiente, que les da empleo a dos mil peruanos y que pagan millones de dólares en impuestos al fisco.
Pero Lawrence Kurlander les dijo a The New York Times y a "Frontline" que no todo era cuestión de dinero.
"Newmont no ha conseguido recuperar la confianza de la gente en Perú, tiene que buscar algo más que la autorización del gobierno para operar en Yanacocha", explicó el ex número tres de Yanacocha: "Lo que necesita es la autorización de las comunidades". Y eso fue lo que recomendó a sus superiores. Pero no le hicieron caso. El tiempo le dio la razón a Larry.
Cuando Newmont pretendió la explotación del cerro Quilish, la población estalló. Newmont, en lugar de entender el problema, denunció una presunta infiltración extremista. Y el padre Marco Arana, que respaldaba a la población, fue acusado de "cura rojo". Fue un terrible error.
A diferencia de Roque Benavides, el gerente de la mina, Brant Hinze, admitió que Newmont "necesita trabajar con los campesinos en esta región empobrecida, porque ellos van a ser nuestros vecinos por mucho tiempo".
El padre Arana, quien en la historia de The New York Times y "Frontline" cumple un papel relevante, le dijo a Lowell, quien viajó hasta la zona, que "Quilish es para Yanacocha una montaña de oro, pero para la gente es una fuente de agua. Yanacocha no escucha al pueblo".
No se trata solo de la opinión de un sacerdote.
"Cada vez más las comunidades se involucran en el curso de sus destinos. Cuando digo que es necesaria una autorización social (para la explotación minera), sé lo que significa. Sin el respaldo de la población, podrías perder el negocio. Podrían forzarte a salir de sus comunidades, y no vas a poder hacer nada, así tengas el apoyo del gobierno". ¿Quién dice esto con tanto conocimiento de causa? ¡Kurlander!
El ex directivo de Newmont entregó a Lowell Bergman del diario The New York Times copias de las auditorías ambientales que "confirman muchos de los reclamos de los campesinos". Sí, como lo leen: información de la propia empresa minera que ratifica la veracidad de las denuncias de los pobladores: "La desaparición de los peces y la contaminación de lagos, corrientes y canales contaminados, al menos en un caso con cianuro", señala el reportero.
Los resultados, según Lowell, nunca fueron hechos públicos por Newmont.
Citó como ejemplo Quebrada Honda, que en 1997 registraba 13 peces por kilómetro, y en 2000 no había ningún ejemplar.
Kurlander advirtió en una comunicación escrita a sus superiores que con la expansión de la mina "eliminamos muchas salvaguardias ambientales que estaban comprendidas en la ejecución de los planes de la gerencia ambiental".
Y el 18 de de enero de 2001 propuso a sus jefes y directivos, y él mismo, como castigo, redujeran sus primas entre 50 y 100 por ciento. Y que la medida se hiciera pública. Solo algunos hicieron un gesto simbólico. Kurlander, decepcionado, se fue de Newmont. Ya no lo necesitaban más.
TESTIGO. Al referirse a Newmont, Lowell Bergman dice en "Frontline" que se trata de la "problemática y oscura historia de acusaciones de corrupción y soborno, detrás de una exitosa compañía".
SITIOS. La historia completa del New York Times está en: www.nytimes.com/2005/10/25/international/americas/25GOLD.html; y la de "Frontline" en: www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/peru404/
Newmont decepcionada por los reportes
Antes de la difusión de los reportajes sobre Yanacocha difundidos por The New York Times y "Frontline", Newmont Mining difundió un comunicado en los Estados Unidos sobre el contenido de la investigación. Señala que la empresa "cooperó intensamente con los periodistas de acuerdo con sus prácticas de transparencia y comunicación abierta, y se les abrieron las puertas de la mina".
Newmont señala que decidieron apoyar el trabajo de los reporteros para demostrar el esfuerzo de la compañía en materia de protección del medio ambiente, apoyo a las comunidades adyacentes a los centros de explotación y "el rechazo a los estereotipos negativos que se aplican a la industria de la minería".
Pero, seguidamente, Newmont Mining expresó su decepción por las historias del periódico neoyorkino y del programa de televisión. A pesar de haber contribuido con los periodistas, sus conclusiones "son muy negativas", señala la empresa, porque muchas de las aseveraciones no son ciertas y pudieron ser respondidas por Newmont si los reporteros las planteaban en su momento.
Por ejemplo, Newmont rechaza que la explotación minera sea una "amenaza para la existencia de las comunidades" porque se usan químicos durante el proceso de industrialización. "Cumplimos rigurosamente el Código de Control de Cianuro", alegó la empresa.