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US: Indigenous join global protest of Newmont gold mining practices

by Brenda NorrellIndian County Today
May 12th, 2006

Western Shoshone and Colville tribal members protested in early May at Newmont Mining Corp.'s annual shareholders meeting, uniting with indigenous from Peru, Indonesia and Ghana to create a protest over the pollution and scarred land resulting from gold mining.

''Our lives are more precious than gold,'' read the sign of Mark Tilsen, of Porcupine, S.D., who was among those protesting April 25 at Newmont's annual meeting, held this year at Inverness Hotel, south of Denver.

Western Shoshone Carrie Dann protested and demanded that Newmont halt the destruction of Western Shoshone lands for gold mining in Nevada.

''The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination agreed with us last month and has told the United States to 'freeze' any efforts to privatize our lands, and to 'stop' any new mining projects or other resource extraction and exploitation,'' Dann said.

Newmont, one of the world's biggest gold producers, reported that its first quarter net income more than doubled from the year before, to $209 million, in April.

The Rev. Marco Arana arrived in Denver from Peru after organizing protests against Newmont's Yanacocha mine near Cajamarca. Arana, a diocesan priest who studied water and hydrology issues while earning his master's degree, urged Newmont not to expand its mine to watershed areas.

Arana pointed out to Newmont CEO Wayne Murdy that Newmont was not paying its Peruvian workers salaries equivalent to those in Denver.

Recently in Peru, tens of thousand of indigenous people marched on Newmont operations at Yanacocha, forcing Newmont to cancel plans to expand its open pit mines to the sacred mountain of Quillish.

In Sumbawa, Indonesia, community members expressed their opposition to Newmont's operations by setting ablaze a number of Newmont's machinery, forcing the corporation to close its Batu Hijau Copper Pit until further notice.

In Denver, Newmont moved its shareholders meeting from downtown to the outlying area because of concerns for security. However, the protest was peaceful.

Stop Newmont Mining was among the organizers, offering two days of information and education, including lectures in college classrooms and protests in the streets.

During the shareholders meeting, Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, of Ghana, asked Newmont to commit to improving the water supply there.

Murdy defended Newmont's record to the shareholders. ''It's all about balance,'' Murdy said. ''Can we make everybody happy? No. We don't live in that kind of world.''

The Colorado chapter of the American Indian Movement said it condemns the actions of Newmont that destroy the water, earth and air in Peru, Nevada, Ghana, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Bolivia and the Philippines.

''Equally, we deplore and condemn the explorations and proposed operations of Newmont in the Black Hills of South Dakota, an area sacred to several indigenous nations of the Great Plains region,'' Colorado AIM said in a statement.

''We also call on Newmont immediately to fulfill its responsibility to clean up radioactive uranium waste on the Colville Indian reservation in Washington state.

''The courage and integrity of native peoples around the world in resisting the eco-terrorism of Newmont is an inspiration to us in Colorado AIM,'' AIM said, praising the united global effort for environmental justice.

Western Shoshone announced that a coalition of Newmont Mining shareholder groups called upon Murdy to respect a recent U.N. decision in favor of the Western Shoshone.

Newmont operates gold mines across the Western Shoshone territory in Nevada - equating to nearly 40 percent of its equity base and is seeking new exploration in the area.

Julie Fishel, Western Shoshone defense project coordinator, announced support from a group of Newmont shareholders.

''For too long, corporations have reaped huge benefits off the ongoing legacy of physical and spiritual genocide of indigenous peoples, and the destruction of our land, air and water,'' Fishel said.

While protesting Newmont, Kristi Begay, Western Shoshone, thanked Newmont shareholder groups for their support.

''Our land, water and air is sacred to us and is recognized by the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, and yet the government and the companies have been acting as if it means nothing,'' Begay said.

In April, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination rejected the United States' claim that Western Shoshone lands somehow transferred to federal or U.S. ownership, putting into question the legality of Newmont and other corporations operating on these lands without Western Shoshone consent.

The shareholder sign-on letter was led by Boston Common Asset Management and includes six other faith-based health and investment services groups.

In the communication, the shareholders call upon Newmont to recognize and comply with the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley and to recognize Western Shoshone land ownership.

Newmont is pressed to maintain the cultural and spiritual integrity of the lands, and protect the environment (particularly issues of dewatering, cyanide use and mercury emissions).

Further, the shareholders group pressed Newmont to establish a Western Shoshone advisory committee, with inclusion of Western Shoshone in decision-making, transparency of company information, and financial and technical assistance.

Newmont, shareholders said, should comply with treaty obligations for ''fair compensation,'' including revenue sharing and royalty commitments, training and employment, joint venture work and scholarship and youth funding; and Newmont should establish a dispute resolution mechanism between the company and the Western Shoshone.





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