Since we began formalizing our approach to human rights in 2014, we have used different methods for conducting the human rights due diligence necessary to ensure we respect and do not infringe upon human rights at any of our operations.
Some of these methods have been more effective than others. For example, when we conducted standalone human rights impact assessments (HRIA) at our Merian mine in Suriname and Yanacocha operation in Peru in 2016, we gained valuable insights. However, we also learned the importance of ensuring potential human rights impacts and risks identified in one phase of the mining lifecycle are understood and extrapolated to other phases. This approach also highlighted the need to better define the areas of operation and risk scenarios to be assessed (i.e., potential site expansion versus closure).
Taking the lessons learned from these earlier assessments, we moved to a more integrated and comprehensive approach to assess the potential social, environmental and health impacts, as well as human rights considerations, for the Sabajo project – a proposed expansion of our Merian operation in Suriname.
While one of the challenges was defining impacts around what is currently a hypothetical project, this integrated environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) approach resulted in many improvements over past studies.
Most notably, our public consultation and disclosure plan went well beyond the regulatory requirements and built upon the goals of inclusivity, transparency, and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples. Features included the following:
- Engagement occurred with relevant stakeholders during five distinct stages of the assessment – pre-scoping, scoping, baseline method validation, baseline results validation, and assessment results presentation. The participatory approach to conducting the baseline studies included a historical narrative process that identified the Kawina Maroon Tribe as the traditional owners of the land where the Sabajo project is located. The goal of our overall approach was to ensure the traditional owners of the land were able to make informed decisions about the project. Once we identified the traditional owners, a round of informal pre-scoping engagements helped build their capacity to participate in the ESIA process and eventually in the negotiations regarding shared value.
- Potential human rights impacts from the project were determined by including human rights aspects in various baseline studies and through issues raised during the consultation process. Additional engagement on human rights took place with small-scale miners, Kawina tribe members and other communities during consultations to ensure information and issues were captured accurately.
- Engagement methods included focus groups, informal and formal community meetings, and one-on-one meetings so that we could conduct in-depth interviews about sensitive issues such as human rights and cultural resources. We also coordinated a visit to Merian and Sabajo for members of the Kawina tribe.
Among the key human rights risks and benefits identified in the ESIA:
- A local employment and procurement program could contribute positively to the right to work and the right to an adequate standard of living.
- Baseline research determined that Newmont’s acknowledgment of the Kawina’s land rights contributes to their rights to property, self-determination and culture.
- The rights to water, health and an adequate standard of living could be negatively impacted by accidental spills of hazardous materials and/or the generation of acid rock drainage that flows into water bodies used by nearby communities. Additionally, restricting small-scale mining activities that use environmentally harmful practices within the mine boundary would be a positive impact. However, the restriction of small-scale mining activities would also negatively impact any displaced small-scale miners’ right to an adequate standard of living.
- Increased traffic resulting from project development could negatively impact the right to life as well as the right to health due to a higher risk of accidents and increased dust and air pollution.