HIGH IN THE ANDES mountains of northern Peru, 375 miles north of the capital city of Lima, is the Yanacocha mine—Latin America’s largest gold mine. The site, which is majority-owned by Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corporation, consists of six open pit mines, four leach pads, and three gold recovery plants. More than 100 small, rural communities fall within its influence area. While communities situated near Yanacocha have been concerned in the past about the mine’s impact on local water supplies and a lack of communication from the company, Lee Langston, Newmont’s regional director of security for South America, says that most concerns are related to employment.
Tensions over those concerns resulted in a series of protests in August 2006. Farmers blocked the road to Yanacocha for one week, and production at the mine came to a standstill for two days. According to media reports, protestors’ original demand for jobs turned to anger over environmental concerns, and in one violent clash, protestors blocking the road threw stones at police. In the response, one farmer was shot and killed.
The incident highlights the often strained relationships between local communities and international extractive companies operating abroad. As a result of this and other security conflicts between Newmont and the communities surrounding the mine in recent years, the company is in the process of implementing a new approach to security that recognizes the importance of human rights and community outreach.
The mining industry has an increased awareness of the connection between community relations and security today compared to a decade ago. “I think increasingly there really is a recognition on the part of the mining companies we work with that there is a degree of indivisibility between what you are doing in terms of your community relations or your community investment and security,” says Aidan Davy, a program director for socio-economic contribution for the London-based International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), an industry group which counts Newmont among its members.
Davy attributes the change to the influence of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, an initiative of private companies, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), that is intended to provide guidance to extractive companies on how they can maintain the safety and security of operations while ensuring respect for human rights.
The Voluntary Principles, as they are commonly called, were established in 2000 and primarily address three issues: risk assessment, engaging with public security forces, and interacting with private security forces. For each of these issues, the Voluntary Principles provide several guidelines. Signatory organizations commit to abiding by the principles and submit annual reports on activities.
Extractive companies have historically taken a silo approach to security and community relations, Davy says, but the Voluntary Principles have led to a more synergistic approach. “Instead of taking the view of conventional security that our role is to protect our people and our assets in that order and [that] people outside the fence line or communities may represent a threat to either people or assets, the Voluntary Principles take the view that in legitimately providing security for people and assets, there is a genuine risk that you might compromise the safety, security, and wellbeing of people outside the fence line,” he explains.
That shift in perspective, he says, has helped companies realize the importance of aligning what they are doing in the security space to what they are doing in the community relations space. “That has had a profound influence, I would say, in terms of sensitizing people to the idea that these matters are closely related,” he says.
Davy admits that there is some public dissatisfaction about the lack of progress in implementation of the Voluntary Principles. “That absolutely is not the fault of companies exclusively,” he says. “I think it’s because, at its heart, the Voluntary Principles rely on a tripartite model of government, civil society, and company collective engagement and collaboration, and at times, I think they’ve failed to move this thing forward in a way that’s been collaborative.”
Indeed, one of the biggest challenges, according to Langston, is enforcing human rights in a foreign country and in remote areas. “The real challenge is that [we are] a private company, a foreign private company, [so] sometimes if it’s not approached delicately, government institutions can feel that you’re treading into their area of governing,” Langston says.
Davy says implementation guidance of the Voluntary Principles has also been lacking. “What’s been missing is practical guidance that will help people really move forward with implementation,” he says. An implementation guidance tool is currently being created by a coalition that includes the Voluntary Principles Secretariat, ICMM, the International Finance Corporation, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA). The guide should be available within a year, Davy says.
Newmont, which is an ICMM member, was one of the first companies to sign on to the Voluntary Principles in 2001. But Oxfam America, an NGO participant in the Voluntary Principles, lodged a complaint against the mining company in 2007 with the initiative’s Secretariat. That complaint was in response not only to the protests in 2006 and the death of farmer Isidro Llanos Chavarria but also to allegations later that year of illegal wiretapping, surveillance, and death threats by a private security company employed by Newmont against a prominent human rights activist and outspoken critic of the company.
Newmont and Oxfam America subsequently agreed to a third-party comprehensive review of Yanacocha’s security management and practices. The review consisted of interviews with company executives, Peruvian National Police authorities, representatives from two of the three hired security companies employed by Yanacocha, NGO personnel, and community leaders.
A summary of the review of Yanacocha’s security and human rights procedures was released publicly last summer. “The total review identified areas of strong performance as well as the processes that they felt Yanacocha could improve upon,” says Langston. Newmont and Yanacocha analyzed the review and then developed a plan of action to implement the report’s recommendations for a new approach to security and human rights.
New Action Plan
The plan of action that came out of the review included short-term objectives that would be implemented by the end of 2009, medium-term objectives that would be implemented by the end of 2010, and long-term objectives that would be done in 2011. In terms of implementing recommendations for the Yanacocha site, Langston, as regional security director, is responsible for ensuring that they are completed in the timeframe set by the committee.
One example of a short-term objective is the creation of a Risk Assessment and Conflict Resolution Office. Langston says the company had a similar office before but it was not as effective as it could have been. One problem was that it only addressed complaints filed directly with the office. For instance, if an allegation appeared in the media, it was not considered a legitimate complaint.
“Well, you have to be reasonable,” Langston says. “If it’s floating around in the media, you better address it as a complaint.” Now the office considers all allegations no matter how they get word of them. “One of our employees can say he heard something in a store, and that would be investigated,” Langston adds.
Investigations. Yanacocha now investigates all use-of-force incidents. “Anytime any of our security people have an incident, whether it’s with an employee or a contractor or a community member, that is reported and treated just as if it is an allegation so we can determine whether the force used was reasonable or not,” Langston says.
All such reports undergo a new process of evaluation as well. If the risk level is classified as low, the incident is evaluated by a human rights and security investigation committee, which includes the site security manager as well as representatives from legal and operations. Representatives from other relevant departments are also on the committee.
For instance, if an incident involves the community, someone from the social responsibility department is there; if an allegation concerns an employee or contractor, a human resources or contracts manager serves on the committee. They assess the allegation and determine whether it has merit.
If the allegation is deemed legitimate, the committee orders an investigation and picks an investigation team to report back with results and recommendations. The onsite committee must also keep the South American regional board, which mirrors the committee at the site level, informed.
If the risk level of a complaint is considered medium, the regional-level committee handles it, and if it is a high-risk complaint, corporate, which also has a similar body, investigates.
Working with police. Because the response time is so long from Cajamarca, a contingent of police officers is stationed at the mine and rotated on a monthly basis. The company pays the police officers a daily stipend and provides lodging and meals and makes a contribution to the police institution for their services as stipulated in a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU).
In addition, the MOU has provisions for additional response to the mine area if an incident should occur. However, one of Yanacocha’s medium-term objectives is to work with the police to make this MOU more transparent. The police acknowledge on their Web site that they have an agreement with the mine, Langston says, but they do not publish the contents of the MOU, which is important information for the local community to have.
One of the long-term objectives is to expand the police training to the regional and national levels, but it will take time. “Obviously it’s the state’s responsibility to do this kind of stuff,” Langston says. But, “[i]f we can help them with a reasonable cost to the company, we’re going to do that.”
The comprehensive review also recommended equipping police forces with nonlethal weapons, Langston says. “We’re not so sure [as a] company that we want to get involved in providing that type of material, because it’s nonlethal, but it’s offensive in nature,” Langston says. Currently the company provides protective gear for police who are stationed at the mine site or who are responding to an incident. These items include helmets, shields, padding, and other riot response equipment.
Equipping police raises concerns beyond just the cost to the company, Langston says. There are also legal concerns. “We need to be very cognizant of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when we talk about equipping people,” he says. “We have to have some means of monitoring the use of that equipment.”
Another objective the company hopes to meet by the end of this year is the establishment of regular, formal meetings with public security partners, which include the national police as well as the military. Newmont’s security officials currently engage in formal, high-level meetings with these partners at least once a year, but the company is negotiating with Peru’s interior and defense ministries to set up a formal schedule that would include meeting twice a year at the ministry level and quarterly with generals at the regional level.
The purpose of the meetings is to assess collaboration and discuss ways to improve performance within the framework of the Voluntary Principles. Yanacocha’s security manager, Jose Antonio Rios Pita Diez, CPP, currently meets with local police on a weekly basis.
Human rights training. In 2008, in an effort to improve the company’s implementation of the Voluntary Principles even before the review was completed, Yanacocha launched two training programs designed to raise awareness among employees and contractors about the importance of respecting human rights. One program is basic training in human rights and provides an overview of relevant initiatives Newmont is involved with, such as the Voluntary Principles and the United Nations Global Compact. Each participant also receives a primer on human rights.
In the first year, 3,000 participants benefited from the program, including all of the security contractor personnel working for Yanacocha. The program continues on an annual basis.
The second training program launched the same year is training in the Voluntary Principles. This program targets the mine’s security staff, contractor personnel, and police assigned to the site. Training focuses on ways to ensure the safety of Yanacocha’s employees and operations while respecting human rights.
In the first year, the training was provided only to security and contractor supervisors and to public security officers assigned to provide support to the operation. In 2009, all security personnel received the training, which includes use-of-force instruction and a code of conduct for law enforcement officers. The training is being extended in 2010 to Newmont’s Conga project, which is also in Peru, and its Merian project in Suriname.
Community relations. Yanacocha’s security department has also launched a security-community integration program to improve relationships and trust between security personnel and local communities. As a part of the program, security personnel work with security contract personnel, the police, the military, and local businesses and organizations to plan one-day festivals in isolated communities in the mine’s area of influence. Some activities include music provided by the army or police bands, Andean folk dances, lunch prepared and served by security personnel, and social services, such as presentations on family planning, spousal abuse, and hygiene conducted by the police health unit.
The security department spearheads approximately one event per month, going to a different local village each time. Security personnel and their families attend. Not only do the events build trust between company and contract employees and the communities, but they also improve relations between the state law enforcement personnel and the local Indian communities, Langston says.
Yanacocha’s Diez says that it is important to venture into the community relations realm, even though others may consider it the work of an external affairs or social responsibility department.
“We are doing our work in a preventive way because if we have some problems in the road, the problem also will be for the security department and also for our company,” he says. “We are working in a preventive way in order to avoid these kinds of situations.”
On a regional level, Newmont is working with the Interior Ministry to assist and provide resources to the rondas campesinas, or rural peasant patrols, which have developed over centuries to provide security for their own rural communities. Each local community has its own ronda. Newmont provides them with minor equipment and gear that makes the ronda campesina stand out in the community, such as vests that say “Ronda” and identify the community; flashlights, boots, and some rain gear.
The goal of these community outreach efforts at its simplest was—and is—to “put a face” on security. The hope was that if local residents got to know security personnel as people before there was an incident, then when they showed up on the scene to respond to trouble, the locals might be disgruntled, but they would be “less likely to pick up a rock or a stick and start to assault the guard. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing,” says Langston.
He says that security personnel are met more cordially on the road and that they now have conversations with members of the communities. Both Langston and Diez say the efforts at Yanacocha are also showing some tangible results. For example, the company experienced 25 roadblocks in 2007 and only one last year. The company also tracks conflicts that involve physical force, and those incidents have dropped from 64 in 2007 to six in 2009.
Langston has noticed a growing awareness that community relations affect security and vice versa. “Used to be security was checking the lunchbox at the gate, and it’s much more than that now,” he says. “You have to go beyond the fence, and that takes a whole different mind-set and set of skills.”
Stephanie Berrong is an assistant editor at Security Management.