Media, Shareholders, and Gold in Ghana

Independent Research Project
Fall 2009 INAF U6046 Media and Economic Development, Spring 2010 SIPA U9044/2
Klaar De Schepper Columbia University School of General Studies
Advisor: Prof. Anya Maria Schiffrin Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs


This research project adds to existing research on the role of journalism training in media coverage of the extractive industry in Africa at the International Media Concentration of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), led by Professor Anya Maria Schiffrin. The research purpose of “Media, Shareholders, and Gold in Ghana” is to explore the flows of media coverage between journalists in Africa, international media, Non-governmental organizations, and management, shareholders, and communications departments of an extractive industry company.

Although the internet has dramatically improved the possibility for access to an incredible range of information, it is not yet used to its fullest potential. For example, shareholders of multinational corporations may get information about what a company is doing through mainstream media, direct engagement with the company, and from non-governmental organizations. What African journalists write, however, often doesn’t end up reaching shareholders directly, even though many African publications are available in English and published online. Improvements in communications could include social networking platforms, customized RSS feeds, and dynamically driven GIS platforms that track media coverage and map distribution paths. At the conclusion of this project recommendations will be made on how to improve communications and increase access to information for journalists, nongovernmental organizations, companies and investors.

Newmont in Ghana

As a case study, this project features an analysis of media coverage and flows of communication concerning two events related to the activities of Newmont Mining Corporation, a U.S. company with gold mines in Ghana. The first event is a social issue shareholder resolution filed against Newmont in 2007, in which shareholders asked Newmont to review its policies regarding community relations. The second event is an October 2009 cyanide spill at Newmont’s Ahafo mine in Ghana, one of two mines of Newmont’s subsidiary Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd..
Figure 1: Google Earth Connection Visualization

Mapping Media Coverage and Information Flows

The picture above shows a Google Earth screen shot with a layer of lines symbolizing connections between producers and consumers of information. These are connections between the headquarters of Newmont Mining in Colorado, its gold mines in Ghana, Ghanaian NGOs, international NGOs, shareholder organizations, and media organizations. These connections were drawn by hand using Google Earth.

In the proposed media mapping research platform, users can collect RSS feeds, filter records by keyword search, and map articles by the location of the source, the location of the feed, and by locations mentioned in the article. Articles can be tagged with keywords, rated by alert status and users can comment on articles. There's a Yahoo Pipes mashup example in the Mashups section of this page as an example of a rudimentary RSS aggregator that maps news articles by query. Researchers will be able to connect sources and consumers of information and generate a flow diagram visualization which, combined with a visualization of article occurences, will give an idea of the distribution of information flows.


Newmont in Ghana

In 2006 Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, a subsidiary of Newmont Mining based in Denver, Colorado, started operations in the Brong Ahafo Region in Western Ghana. Their mine was the first large scale mining operation in the region.

2007 Shareholder Resolution

When Newmont Mining shareholders Christian Brothers Investment and a group of ten faith-based investors filed a 2007 Shareholder resolution [1] asking Newmont to report on community relations, Newmont decided not to fight the resolution but instead agreed to work with the resolution filers to fulfill the requests from the shareholders. This was the first time that a U.S. mining company faced
with a social issue shareholder proposal recommended shareholders to vote for such a proposal. Newmont promised to fulfill the shareholders’ request to establish an independent committee to survey the company’s community relations strategies and emphasized that it was deeply committed to full transparency and improved communications.

Community Relations Review report

The Newmont Community Relations Review report created according to the outcome of the 2007 shareholder proposal was executed by environmental law firm Foley and Hoag and made available on Newmont’s website in March of 2009. A committee reviewed case studies of five mines in Peru, New Zealand, Indonesia , the United States and Ghana, conducted by independent study teams and coordinated by Foley and Hoag.
One risk noted in the report is the nationalization or internationalization of community concerns about the Ahafo mine. The commencement of mining operations at Ahafo attracted national and international attention, particularly from environmental groups. In a departure from traditional corporate communications, the report stated some less-than favorable facts about the company:
During the past decade, conflict between mines and local communities has resulted in the deaths of community members in Peru and Ghana, lawsuits and the imprisonment of Newmont executives in Indonesia, the reclassification of two million ounces of proven and provable reserves in Peru, and significant negative media attention at a global level.[2]
The report stated that “advocacy organizations and civil society groups are questioning the extent to which large scale mining undertaken by private corporations leads to sustainable long term benefits for host societies.” The report noted that general resistance to mining could lead to protests affecting Newmont’s operations, particularly as Newmont is planning to expand its operations in Akyem in the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve, nicknamed the “bread basket” of Ghana.
The Community Relations Review study team at Newmont’s Ahafo mine in Ghana conducted interviews with 30 people who live around the Ahafo mine and “found that “[b]y channeling community concerns and frustration through initiatives such as the Social Responsibility Forum and the Community Consultative Committee, Ahafo Mine is expecting to reduce the incidents of conflict and the potential for community frustrations to find expressions in unproductive ways.” By dealing with numerous issues that could increase conflict, Newmont’s team at the Ahafo Mine is “in the process establishing a positive relationship with the local community,” the report states.

Cyanide spill

On October 8th 2009, Ghanaian newpapers reported a cyanide leak at Newmont’s Ahafo mine. The cyanide spill elicited a great deal of media coverage; a review of articles published in Ghanaian media between October 8th and November 16th yields conflicting information about the location of the lab where the cyanide sample was analyzed, the number of fishes found dead, and whether human beings were affected by the cyanide.

2009 Prizes for Newmont

Dow Jones

Sustainability World Index (DJSI)

Newmont was awarded a place in the top ten “most sustainable” percent of mining companies on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI) for the third consecutive year. A recent Newmont press release states:
Our commitment to ensuring that our host communities continue to have sustainable livelihood has been recently recognized by the Minerals Commission of Ghana, whose top executives endorsed Newmont as setting the pace in community and social responsibility programme.
Newmont’s public relations materials feature stories about numerous community engagement initiatives such as the Ahafo Linkages Programme, through which it awarded contracts valued more than $10 million to 125 local Ahafo enterprises as of mid 2009, and the establishment of the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation, which aims to address environmental and social concerns. Company literature states that Newmont makes available $1 per ounce of gold mined, plus 1% of net profit to the foundation for community development projects. The company’s website highlights numerous other efforts, from mitigating community concerns to HIV/AIDS prevention.

Public Eye Award

for “Worst Company of the Year”

Another prize awarded to Newmont in 2009 was the Public Eye Award for “Worst Company of the Year.” Newmont was nominated by Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) and German- based NGO Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN). In a YouTube video of the award ceremony
held in Davos, Switzerland, WACAM executive director Daniel Owusu-Koranteng says that he feels that the negative award for Newmont is a positive award for his organization’s work and a proof of international recognition for the plight of communities in developing nations which are negatively affected by resource extraction. “This is an award that tells Newmont that it can not go on denying the fact that they are violating community rights forever,” Mr. Owusu-Koranteng states [3, 4]


Proposed Specification

Graphs and Maps

Geotagging News

Maps and NGOs


Geo Visuals

Open Data Mapping

RSS feeds

Feeds of Archived News

Tech Review

Research Library


1. Newmont Mining 2007 Annual Meeting Proxy Ballot DEF 14a: Resolution asking for a report on commu- nity relations 2007
2. Hoag, F.a. Newmont Mining Corporation Community Relations Review Global Summary Report 2009 http: al_Summary_Report_March_2009.pdf
3. FIAN, “2009 Public Eye Award Ceremony”. 2009.
4. WACAM, W.A.o.C.A.b.M. Shortlist 2009: Newmont Mining Corporation Nominated for the Public Eye Global Award 2009. Internet [Report] 2009; Available from: Corporation_WACAM_engl.pdf.// .