Placer Dome's "sustainability" policies challenged by community activists

At Placer Dome's Annual General Meeting on April 20th in Toronto, shareholder activists held the company's sustainability promises to account.

Among them was Beth Manggol, of Marinduque Citizens for Environmental Concerns on the Philippine Island of Marinduque. She holds the company responsible for the fact that — four years after a major tailings spill — most of the tailings that spilled into the Boac River have ended up in the sea where they have damaged coral reefs.

She blames Placer's insistence on ocean disposal of tailings for the four year delay. She also pointed at the company's unwillingness to take responsibility for cleaning up the tailings deposited in Calacan Bay, and for the damage to the Mogpog River. (See our press release)

Also at the Toronto meeting, Ken Georgetti of Working Enterprises Ltd. (WE), a labour-sponsored investment fund, spoke to a shareholder proposal put forward by WE to provide independent public assessments of environmental risk at each Placer Dome operation, and to disclose detailed information to shareholders about levels of insurance against environmental accidents.

Working Enterprises agreed to withdraw the proposal for this year, on condition that Placer Dome makes substantial progress on a number of environmental commitments. Said Georgetti: "Real situations, like the one the company faces in the Philippines, will be the litmus test of the company's ability to apply these principles."

Placer Dome held a meeting with NGOs in Sydney Australia in late March to try to reach an agreement on setting benchmarks for sustainable practices. Neither the NGOs nor Placer Dome have been able to endorse the draft agreement that came from the meeting.