Suriname Gold Company (Surgold), a limited liability company owned by Newmont (managing entity), owns and operates the Merian Gold Project in northeastern Suriname. Suriname is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, and while no people live directly within Surgold’s operating footprint, the Merian project is located on the traditional lands of the Pamaka tribal group, which is recognized as an indigenous people/tribal people by Surgold and the international community. Because of this, special attention is required to protect their individual and collective rights.
Committed to ICMM’s Indigenous Peoples and Mining Position Statement, the Merian Gold Project will strive to obtain the FPIC of the Pamaka people to support construction and before any significant change or subsequent phase of the project life cycle.
In line with this, Surgold has documented all historic community engagement activities that have been completed since the start of exploration activities and the development of the environmental and social impact assessment. The goal of the documentation process is to map the historic engagement activities and current agreements against the concepts of FPIC in order to identify gaps that may require other engagement mechanisms or agreements in order to align with FPIC.
Concurrently, in order to ensure a joint understanding of FPIC and its application in the Surinamese context, Surgold has engaged with the Government of Suriname (GoS) regarding the project’s FPIC, while similarly respecting government’s expressed sovereign rights and decisions related to Indigenous Peoples to ensure GoS perspectives are integrated into the engagement.
In order to institute efficient and transparent communication between the Pamaka community and Surgold, the paramount chief of the Pamaka selected the group of community leaders (referred to as the Pamaka Negotiation Committee (POC)) to represent the overall community. The POC has representation from small-scale mining, local business, traditional authority, journalism and legal and has been officially mandated by the chief to speak on behalf of the Pamaka people. One key role for the POC is to communicate with the broader community and organize meetings between the company and the community.
Currently, Surgold is working to develop and facilitate a capacity-building program with Pamaka community members/leaders regarding their awareness as to FPIC process/outcomes and rights. The capacity building is required to demonstrate that the Pamaka community understands why the company is engaging with them and what the various agreements are intended to achieve against an FPIC framework. Details of the capacity-building program are currently being discussed, but might include concepts presented under ILO Convention 169, IFC Performance Standard 7, human rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in terms of the significance and overall relevance to the Pamaka tribal group.
In August 2013, Surgold and the Pamaka community signed a memorandum of understanding that describes all of the work to be accomplished over the next few years. Together, Surgold and the Pamaka community will create and manage a community development fund, define terms of local employment and local procurement, create a participatory monitoring committee, promote safety and environmental stewardship and develop a complaint mechanism. In the interim, Surgold has established a grievance mechanism that is currently functioning and available for community members to access until a more formal process is collaboratively agreed upon.