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US mining company agrees to 'green' review

The move shows the power shareholders hold in getting corporations to address social and environmental concerns.

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For the first time, an American mining firm has supported a "social responsibility" resolution put forward by shareholder activists.

Shareholders of Newmont Mining Co., the world's largest gold mining firm, approved this week an independent review of the environmental and social impacts of the company's global operations. And before the vote Tuesday, the Denver-based company took what activists say is the unprecedented step of endorsing the measure.

The milestone shows the ability of the "ethical investing" movement to gain the ear of major corporations, especially for environmental concerns as companies come under increased pressure to go green, say specialists in the field.

"Social investors are small in number, but their ability to attract the attention of substantial numbers of traditional investors on particular issues or particular companies is becoming increasingly easy," says Steven Lydenberg, chief investment officer for Domini Social Investments, a New York-based firm that specializes in socially responsible investing (SRI).

Shareholder activists filed 75 environmental proposals in the first half of 2006, including proposals asking companies to report on energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse emissions, and limit use of toxic chemicals, according to Institutional Shareholder Services.

In 21 cases, the motions resulted in deals with companies, including Home Depot, Lowe's, and General Motors, all of which agreed to provide significant information on aspects of their environmental impact.

Newmont says it urged shareholders to support the review of locally controversial company practices because the company wanted to demonstrate to the outside world that it operates properly.

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