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Investors press for reforms by mining firms

12 April 2019


Adriano Dias Barbosa, who lost a sister, a sister-in-law, and three cousins in the mudslide caused by the collapsed dam in Brumadinho, stands in front of a church in the town

Adriano Dias Barbosa, who lost a sister, a sister-in-law, and three cousins in the mudslide caused by the collapsed dam in Brumadinho, stands in front...

INVESTORS with $10.3 trillion funds under management have given mining companies 45 days to disclose the extent of their use of tailing storage facilities, after the collapse of one in Brumadinho, in Brazil, in January, killed more than 200 people (News, 8 February).

The letter was sent last Friday to 683 listed extractives companies by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council on Ethics for the AP Funds, supported by 96 investors.

“It is essential that investors can establish a clear line of sight on which company has which tailings facility, and how that facility is being managed,” the director of ethics and engagement for the Pensions Board, Adam Matthews, said. “We know good practice exists, but we need to be able to understand how every mining company manages each facility.”

In the wake of the Brumadinho disaster, the Church of England’s National Investment Bodies called for independent monitoring of the risk posed by tailings dams — some of which stretch for miles.

Mr Matthews, who co-leads the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, has laid out plans to conduct annual assessments of extractive companies, “to include recommendations about which . . . we are concerned about, and which we feel we should not remain invested in”.

The Board and Swedish Council of Efforts convened two investor roundtables at Church House; they are due to meet again next month.

“Having had an initial in-depth review on this topic, the need for serious action is very clear,” the Secretary General of the Swedish Council on Ethics for the Swedish AP Funds, John Howchin, said. “These tailings dams are here for eternity; we need to set a global system in place that handles it — out of respect for the victims of the Brumadinho disaster, but also for future generations.”

Professor Upmanu Lall, the chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering and director of the Columbia Water Centre at Columbia University, said “Monitoring, mitigation, and accurate disclosure of these risks to investors and society is a primary fiduciary responsibility for mine operators.”

Last month, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Principles for Responsible Investment, announced an independent review to establish an international standard on tailings storage facilities, to be set as a condition of membership of the ICMM.

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