There was strong backing for the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s call for an independent director with environmental expertise at mining firm Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold at the company’s annual shareholder meeting last week.
The fund had tabled the proposal – calling for at least one board candidate with expertise and experience in environmental matters relevant to mining – at the firm’s AGM in Delaware on June 15. The motion gained 192.6m votes in support and 432.6m against, according to a Freeport filing.
Dutch pension giants APG and PGGM supported the motion, the latter noting that Freeport has “been associated with environmental controversy and the company has operations that expose it to additional environmental risks”.
The Christian Brothers Investment Services, the Florida State Board of Administration and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board all also supported the New York fund proposal.The Alberta Investment Management Co. (AIMCO) and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan voted against it, according to proxy voting disclosures on the funds’ websites.
In supporting comments contained in proxy materials, the New York Common fund had said Freeport continues to receive “sharp criticism” of its environmental policies and practices, notably relating to riverine tailings disposal at its Grasberg operation in Indonesia.
“We believe that this controversy damages shareholder value and that the company must respond to its environmental challenges in an effective, strategic and transparent manner in order to restore trust in the company and minimize the adverse environmental impact of its operations,” it said.
The company had advised shareholders to vote against the resolution, saying it was not in stockholders’ best interests to require a particular type of specialist on its board.