Mine tailings disclosure: Investors pledge “intense engagement” for 453 uncooperative firms

Sixty-nine percent of extractives companies snub post-Brumadinho investor request

Sixty-nine percent of extractives companies have failed to respond to an “urgent” investor call for better disclosure about the safety of their mining waste storage facilities, it has been revealed.

The Church of England, which led the investor request alongside the Swedish AP Funds’ Council on Ethics, has released the names of the companies who snubbed the request on its website.

The $12.5trn investor initiative said this is a first step in “intense engagement” with the 453 of a total 655 listed extractives companies which did not respond to the request.

The investor ultimatum was issued in the wake of the collapse of the dam at Vale’s Brumadinho site in Minas Gerais in Brazil, which killed a confirmed 246 people with 24 still missing.

Over 200 companies, including 29 out of the top 50 largest, did respond to the request, disclosing information about thousands of tailings dams for the first time. The Investor Mining & Tailings Safety initiative has called it a “major step towards greater safety in the mining sector”.

But the companies that did not respond collectively represent nearly 50% of the industry by market capitalisation.

They include industry giants such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, LafargeHolcim, Halliburton, Norsk Hydro, Lukoil, Statoil, Repsol, Cabot Energy and subsidiaries, Chesapeake, Enbridge, Gazprom, Cemex and subsidiaries, Goldman Sachs Structured Products, Occidental, Phillips66, Posco and Bumi Resources.John Howchin, Secretary-General of the Council on Ethics, who is co-leading the initiative, said: “Following Brumadinho, safety, transparency, and independent verification will be key drivers in rebuilding trust.

“Not disclosing is unacceptable and poses a very real risk to our investment. We will be engaging robustly with those that have not.”

The request for dam-by-dam disclosure was made at the beginning of April and is now supported by 100 investors with over $12.5trn in assets.

The disclosures so far revealed that mining majors including Barrick Gold, Glencore, Anglo American, Newmont Goldcorp and Freeport Gold all had facilities that failed engineers’ stability assessments at least once. Many said the issues had since been remediated.

The initiative met in London last week to discuss working with independent partners to develop a global and freely accessible tailings database that can standardise independent reporting and monitoring of tailings.

Adam Matthews, co-lead of the initiative and Director of Ethics and Engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board, said: “Through the work of the initiative we expect to drive the highest standards of safety within company tailings management.

“It is clear there has been insufficient attention paid by the investment community and tailings have in effect been treated as an externality. These disclosures begin to change that understanding.”