CAFOD calls on supporters to probe pension funds on mining concerns

Catholic aid agency joins with FairPensions for UK institutional lobby effort.

CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency, has called upon its thousands of supporters to contact the pension funds in which they save for retirement and question them about the activities of mining companies they invest in with operations in developing countries. The charity says irresponsible mining companies are creating conflicts between rival militias, causing dangerous levels of arsenic and cyanide in drinking water and forcing families from their homes to make way for mines. CAFOD has also joined forces with FairPensions, the UK charity promoting responsible investment, to lobby 400 large UK pension funds and asset managers over whether risks in mining companies are being properly assessed and to ascertain if investors are putting pressure on companies with poor records. CAFOD said the campaign would focus on the gaps between companies’ policies and their actual practices on the ground, notably in joint ventures or where mining work is sub-contracted to local companies. The charities said they were not looking for pension funds to pull out of mining stocks. Rashmi Mistry, head of campaigns at CAFOD, said: “Mining is a growing industry in developing countries but we believe that it should not endanger the lives and environments of people who are already impoverished.The vast majority of our pension funds have investments in mining companies, so we’re encouraging CAFOD supporters to exercise their right to raise concerns over the practices of mining companies.”
A CAFOD reports cites mining companies where concerns have been raised. It includes Rio Tinto, DRD Gold, Freeport McMoran, TVI Pacific, AngloGold Ashanti, which has been accused by Human Rights Watch of funding militia activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Vedanta Resources, the FTSE 100 metals and mining group, which was blacklisted earlier this year by the €250bn ($366bn) Norwegian Government Pension Fund over allegations of environmental damage and human rights abuses in India.
Duncan Exley, director of campaigns at FairPensions, said: “Most pension funds have sizeable investments in mining companies, and we urge them to ask fund managers whether the risks we and CAFOD have highlighted are being properly analysed and acted upon.”
The launch of the CAFOD campaign coincides with the start of the charity’s Pure Gold? photography exhibition at the OXO Gallery in central London, showing images from DRC, Honduras and Philippines regarding how mining affects communities in developing countries.
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