NY pension fund keeps environmental pressure on mining giant Freeport-McMoRan

New York Common Fund files shareholder resolution for June AGM.

The $140.6bn (€94.75bn) New York State Common Retirement Fund is keeping up institutional investor pressure on mining company, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, over its controversial Grasberg mine operations in Papua New Guinea.
The fund has filed a shareholder resolution for the Arizona-based company’s annual shareholder meeting in Delaware on June 15 calling on it to appoint an independent board director with environmental expertise and experience.
It argues this would enable the company “more effectively to address the environmental issues inherent in its business, including the environmental and health impacts of riverine tailings disposal and the feasibility of long-term rehabilitation of the tailings deposition area at Grasberg”.
The fund, which has 1.6m shares in Freeport worth $140.5m, added: “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.”
The Grasberg facility, believed to be the largest gold mine in the world, has been the subject of shareholder resolutions in the past resolutions, co-filed with ABP of the Netherlands and the Swedish AP funds’ Ethical Council, in 2009 and 2010 received almost 33% support last year. [Deleted: incorrect reference to AP funds exclusion of Freeport.]. The AP funds’ Ethical Council noted in its recent annual report that the previous shareholder votes had prompted the company to set up a Sustainable Development Committee to the board of its Indonesian subsidiary, PT Freeport Indonesia, although it said it would continue its dialogue with Freeport to monitor the new committee.
The company is opposing the New York fund’s motion, saying it believes its existing commitment to environmental sustainability “is evidenced by our established policies, practices and procedures”. It points to its leadership role in the International Council of Mining and Metals. The proposal needs a majority of votes in favour to be approved at the meeting.
Freeport says the Grasberg operation has undergone numerous independent audits and points to a special riverine tailings report