Investor Alliance Outlines New Actions on Mining Safety

Church of England Pensions Board and Swedish Council of Ethics lead efforts to drive change on second anniversary of Brumadinho disaster.

An investor group led by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Council of Ethics of the Swedish National Pensions Funds has committed to new measures to improve safety in the mining sector.

The announcement, backed by investors with US$20 trillion AUM, falls on the second anniversary of the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster in Brazil, in which nearly 10 million cubic metres of iron ore tailings were released by a mudflow, killing 270 people.

The measures were announced under the auspices of the Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, co-chaired by Adam Matthews, Director of Ethics and Engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board, and John Howchin, Secretary General of the Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds.

New ambitions include the establishment of an independent global institute by end of 2021, and an expectation that mining companies will confirm their adoption of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, published in August 2020, and disclose a compliance timeline.

The group will also develop a 2030 Investor Agenda for the Mining Sector which draws on the lessons from the tailings engagement to address “systemic issues”, including tailings waste, climate change and critical mineral supply.

The investors will create an expert working group which will report on the feasibility of establishing a global 24/7 tailings monitoring hub by the end of Q2 2021.

As well as facilitating the development of new global standards, the Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative has already encouraged a significant increase in disclosures by mining companies on their management of tailings dams, with almost two thirds of the mining industry by market capitalisation responding.

“There is a partnership to be developed with asset owners that establishes an agenda of change that will ensure this sector is not undermined by repeated incidents. It is incumbent on us as long-term institutional investors to both be at the table and outline an agenda for change that addresses the many systemic issues that continually undermine it,” said Howchin.

“Society demands the products of mining but is often far removed from the reality when it is done badly or goes wrong. Good practice exists in mining and the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings is the start of driving the sector-wide change needed on this specific issue,” said Matthews.

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