Funds make joint call for mine safety following Brazilian dam disaster

Several of the industry’s biggest pension funds have issued a joint call for a global independent public classification system to monitor the safety risk of mining companies' tailing dams after Vale’s dam in Brumadinho, Brazil, collapsed.

The proposal came from Swedish public pension funds AP1, AP2, AP3 and AP4, the Church of England funds, UK’s LGPS Central, Dutch funds APG and Robeco, New Zealand Super, and Canadian fund BMO Global Asset Management, who together represent over €1.1trn in assets.

The funds are calling for a new system which should be independent of companies and require annual audits of all tailing dams, as well as verification that the highest corresponding safety standards are being implemented.

All reporting should be made public through an accessible database that communities, governments, civil society and investors can access, the joint statement read. To advance the call, the funds will hold a meeting for industry experts and investors in London.

Council on Ethics for Sweden’s AP Funds, secretary general, John Howchin, said they have lost confidence in the sector’s ability to regulate itself on this issue.

He said: “It is too early to say exactly the cause of this particular disaster but the consequences when something goes wrong are clear. We will be working with the Church of England and other investors to insist the necessary steps are taken.”

A similar recommendation has been made before to the Industry Association, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) in a 2016 report – Review Tailing Management Guidelines and Recommendations for Improvement. This recommendation was however not taken forward, the funds said.

Robeco head of active ownership Carola van Lamoen said in the statement: “We show our sympathy and support for the many victims of the recent tragic dam breach in Brazil. As a responsible investor we have been closely following the mining sector for many years and we have engaged in active dialogues with many mining companies on environmental and social topics.

“We now support this joint call upon the mining sector to install a truly global and independent classification system in order to make sure that the safety of mining dams is assured.”

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