Mining companies under intense investor scrutiny over waste practices

June 11, 2019
Brumadinho_flickr 

Following the January breach of the Brumadinho mine in Brazil, Mercy Investment Services and fellow investors concerned over the impact of mining facilities on communities have asked mining, oil and gas, and tar sands companies to explain how they handle ore waste, a mud-like material called tailings, from their facilities. In the January tailings dam breach from which approximately 300 people died, 11.7 million cubic meters of waste from the Brumadinho mine contaminated water and soil in a local community, severely damaging the local ecosystem and the industries that support local families. Investors, numbering more than 100 with $12 trillion in assets under management, are evaluating responses from 655 extractive companies, including oil and gas and tar sands companies. 

The investor working group has asked each company to disclose:

  • the number of dams and their locations;
  • how they publicly report on the status and safety of their tailings dams and liabilities;
  • potential technology such as satellites to monitor dams and to address tailings waste.

More than half of the top 50 mining companies globally responded. Some confirm they have no tailings facilities while others indicate they do. Some of the largest mining companies have developed websites to disclose their processes. Investors are calling for an independent public tailings database that tracks all tailings facilities, key information, company risk profiles, and monitoring of each company. Investors are also supporting the development of a new tailings management global standard. Mercy Investment Services remains committed to engaging extractive companies across sectors to advocate for improved operations and business practices that prevent mine breaches from happening and support persons and communities suffering from the serious effects of a breach.