Investor group gives miners ultimatum on tailings

A group of miners asking them to make public detailed information on every tailings facility under their control.

Tailings dams are used to store waste material from mining and have become the industry’s most important issue in the wake of a dam burst in January that is likely to have killed more than 300 people.

The deadly breach in Brazil was the second major accident involving a tailings dam in less than four years and has made some investors wary of owning mining shares.

The Church of England, which is leading an investor push for a new global standard for tailings storage facilities, said it had written to almost 700 companies asking for information to be published online within 45 days. This includes data on the design of a dam, its history, location, height and third party reviews.

“It is essential that investors can establish a clear line of sight on which company has which tailings facility and how that facility is being managed. The current disclosures from companies are largely inadequate”, said Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board.

“We know good practice exists, but we need to be able to understand how every mining company manages each facility. We are working across the investment community and with expert input to create a global database to assess this information.”

Mr Matthews said the individual company disclosures would be scrutinised by investors as they develop an assessment framework to profile each company on their tailings management. It is not clear what will happen if a company fails to comply.

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The move by the Church of England Pension Board to create a global database comes as the International Council on Metals and Mining (ICMM) takes similar steps.

The trade body, whose members include BHP, Vale and 25 others, announced plans in February to develop an international standard for tailings dams.

This will be informed by a review of the current global best practices in the mining industry, which is not expected to be completed until later this year.


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