Rating Mining for Ethical Performance – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

Last week a Geneva-based group called Covalence SA released its ethical rankings of multinational corporations. The methodology used is convoluted, and the results could be questioned. Points were added and subtracted for working conditions, impact of production, impact of product and institutional impact. For what it is worth, here is how some mining companies ranked.

Three Canadian companies made the list. Kinross Gold of Toronto, Teck Cominco of Vancouver and Barrick Gold of Toronto were ranked 212, 396 and 443, respectively. (Interestingly, these companies ranked higher than Charles Schwab, Chevron, Yahoo, Fannie Mae, Shell and Porsche, among others.)

Other integrated mineral producers fared better than the Canadians: Rio Tinto (7), Anglo American (122), Vale (201), and Xstrata (209). Some fared worse: BHP Billiton (292), Newmont (501) and Freeport-McMoRan (535).

Covalence tracks 550 large companies in 18 separate sectors. Its client roster includes many mining companies as well as Barclays, BMW, Coca-Bola, the Gap, Médecins sans Frontières, Hewlett-Packard and GlaxoSmithKline among others. Besides ethical rankings, the company offers research and reputation management services.

The thought occurred to me that the world is getting complex indeed when we rely on European think-tank to tell us if we are operating ethically.