Less than a week after the Jan. 25 tailings dam collapse at Vale’s Feijao iron ore mine in Brazil that killed 251 people and left 19 missing, the Church of England Pensions Board, along with Sweden’s Public Pension Funds Council, Dutch funds APG and Robeco, New Zealand Super, the U.K.’s LGPS Central and Canada’s BMO Global Asset Management — together representing over US$1.3 trillion in assets — jointly called for a global independent public classification system that would monitor the safety risk of tailings dams.
The Church of England Pensions Board estimates there are 18,000 tailings storage facilities (TSFs) worldwide, 3,500 of which are active, but says there is no consolidated public register of them. “Without a global register, the precise scale of the risks are not clear, nor is it clear which company has responsibility for which facilities,” it says.
“This proposal will drive a new level of accountability and transparency within the mining sector,” Adam Matthews, director of Ethics and Engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board, stated on Jan. 31. “Simply put, these failures of tailings dams should not be happening. These are not black-swan events.”
Within a month, the number of investors and investment funds that had joined the Investor Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative had grown to over US$6.5 trillion in assets under management. By mid-April, the number had soared to more than US$12 trillion in assets under management from over 100 investors.
The Church of England Pensions Board alone manages funds in excess of US$2.8 billion, and receives advice from the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group on all issues relating to the ethics of investment.