A group of 64 investors and their representatives with USD $10.2 trillion in Assets Under Management have written on Thursday to the Boards of mining companies operating in Australia and internationally to seek assurances about how the sector obtains and maintains its social license to operate with First Nations and Indigenous communities.
The letter was mainly addressed to miners with operations in Australia, such as BHP, Glencore, Fortescue Metals Group, South32, Oz Minerals, Newmont, Anglo American, and Northern Star. Recipents also included foreign giants, such as Brazil’s Vale, US gold miner Barrick and Pan American Silver Corp, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.
The investor group of long-term institutional investors is considering the implications of what occurred at the Juukan Gorge on the wider mining sector to support alignment between best-practice and company action.
Before it was destroyed in May 2020, by Rio Tinto, the Juukan Gorge site held evidence of human habitation dating back 46,000 years.
The investor group is seeking information on the action companies are taking to understand and manage the risks. The group is clear that although the example of the destruction of the Juukan Gorge has arisen in Australia, the principles apply to projects across the world.
“We believe that investment risk exists where there is a mismatch between a company’s stated approach to relationships with First Nations and Indigenous communities and what happens in practice.” Said the letter, whose signatories included ACSI, Church of England Pensions, Cbus Chief Investment, Aware Super, Cbus, HESTA, LAPFF and USS Head of Responsible Investment.
The investor group recognises that there is a great deal of complexity in this area and underlines the importance of investors properly understanding this complexity.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said: “The destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves by Rio Tinto was a wake-up call for investors.”
It’s critical companies and investors who are making long-term decisions manage risks associated with indigenous heritage protection appropriately – not only so we can mitigate financial risk for our members’ investments, but also so we can ensure there are fair and sustainable outcomes for indigenous communities and companies. HESTA is committed to working respectfully with all stakeholders and collaborating with other investors to keep pushing for change.”