UN and PRI seek action over dam collapse

PRI members including the Church of England Pension Board demand better standards after Brumadinho deaths

The United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) are joining with the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) to review the global standards on storage facilities for mining waste and byproducts – known as tailings.

The decision to review the current standards follows the death of more than 130 people in the Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil in January 2019, less than four years after a similar disaster in the country.

In a joint announcement on Friday, the organisations said the review was a direct “response” to January’s disaster and would involve several high profile investors including the Church of England Pensions Board and the Council of Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds.

“This initiative is in response to the recent tragedy at Brumadinho and will be informed by evidence and lessons from earlier mine tailings dam failures. The aim is to complete this work by the end of the year,” the PRI said in a statement.

“As a next step the co-convenors will jointly appoint an independent chair and a multi-stakeholder advisory panel. There will be a further update once the chair has been appointed.”

Brumadinho was a total humiliation for PRI signatories who had pledged to ensure mining companies implemented better safety standards after the 2015 Samarco collapse, which killed 19 people.

At the 2017 conference, Norwegian fund group KLP told delegates that it had been engaging with mining companies to improve its systems and processes.

It did not divest in the wake of the Samarco disaster and continued to be invested when the Brumadinho dam collapsed, killing at least 134 people with more than 200 still unaccounted for. (Read more here.)

In the joint statement between ICMM, UNEP and the PRI on Friday, the organisations said they hoped the new standard for tailings storage facilities would become an ICMM company member commitment.

It also hoped that co-convening partners would encourage other companies to accept these standards more broadly.