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29 Oct 2020

Peter Ker, Financial Review

Big investors challenge miners over traditional owner consent

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29 October 2020

More than 60 institutional investors, including American giant Fidelity, have written a joint letter to the world's major mining companies suggesting they review the "genuineness" of the consents they have obtained from traditional owners and demanding to know how they are handling cultural heritage risk.

Signed by local industry superannuation giants AustralianSuper, Cbus and HESTA to name a few, the letter was sent in response to Rio Tinto's destruction of prized cultural heritage Juukan Gorge and subsequent revelations about the flaws that existed in Rio's approach to managing that heritage.


''We expect that among other things, companies will wish to review their agreements, taking into account confidentiality clauses, the genuineness of consent and negotiation practices including relative negotiating power, and review (or) grievance mechanisms,'' said the letter.

Companies with Australian mines dominated the list of recipients, with BHP, Newcrest, OZ Minerals, Evolution Mining, Rio, South32, Northern Star, Anglo American, Glencore, Fortescue, Saracen Mineral Holdings and Alcoa among those to receive it.

The letter noted that while the Juukan Gorge scandal had occurred in Australia, "the principles apply to projects across the world''.

Many foreign miners, including Brazilian giant Vale, North American giants Barrick and Newmont, Chile's Antofagasta and numerous big Chinese mining companies were also on the list of recipients.