BHP Investors Step Up Review of Dam Remediation in Fatal Disaster

Australian mining giant BHP is facing pressure from investors to speed up cleanup and repair work in parts of Brazil devastated by the deadly collapse of a mining waste dam in 2015.

During two weeks of talks with communities still grappling with the fallout from the disaster, the chairman of a coalition of 86 UK pension funds managing $630 billion heard from residents and other stakeholders who said that BHP’s efforts to rebuild housing and improve water quality in affected areas were taking too long.

New homes are being built in the Brazilian community of Bento Rodrigues following the 2015 collapse of BHP and Vale’s Fundao tailings dam.Credit:Renova Foundation

“One of the goals of the trip to Brazil was to increase engagement,” said Doug McMurdo of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), which represents about 40 BHP shareholders.

“Having seen the impact of the dam collapse with our own eyes, LAPFF can now ask more focused and impactful questions,” he said.

The burst of the Fundao tailings dam in Mariana, which BHP owned with Brazilian miner Vale through their 50/50 iron ore joint venture Samarco, is considered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster on record. Its collapse in November 2015 killed 19 people and dumped millions of tons of waste into local waterways.

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McMurdo, who met Vale representatives in Brazil, said he was “beyond disappointed” that BHP had chosen to decline an invitation to meet despite providing the group of investors with many years of support. regular commitment.

“Being denied access for a totally incomprehensible reason strikes a chord,” he said. “It also raises many questions for LAPFF members and other investors about the effectiveness of management and corporate governance when the company refuses to commit to reasonable requests – and, opinions of LAPFF, important and necessary – of the investors.”

McMurdo said he believed the flaws in the structure of BHP and Vale’s Renova Foundation, established in 2016 to advance reparations and compensation programs for the environment and communities affected by the Samarco tragedy. , contributed to the “poor and interminable” execution of the necessary works. .