Report by Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network, with assistance from Aldo Orellana, Andrew Hickman, Diana Salazar, Fiona Watson, Gabriela Sarmet, Javiera Martinez, Paul Robson and Rodrigo Peret.
The good news
Because of continuing COVID-19 restrictions, Anglo American held a ‘hybrid’ AGM on Wednesday 5 May, with a quorum of four shareholders (all Anglo American directors or management) in their London offices and other board members and shareholders joining online using the Lumi platform favoured by a number of large companies. This was an improvement over last year’s closed doors AGM.
For the first time, Anglo American has made a complete recording of its AGM available via its website. This also is a welcome step forward in accountability.
The company took a large number of critical questions, provided responses, allowed follow-up questions and promised to publish more detailed written answers to some of the questions on its website some time after the AGM, together with written answers to written questions submitted in advance of the AGM and not dealt with at the meeting.
Since it was not possible for shareholders to address the meeting, written questions submitted in advance or via the question box on the Lumi website were read out – with admirable clarity, I must say – by an anonymous ‘third party facilitator’. He would get my vote in any contest to do announcements in noisy public places.
Furthermore, company personnel were assiduous in their efforts to ensure that London Mining Network’s proxy holders received the necessary log-in details for the AGM so that they could listen and interact. These efforts were helpful because the company’s registrars, responsible for sending out papers for the meeting, were clearly a little confused about the new AGM arrangements. I spent many hours on the phone prior to the meeting trying to ensure that our proxies would be able to attend. At least it helped establish who really, really wanted to attend the AGM
Right, that’s it for the good news. You’ll note that the bad news below is rather longer.
The bad news
On a number of issues, the company’s Chair Stuart Chambers was evasive and managed to avoid answering questions while appearing to answer them fully, and usually finishing with the words, “Next question, please,” as though the matter were now closed.
Anglo American selected and grouped the questions on Peru into three blocks and Stuart Chambers responded in a general way. However, he made technical claims that require technical and hydrological analysis to produce an adequate and forceful answer. Our colleagues in Peru are working on this.
On the company’s Minas Rio iron ore project in Brazil, Stuart Chambers did not adequately address the point being made, that they had heightened a tailings (fine wastes) dam in violation of a recent law forbidding such heightening when there are communities living downstream. He simply asserted that the company’s actions were legal. But that was what was being disputed!
On Anglo American’s interest in Amazonia, the company was asked a crystal clear question: Will Anglo American and its subsidiaries commit to not mine in any indigenous territory in Brazil that has not yet been officially identified, including those of uncontacted indigenous peoples? The reply was that they will “undertake to seek FPIC”. So, they give no commitment/guarantee to obtain FPIC, merely to seek it. This is the standard position of the mining industry. It is the position of ICMM (International Council on Mining and Metals) in their new Global Tailings Dam Standards, and the story of the process leading up to the publication of the Standards (August 2020) shows that the industry will fight tooth and nail to defend that position. Anglo American also said they will “also always seek to obtain Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) prior to activities that may significantly impact on indigenous peoples’ land, livelihoods and cultural heritage.” But how do they define “may significantly impact”? They have a track record of denying and minimising impacts. And what about the impacts in regions near indigenous territories, which have an effect also on indigenous territories themselves?
On Cerrejon Coal in Colombia, the company avoided answering many of the questions. We knew that they would not have time to answer all the questions presented, but their choice of what to answer and what not to answer was instructive. They did not say whether they had any statement to make on the complaint filed with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in January of this year for some of the mine’s impacts. Perhaps they thought it would make them look irresponsible if they mentioned the existence of this new OECD complaint, brought by various human rights organisations from the UK, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany.
Anglo American also failed to respond to the following question: ‘In addition to Colombia, in which other countries and mining operations in which Anglo American is involved have there been complaints and petitions regarding health problems caused to communities near the mines? Does the company have a consolidated study on this subject?‘
We consider that this kind of report is vital for the company to fully understand and respond to the negative impact that it creates in the whole region of Latin America and in many countries of the world. We hope this question will cause Anglo American at least to start documenting this information.
They also missed two questions on just transition and neighbouring communities:
‘In the company’s transition plans for the coal business, what plans are in place so as not to evade its responsibility for environmental and social liabilities that still remain unremediated at the time of its departure?’
‘What do you have to say regarding the complaints of the lack of comprehensive reparation to the African descent community of Tabaco in La Guajira, which, according to Constitutional Court’s Sentence T-329/17, has not been justified by the Carbones del Cerrejón company, despite the actions that it claims to have carried out?’
We consider that not answering these questions at the AGM is evidence of a lack of responsibility on these very urgent issues.
It is also worth noting that they did not respond to the following from mine workers’ union Sintracarbon:
‘Unjustified dismissal of workers
‘Within the framework of the same economic strategy, in February 2021, the company, unjustifiably and without consulting the workers, carried out a massive dismissal of more than 200 workers. Sintracarbón has sought legal help to respond to this violation of Colombian and international labour laws with legal actions. Sintracarbon demands the immediate reinstatement of all employees dismissed from their positions and has managed to reinstate nine of them by legal means.
‘If there are already nine workers reinstated by legal means, how does Anglo American recognize its responsibility in the massive and unjustified dismissal of more than 200 workers in the midst of a global pandemic?
‘Stigmatization of communities affected by the mine in claiming their rights
‘The company’s economic strategy proposes the expansion of the mine. Communities affected by such expansion have claimed their rights to a clean environment, health and water.
‘Why has Anglo American stigmatized the communities that have made claims, many of them protected by court decisions, making them seem the cause of the company’s economic problem?’
On Chile, our colleagues tell us:
Anglo American’s responses seem completely inadequate to us. In their answers they deny any impact on our glaciers and our water resources. It has been widely documented (1) how the actions of the mining company have destroyed the Infiernillo glacier, whose equivalent loss in water up to 1997 was calculated between 6 million cubic metres and 9 million cubic metres, however, foundations such as Glaciares Chilenos currently estimate that this impact could be even greater as the natural advance of the glacier is accelerating due to the 14 million tons of debris deposited by the mining company on its surface (2).
Another concern is the effects on the La Paloma reservoir due to a 9-kilometre exploration tunnel underneath it in the direction of the Río Olivares valley, in Río Colorado. As Sara Larrain, Director of Chile Sustentable (3), said, “This mining operation is in an area of glaciers that constitute the water reserve for the Metropolitan Region. It is a brutal project, insofar as it destroys strategic reserves of fresh water and at the same time it is tremendously dangerous, where with any alluvium or hot rain pollutants can come along with the removal material, as happened in Copiapó, a region in the North of Chile, two years ago” (4).
Chile is facing one of the most terrible water crises. There are studies that suggest that the water scarcity in certain territories is closely related to the presence of mining operations (5). This is the case of the El Melón Community near the El Soldado mine. In that region, around 90% of the inhabitants are supplied by truck tanks, since there is no other way to access drinking water. The community sued Anglo American because they did not have access to drinking water. The Supreme Court ruled that the State must supply 100 litres of water for the community. However, it is public knowledge that it is the actions of Anglo American that have left the population without water(6). As Greenpeace Chile indicates “The excessive use of the company’s water rights through the El Soldado Mine is brutal. While Anglo American reaches more than 453 litres per second in total rights granted to water, the entire population of El Melón must settle for only 55 litres”(7). It seems unacceptable for Anglo American to deny any responsibility for the impacts they are having on the lives of hundreds of people and the ecosystem.
The Question and Answer session
1. The following account concentrates on the issues of direct concern to the communities and organisations with which we work in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru. Very important issues were also raised by other organisations working on climate change, community evictions around the Kumba iron ore mine in South Africa, and Blood Diamonds and the connection with the Israeli government. Do listen to these in the AGM webcast. They are in the earlier part of the Question and Answer session, which begins at minute 25. (The webcast begins with presentations by company Chair Stuart Chambers and Chief Executive Mark Cutifani.)
You can find all the questions which we submitted in advance on our website.
Blaming the messenger
2. Stuart Chambers began the Question and Answer session by saying that there were one or two shareholders representing NGOs and community groups who had submitted a great many questions, more than sixty, very detailed, and some of them were the same as last year. [He appeared to imply that the number of questions was unreasonable and that ‘repeat’ questions were unnecessary; our view is that the fact that some questions are repeated year by year shows that the company’s responses, in words and in actions, are inadequate.] There would not be time to address all these questions properly at the AGM, he said.
3. The company respects the role of these shareholders in voicing communities’ concerns, he said. [He did not mention that the company’s board are profoundly irritated by them, but I suspect that they are. And the way in which questions were read out – not that I blame the reader – suggested that a very large proportion of the questions were mine, personally. In fact, none of the questions was mine: they were all from the communities and organisations with which we work in Latin America, and in normal circumstances would have been put either by community representatives or other proxies appointed for the purpose, not by me.]
4. Stuart Chambers said he would respond to the broad themes of these NGO and community questions at the AGM and reply in more detail after the AGM. He said that Anglo American’s teams in the countries concerned are best placed to respond. [Doubtless: but the level of mistrust between these teams and the communities with which we work is very great in most cases. That is why our friends wanted to present questions at the company AGM.]
5. He said he would respond first to questions submitted in advance, grouped by topic, and then to questions submitted during the meeting. All questions would be read out by a third party facilitator.
Questions submitted by London Mining Network on behalf of communities affected by the Minas Rio iron ore mine, Brazil
6. How does company’s interpretation of new legislation on tailings dams in Brazil ensure that the needs of affected communities are central to the approach that the company takes on this issue?
7. In the context of the raising of the height of the dam, why is Anglo American not complying with the safety precept nor meeting the demands of families that would like to be moved to safety?
8. How does Anglo American intend to deal with the suffering of communities living beneath the tailings dam in fear of the dam falling?
9. What is the purpose of the independent technical advisory organisation for affected people and will the company adapt its programmes if they are considered insufficient by the communities?
10. Stuart Chambers: We have total confidence in the integrity of the Minas Rio tailings facility. This is an embankment dam built using compacted imported earth fill material with carefully selected granular materials for the drainage and the filter zones. Tailings are not used to build the dam and construction materials are carefully selected and placed in controlled layers. This is a conservative design for a tailings dam being designed and built as a water retaining dam. The team follows a comprehensive dam safety management programme as required by the internal Anglo American technical standard and in line with best practice around the world which includes daily inspections, weekly instrument reading, geotechnical inspections at least every fifteen days and quarterly inspections performed by the Engineer of Record. Also an independent technical review panel composed of three independent specialist engineers provides an independent review at least once a year.
11. Through dialogue, sharing of documents and three emergency drill simulations so far involving the authorities and communities surrounding Minas Rio we have worked with communities to ensure they are fully prepared in the unlikely event of a breach. Emergency sirens are situated in the relevant communities. We recognise that the concern of communities increased after the disaster in Brumadinho in 2019. However, since 2017 we have initiated dialogue with communities which resulted in a voluntary resettlement programme for all the communities located in the risk zone of a dam break scenario which is, in this case, within 10 kilometres downstream of the Minas Rio tailings dam. We did this before the enactment of the new federal and state laws that the question referred to. To date, 46 households, representing around two thirds, have joined the resettlement programme. Any resettlements are carried out following relevant internal policies and international best practice as well as Brazilian law.
12. In the agreement with the state environment agency and the public prosecutor’s office Anglo American appointed independent technical advisors to help communities better understand the socio-environmental impacts of the Minas Rio operations as well as the status, results and the technical information regarding the socio-environmental plans programmes and porjects developed by the company. Anglo American is responsible for financing those entities and for providing information and clarifications that can strengthen the technical support for the communities.
Questions submitted by London Mining Network on behalf of communities affected by Cerrejon Coal in Colombia
13. Shareholders in Cerrejon Coal have received the English translation of court ruling T-614 regarding the protection of the health and environment of Wayuu communities in La Guajira. Do you consider that the construction of a medical centre, and washing the roofs of the houses in the indigenous reservation of Provincial, is an effective measure to control the health risks that the children of this community have suffered due to mining contamination, as reported by their indigenous mothers?
14. Stuart Chambers: Cerrejon is a Joint Venture in which Anglo American has a 33%share and is run by an independent management. Nevertheless as a shareholder we can attempt to influence things for good outcomes. In January 2020 Cerrejon was served with this ruling on Tutela 614 regarding the community of Provincial and shareholders were made aware of the details of that ruling. We support Cerrejon in complying with the ruling in full and this work is under way. A tutela is a legal mechanism in Colombia where individuals or a community can claim breach of their human rights. Cerrejon was found not to have been violating Colombian air quality standards. In March 2021 Cerrejon reached agreement with all the traditional leaders of the community of Provincial. The agreement covers much more than the measures you have listed and goes beyond the actions listed in the ruling. Rather than too much detail now, we will put a more detailed answer to this question on our website following this AGM.
15. In the diversion of the natural channel of the Bruno stream in La Guajira, Colombia, has the spiritual effect caused to the Wayuu and African descent communities been considered?
16. Stuart Chambers: I remember two years ago this was discussed in quite a lot of detail. The diversion of the Bruno Creek is 3.6 kilometres of the course of a seasonal creek that has been diverted about 700 metres to the north. It was fully permitted in 2014 and completed over the following two years. It has been carried out according to leading technical standards and is becoming an increasingly established biodiversity corridor with flora and fauna expanding naturally. The Colombian Ministry of the Interior did decree that the community of Campo Herrea was the only community that required consultation prior to the diversion. Cerrejon carried out this consultation, which took both spiritual and cultural impacts into consideration. In 2017 a Constitutional Court ruling stated that three further communities should be consulted. I am assured that all ongoing consultations also take both spiritual and cultural needs into consideration.
Questions submitted by London Mining Network on behalf of Colombian coal mine workers’ union Sintracarbon
17. During 2020, despite a 91 day strike the Carbones del Cerrejon company tried to impose what some termed a ‘death shift’ that abruptly increases the number of working hours for workers, reducing mental and physical wellbeing and increasing time away from their family. The shift change affects the employability of approximately 700 workers and reduces the total number of employees by 25%. In February, in the midst of the pandemic, the company went on to unjustifiably dismiss over 200 workers. Nine have been reinstated by legal means. Why does Anglo American allow these changes in the business at the expense of labour rights?
18. Stuart Chambers: These are management issues, including negotiations with the unions on pay and benefits, and they are best addressed by the Cerrejon management. However, of course it is of interest to us. Over the last two years Cerrejon has had to respond to a very challenging market and market conditions for Colombian thermal coal by transforming its business. This plan began by optimising processes, reducing costs and finally it became necessary to redesign the size of the organisation. The challenges were discussed in the 2020 collective bargaining discussions.
19. I recognise how hard this situation is for those most closely affected. As a shareholder Anglo American has supported Cerrejon management in acting responsibly for the future of the company and La Guajira and the largest possible number of employees and their families. The strike that you mentioned was concluded on 1 December last year. However, the introduction of the new roster was not under discussion during the strike, but it was mentioned significantly in the media. It is a roster that is used across other extractive sector operations in Colombia. The resizing of the organisation has been unavoidable. It has been carried out in accordance with labour regulations and in good faith. Conversations were carefully planned to ensure that they were respectful and recordings were held and shared by former employees. Workers were offered an initial comprehensive voluntary package with the emphasis being first on those who were interested in leaving the organisation.
20. In the company’s transition plans for the thermal coal business, What plans are in place not to evade responsibility for environmental and social liabilities at Cerrejon and how willing is Anglo American to engage with communities and workers for a just transition?
21. Stuart Chambers: We have been very clear that we intend to exit our 33% shareholding in Cerrejon. We have been transitioning away from thermal coal in a responsible way that always takes the needs of our stakeholders into account and this inevitably looks different in different mines. At Cerrejon any action will need to take into account the specific shareholder dynamics bearing in mind this is a Joint Venture with BHP and Glencore. It also needs to take into account the regional and local complexities including requirements under Colombian law.
Questions submitted by Doug McMurdo and Lara Blecher of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF)
22. Stuart Chambers was thanked for meeting with LAPFF. On Anglo American’s ESG update call last week, it was noted that the company is evolving its position on non-operated Joint Ventures. It appears from Anglo American’s reporting that the Social Way programme applies to Anglo American managed sites only. Does this mean that it does not apply to the Cerrejon Joint Venture? If not, how does Anglo American approach the ongoing labour and community concerns at Cerrejon which appear to be inconsistent with Social Way 3.0?
23. Stuart Chambers: Our policies, including our Social Way, do apply to our managed operations. With regard to non-operated Joint Ventures, we do seek the influence the relevant site to adopt a framework commensurate with the requirements of our policies and, as a minimum, to comply, of course, with local laws. In the case of Cerrejon and the Social Way, we seek to influence its management of social issues as per our standard and in 2017 we carried out a gap assessment against the Social Way and Cerrejon has since improved its performance against this assessment and this is why we have focused on ensuring that all resettlements respect the IFC Performance Standards including Standard Number 5 on land acquisition and involuntary resettlement. It is also why we support Cerrejon in carrying out its third human rights assessment which had to be postponed for a year due to COVID and this work is due to begin in the next two months. Community engagement and socialisation will form an important element of this work.
24. LAPFF has heard from affected workers and community members at Cerrejon that, of the non-operated Joint Venture partners, only BHP has sent a board member to meet with them and discuss their concerns. Would Anglo American be willing to send a board member this year to meet with affected workers communities at Cerrejon and would this board member then be willing to report back to workers, community members and investors on how these engagements will inform Anglo American’s strategy and business decision making?
25. Stuart Chambers: At the moment, the Sustainability Committee of the board receives a report on all noteworthy social and governance issues across our business, and that includes Cerrejon, on a quarterly basis. I follow those closely as do my fellow members of the board.
26. Mark Cutifani: It’s important to note that I have actually visited the site. I have spoken with residents that have been resettled and also employees and I do understand how difficult it is going through a restructuring, particularly in times such as we have today and in particular at our operations in thermal coal where it is becoming very difficult and quite challenging but at the same time these things are being done, we think, in the right way. In our case, Seamus French, who is responsible for our bulk materials operations across the globe knows the site and has been a regular visitor though not in the last twelve months or so given COVID restrictions but as soon as we are able to get back on site Seamus will consult with those people that people request for us to talk to and he will provide us with feedback at our Sustainability Committee and the board and certainly he would be prepared to provide feedback to local management and employees and others who wish to be consulted as part of the process. Certainly we acknowledge how difficult these things can be and we will do everything we can to make sure we are a constructive part of the conversation.
Questions submitted by London Mining Network on behalf of communities affected by the Los Bronces Integrated Project, Chile
27. Communities neighbouring Los Bronces are worried about the environmental impacts that the Los Bronces Integrated Project may have over the glaciers, water quality and availability and on the Yerba Loca Park. Why is the project not considering a monitoring system during construction and operation phases to check for the presence of particulate matter on the nearby whit glaciers? Why isn’t Anglo American monitoring its potential harm? How can we know how much dust they produce if there is no independent monitoring? Are you considering using sea water for Los Bronces?
28. Stuart Chambers: This is an emotive subject for all of us. Los Bronces Integrated Project Environmental Study is currently being reviewed by the Chilean authorities. This project includes an operational extension of the current pit and a new underground mine that has been designed to avoid any impact at the surface. Key aspects of the design from the start include: no impact on glaciers, no impacts on biodiversity and protected areas, no additional freshwater to be used in the process, no additional plant capacity would be needed, or any additional waste or tailings storage capacity, and no additional impact on the access road.
29. Specifically on glaciers, the Los Bronces Integrated Project has shown through scientific studies that it will not impact on glaciers. The project, if approved, will provide full monitoring of dust on all glaciers including those in Yerba Loca sanctuary. Los Bronces has been monitoring these glaciers already for six years. Data will be available for stakeholders via a web platform. Concerning water, Anglo American has a target of reducing the use of fresh water by 50% by 2030. Los Bronces has its own water strategy to reduce the use of fresh water been and has been using industrial water not fit for other purposes as well as recycling around 80% of all its water. We continue assessing different alternative water sources and desalinated seawater is certainly one of those.
30. The Environmental Impact Assessment of the Los Bronces Integrated Project circumscribes the project’s area of influence to a few glaciers and does not include all the glaciers that would be affected, such as those within the Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary, like Paloma and Olivares glaciers amongst others. Why is Anglo American hiding the truth from communities about the impact on other glaciers?
31. Stuart Chambers: This should receive a pretty robust response in the interests of all shareholders who do not know the detail of this. Anglo American does not hide information from communities. All the information on the project is available at our website and at the environmental evaluation system website. We have also implemented public meetings with the communities interested in receiving more information on the project. According to all the information collected, including six years of baseline studies and applying scientific models the Los Bronces Integrated Project will not affect those glaciers. The project, once approved, will provide full monitoring of dust on all glaciers including those in Yerba Loca sanctuary.
32. In January of this year, residents observed foam in the Colina River. Expert analysis indicated that the levels of some heavy metals were well above the norm. However, Anglo American denied outright that this could be caused by its processes foam. How can Anglo American assure that they are only river sediments before the results of a laboratory analysis have been published? Isn’t it the responsibility of the company to prove to the community, through reliable data, its supposed lack of culpability?
33. Stuart Chambers: Los Bronces is a closed operation with no discharge of water to any stream. The Los Bronces operation does not discharge water to the Colina river. We are certain that Los Bronces had nothing to do with the situation which you describe. All the information we collected about this event was timely submitted to the environmental agency.
Questions submitted by London Mining Network on behalf of communities concerned about water availability around El Soldado mine, Chile
34. How do you plan to respond to the decrease in water resources in Nogales and other affected territories? In the future, water production will become more complex. How do you plan to approach this situation?
35. Stuart Chambers: El Soldado has undertaken several measures in recent years to reduce the consumption of water as well as to make more efficient use of this precious resource. Our water recycling is now reaching 85% there. Even though Anglo American owns water rights for 400 litres per second our abstraction is not allowed to exceed 120 litres per second according to the permits under which we operate currently. In line with the group’s global commitment in our sustainable mining plan our goal is to continue reducing the use of fresh water. We have been working in partnership with the local authorities and communities on water solutions and we will provide more detail in a written response on our website.
36. Chile is one of the most earthquake-prone countries on the planet, yet in Chile, mega tailings [dams] are being built that constitute a serious danger to the human population, as evidenced by the disasters that occurred in Brazil, Canada and other countries. Why doesn’t Anglo American do simulations with the most modern artificial intelligence tools which could allow us to know where the tailings will travel, at what speed, for how long, and how far they will go in the event of a total collapse?
37. Knowing the danger to the lives of the people who live downstream of a dam, why aren’t there evacuation drills in case of a collapse, as is done with tsunamis and other disasters?
38. Why does the company continue to build mega dams in Chile which cannot be built in other countries such as Australia and why does it not take responsibility for recycling useful waste materials?
39. Stuart Chambers: We do simulations of dam breaches and we make use of state of the art software to calculate the extent of tailings and water flow but also to derive the flow velocities, the flow depths, the estimated times of arrival (ETAs) of the flood at key points downstream of the tailings dam. When conducting dam breach assessments we make use of all the information that serves to enhance the accuracy of the assessment and these assessments are used to produce drawings where the outlines of the impact zone are plotted as well as the other pertinent information and all of this detail is shared with the relevant authorities. Concerning recent dam failures, Mark will add a bit of colour on dam construction.
38. Mark Cutifani: We do not use any upstream construction methods in South America. By upstream, we are meaning that we first establish a dam wall using material sourced from what we call a borrow pit, or a hole, and we construct the first wall, and then any lift to the dam wall is provided by the dried out tailings that have been placed in the dam so that the tailings are put on top of the dam wall, it is dried out, compacted, and then they lift each two or three years. We don’t use those methodologies for three reasons: one, in high seismicity areas, areas of high or consistent rainfall, or taking into account local topography. What we do is we use engineered material that is laid up and compacted layer upon layer and it is called a downstream construction, and that’s what we are using in Chile, and it has a much higher factor of safety and certainly one that, from an engineering point of view, is designed specifically for the applications in Chile, and I think that’s a very important point to make and the dam failures that you are referring to are upstream failures, which is the first dam that I described.
39. Stuart Chambers: All our tailings storage facilities in Chile have developed emergency and evacuation plans to date and a number of these plans have already been shared and discussed with local emergency authorities and communities and we plan to continue this process to involve all local relevant parties and we plan to involve all neighbouring communities in the implementation of emergency drills and simulations to fulfil our emergency preparedness requirements. This is ongoing.
40. Some organisations have asked about contributions made by Anglo American to political campaigns in Chile and demand to know which candidates have received political contributions from Anglo American.
41. Stuart Chambers: Anglo American does not make political contributions anywhere in the world. Our Code of Conduct could not be clearer. We do not provide financial or other support for political purposes to any politician, any political party or related organisation, or to any official of a political party or a candidate for political office in any circumstances, either directly or through third parties. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify that key point.
Questions submitted by London Mining Network on behalf of communities affected by the Quellaveco copper project in Peru
42. We are deeply concerned by the impact of Quellaveco on water in a region where Peru’s driest desert is located. Water is a non-renewable resource which flows in a hydrological cycle that does not allow for a concept of surplus water. It is key to the natural process of interactions between nature and living beings. The Peruvian ombudsman has warned that water could be a future source of conflict in the Tambo River Basin.
43. What kind of permissions or concessions do you have from the authorities in Peru for water use?
44. What is the payment that Anglo American makes for the use of this water to the Peruvian State and to the farming communities that depend on rainfall and underground and surface water courses?
45. Can we see Quellaveco’s water management plan including the assessed impact on the sea?
46. Stuart Chambers: For both construction and operation of a mine in Peru, a water licence is required. Currently, Quellaveco has two phases of the water use licence approved and the last is due to be approved once the construction of the water infrastructure is complete, and has been inspected by the water authority. This forms part of the process as outlined in Peruvian regulations. A water use licence is a permanent right that does not expire, and the National Water Authority of Peru establishes the payment rates for water use annually and these vary according to the type of source, and the availability, amongst other factors.
47. Anglo American is very sensitive to how precious water is, particularly in southern Peru, and this is why it has been a key part of our consultation with the communities for many, many years, including in the dialogue table engagements of 2012. Community concerns have influenced the design of the mine. The diversion of the Asana River will guarantee the quality and the quantity of water for villagers who live downstream of the Asana River Basin. Management of the diversion will also reduce the negative impacts of extreme rainfall on downstream communities, a benefit which was experienced and recognised by communities in 2019 when there was extreme rainfall.
48. The Tambo River is the main supply of water to the agricultural area of the Tambo Valley. Based on existing experience of the Pasto Grande dam, which also feeds water into the Tambo Valley, we are confident that ther Vizcachas dam will improve the availability and quality of water in the Tambo Valley.
49. As agreed with communities in 2012, Quellaveco has a zero discharge commitment, the first of its kind in Peru. No mining contact waters will be discharged, and so will not impact water bodies. Environmental information, including water management, in Peru is publicly available so for the Titiri and the Vizcachas area, water management is described in the Water Use Plan that is part of the Works Execution Authorisation approved by the National Water Authority, the ANA. For the project’s area of operation, both mine and plant, the Surface Water Management Plan is contained in chapter 9 of the approved EIA.
50. With regard to the diversion of the Asana River at Quellaveco, engineering cannot replicate what Nature has taken centuries to create. What will the impact be on the relationship between surface and ground water as a consequence of the diversion of the Asana River and how will Anglo American guarantee the lifelong maintenance that the diversion will need?
51. Stuart Chambers: The Asana River diversion has been built in order to ensure the quality and quantity of water in the Asana River downstream of the mine. The Quellaveco team, environmental authorities and the community representatives carry out tests to corroborate what has been evaluated in the technical studies. The monitoring will continue throughout the whole life of the mine. To date, no impacts to water have been identified in the Asana River area. According to the hydrogeological study at Quellaveco, 96% of the contributions to underground flow come from the upper part of the Asana River valley, which is upstream of the project, therefore the impact if the project is very slow.
52. The current design of the Quellaveco project aims to restore the Asana River to its natural course upon closure by a process called co-disposal where sterile material will be restored to the pit and this process has been reviewed and approved by the competent authorities both in the Environmental Impact Study and in the project’s Mine Closure Plan. Additionally, in the case of the Mine Closure Plan, national regulations establish a financial guarantee mechanism that will ensure funds are in place to carry out those closure activities.
53. In November 2019 the government formed the Tumilaca Working Group, made upo of national water and environmental authorities and civil society organisations. The objective of the working group is to review the Quellaveco Environmental Impact Study and to carry out new studies to determine if it is causing contamination of the Asana-Tumilaca River among others.
54. Is there any news about this working group?
55. Are there any public conclusions they have reached, and what topics have the group worked on?
56. Stuart Chambers: In September of last year, after reviewing Quellaveco’s EIA, the Tumilaca Working Group proposed 154 points to be considered as part of their monitoring activities. Since then all on site activities by this group have been postponed due to COVID 19 but they are scheduled to start this month. The Quellaveco team is meeting with them weekly. Two social projects have been agreed to improve irrigation infrastructure and to strengthen agrarian activities, and their execution is under way. The government has agreed, separate to this, 106 monitoring items as part of their consideration of the EIA. They have decided to stick to this number given that their assessment is the legally approved process. They have stated that once the TWG monitoring is complete their results will be compared with the authorities’ results. Conclusions will be provided and the TWG will be formally closed. The members of the TWG will be invited ot jojn Quellaveco’s Environmental Participative Monitoring Group.
Questions submitted via the online platform
Anglo American in Amazonia
57. Fiona Watson of Survival International: Will Anglo American and its subsidiaries commit to not mine in any indigenous territory in Brazil that has not yet been officially identified, including those of uncontacted indigenous peoples? Will Anglo American and its subsidiaries commit to not mine in any indigenous territory in Brazil that is in the process of being identified, demarcated or ratified?
58. Stuart Chambers: We are aware of the difficult history between indigenous peoples and the mining sector for a very long time and in too many cases legal and illegal mining have caused negative impacts on IPs. We intend to uphold our 2003 commitment not to explore or develop new mines in world heritage sites and will also respect legally designated protected areas in line with the ICMM position statement on mining in protected areas. We will also always seek to obtain Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) prior to activities that may significantly impact on indigenous peoples’ land, livelihoods and cultural heritage. That is our very clear position.
59. Fiona Watson: The Sawre Muybu indigenous territory in the Brazilian state of Para, which belongs to the Munduruku people, has been identified but not yet ratified in law. Will Anglo American and its subsidiaries undertake to not mine anywhere in this territory during any future phase of the demarcation and ratification process? Will Anglo American undertake not to mine in all the protected areas in the buffer zone around the Sawre Muybu indigenous territory in Para state Brazil which belongs to the Munduruku people?
60. Stuart Chambers: We seek indigenous peoples’ approval to access their land prior to conducting any activity and we do also seek FPIC before undertaking activity which might significantly impact on indigenous peoples’ land’ livelihoods and cultural heritage. We respect the right of indigenous communities to oppose mining related activities. We will follow our standards and practices as outlined in the Social Way if they are more stringent than the national law.
61. Fiona Watson: Has Anglo American and its subsidiaries in Brazil consulted with the Munduruku communities and their organizations about its applications to mine in areas bordering their indigenous territory, Sawre Muybu in Para state, Brazil?
62. Stuart Chambers: In the case of the Munduruku people and the indigenous lands being referred to we have not undertaken any activity and nor is any activity intended so we have therefore not engaged with that community nor sought any form of FPIC. That’s our position.
Community resettlements around the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia
63. Diana Salazar of Colombia Solidarity Campaign: The Wayuu and African descent community resettlements in Cerrejon have not been successful. Very basic issues such as access to water are still in urgent need of attention. You say that you are selling Cerrejon so how will you fulfil your responsibility?
64. Stuart Chambers: Cerrejon has five settlements at their final stages carried out according to IFC Standard 5 and a 2018 review of all resettlements did identify livelihood creation as an area for improvement. Through participative round-tables Cerrejon management have co-designed appropriate projects going forward. There has been significant progress. On water, maintenance is being done on the irrigation system for the Patilla community. In 2020 the Chancleta community agreed to lab verification of the quality of their water supply. While this is delayed due to COVID, Cerrejon is supplying them with water. We will continue supporting Cerrejon to complete the resettlements according to the IFC standard.
Los Nogales Natural Reserve in Chile
65. Javiera Martinez of London Mining Network: The potential purchase by Anglo of the Los Nogales Natural Reserve (the company already owns 32% of the reserve) is a matter of concern among the communities and environmental organisations of the Mapocho River Basin. The national newspaper Interferencia has reported that Anglo will give a potential industrial use to part of the reserve while also stating that the company will not undertake works that are not compatible with its category of protected area. What will happen with the purchase and with the use of the Natural Reserve?
66. Stuart Chambers: Anglo American has looked at the potential acquisition of available land near Los Bronces with the sole aim of consolidating it into a larger preservation area in line with our biodiversity commitment to deliver net positive impact. Let me assure you, if we do acquire this land, it has nothing to do with industrial use: this is a protected area, and Anglo American will strictly follow the regulations for this type of land.
Removal of tailings dams in Chile
67. Javiera Martinez: Why has Anglo American not fulfilled its promise, made in 2015 regarding the moving of the Perez Caldera1 and 2 tailings dams, maintaining a latent threat for thousands of people living in the east part of Santiago? Has there been any progress since the 2020 report in which you indicated that 40% of the tailings had been removed? Why, if Anglo American claims to have enough water for the rest of its processes, do they not have enough water for this task, while causing environmental damage and posing a great hazard for the communities?
68. Stuart Chambers: It has taken longer than any of us would have liked. The removal of the old tailings is taking time due to mainly drought, which is affecting the whole of central Chile and has been affecting it for the last decade. We have recently submitted a project plan to the environmental assessment authorities to allow us to remove the remaining tailings by 2030. I can assure you that these facilities are subject to constant monitoring according to our group technical standard on tailings and they do not present a safety risk.
Glaciers in Chile
69. Javiera Martinez: Why does Anglo American deny their destruction of glacial environments? Wouldn’t acknowledging this issue be an honest way to build a new relationship? When will Anglo American make any specific proposal to protect the glaciers? As we know, stating that the company complies with current legislation is not enough, as the existing law does not protect glaciers?
70. Stuart Chambers: We are very, very clear that Anglo American does not damage glaciers. In fact, we have been carrying out scientific studies on the glaciers near Los Bronces, for example, precisely to ensure that we do protect them. Glaciers are protected by current Chilean environment law, and any activity that affects glaciers needs an environmental permit. So let me assure you on those points.
71. Javiera Martinez: When asked about Anglo American’s use of its standard, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environmentstated, ‘The Swiss ordinance for control of air pollution states the environmental limit value (ELV) for the fall of dust at 200 milligrammes per square metre per day as an annual average. These ELVs serve the purpose of protecting the land and, indirectly, protecting health, but are not related to glaciers. Why would a company listed on the London Stock Exchange, claiming to adhere to sustainability criteria, agree to use Swiss a regulation that we know does not consider glaciers?
72. Stuart Chambers: I need to correct that assertion because the Swiss norm does in fact include glaciers as part of the natural environment. Chilean law accepts the use of international norms when there is no applicable local norm and the Swiss norm is widely used in Chile and accepted by the environmental regulation authority.
Work for members of local communities in Chile
73. Javiera Martinez: In Chile, can Anglo American ensure policies to prioritise the work of members of the local communities that live near its operations?
74. Stuart Chambers: A significant number of our employees in Chile are from local neighbour communities. That is particularly relevant at El Soldado and Chagres. However, as an inclusive company we do not discriminate when we hire employees. It is important to highlight that our Sustainable Mining Plan also targets us to support the creation of five jobs off site for every job on site by 2030.
Los Bronces Integrated Project in Chile
75. Javiera Martinez: Regardless of complying with the current legislation, do you consider it is ethically correct that the Los Bronces Integrados expansion is using an environmental qualification resolution from 2007 for its operational continuity project, knowing that the conditions of the territory and the planet have radically changed?
76. Stuart Chambers: The Los Bronces Integrated Project is currently being assessed by the Chilean environmental authorities and it has not been approved yet. The 2007 environmental qualification resolution relates to the current operation not the Integrated Project.
Minas Rio project in Brazil
77. Rodrigo Peret of Churches and Mining Network Minas Gerais: The answer on the Minas Rio project in Brazil was not appropriate. It is important to recognise that on February 27 2020 the State Prosecutor‘s Office, represented by four attorneys of differentcompetencies and jurisdictions, filed a public civil action against the State of Minas Gerais and the company Anglo American Minas Rio Mineração. This action refers to the granting of the operating licence to the company on December 20, 2019 by the State Environmental Policy Council authorising the operation of the raising of the dam of Mina do Sapo. This concession violates law 23291 of February 25, 2019, which prohibits dam raising when the existence of communities is identified in the self-rescue zone, as is the case with the communities of São José do Jassem, Água Quente and Passa Sete, which are downstream of the dam
78. Stuart Chambers: I have covered the background to Minas Rio. Our actions in respect of the raising of the tailings dam comply with the law.
79. Stuart Chambers then closed the Question and Answer session on the grounds that although there were questions still outstanding, they were – according to him – repeats of earlier questions. He said the company would make sure they had more complete answers on their website afterwards. The meeting moved on to voting on the resolutions. The poll was closed and the meeting ended.
80. The Struggle, however, continues, as they say in Latin American, Hasta la Victoria!