Report and personal reflection by Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network

1. This year’s BHP plc AGM, held on 14 October at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, central London, may have been the last ever: if shareholders vote at an Extraordinary General Meeting in the first half of next year to end the company’s dual listed structure, there may be no London AGM next year, or ever again. This will lead to an even lower level of accountability, because representatives of the victims of the company’s operations in Latin America will find it much harder to attend AGMs in Australia than they have done, in pre-pandemic times, in London.

2. Given that fact, it was a shame that more of the company’s critics were not able to attend and call it to account for its lack of meaningful action to make good the damage it has done and to redress the multiple injustices with which it is associated. The AGM was a damp squib, with perhaps two dozen people attending, and all but one of the questions were posed by LMN’s BHP AGM team.

3. The evasion and hypocrisy displayed by company leadership was even more nauseating than usual, but perhaps this is no surprise, as the larger London-listed mining companies have developed them into an art form.

4. In the Notice of Meeting, shareholders were invited to submit questions in writing before 6 October if they could not attend in person. The company would not answer questions individually but ‘the Chair will endeavour to address the key themes raised during the meeting’. That, of course, gave him a pretty broad brush: I expect all the questions were about mining, and he could certainly say that he talked about that during the meeting. We submitted numerous detailed questions in writing, and so, we understand, did others. Neither the Chairman nor the CEO referred to any of them – it was as though they had fallen into a vacuum.

5. Not all the company board were in the room. Some members were in Australia. Once the senior independent director, Gary Goldberg, had opened the meeting, a massive virtual Ken MacKenzie, company Chairman, suddenly loomed out of the darkness between the two sets of socially distanced company directors on the stage of the huge assembly room, his dark suit partially backlit so it would stand out from the matt black background out of which it emerged. Without that back lighting, he would have been just a floating head, which would have been even more weird and much more disturbing. The whole display was carefully crafted: Ken was floating at the same kind of level as the board, just above the rest of us but not so much that he would remind us of Big Brother out of Orwell’s 1984, and yet enormous, far bigger than a natural human being, big enough to ensure that the power imbalance between us was symbolically conveyed.

6. He made much of BHP’s respect for the Aboriginal Peoples from whose territory he was speaking and on whose territory the company operates. This struck me as particularly hypocritical, given the company’s refusal, to date, to ditch its involvement in the Resolution Copper project in Arizona, USA, which would destroy Oak Flat, which is sacred to many indigenous Apache people. But then he gave us a clue about the basis of the company’s respect for Indigenous Peoples: BHP ‘recognises and respects the contribution which Indigenous Peoples make to national and international economic prosperity’ – the clear implication being that this contribution is made by allowing mining on their lands. How respectful is BHP when Indigenous Peoples say no to mining?

7. Notably absent from the introductory remarks by company Chairman Ken MacKenzie and company CEO Mike Henry were any mention of the Samarco disaster in Brazil or of the company’s exit from Cerrejón Coal in Colombia.

8. Every AGM since the November 2015 Fundao tailings dam collapse at Samarco’s iron ore operations (50% owned by BHP through BHP Billiton Brasil), the Chairman has made much of the regret that the company feels about the disaster and of how much it is doing to address it. The failure even to mention it until questioned suggested to me that BHP is bored with it – it is old news now, so who cares? When they did respond to questions, it was to excuse themselves from responsibility for the lack of progress in making good the catastrophic damage which the dam collapse caused.

9. BHP is selling its one-third share of Cerrejón Coal to Glencore, one of its two partners in that joint venture. You would have thought the Chairman and the CEO could have mentioned that – the company has profited for 21 years from that involvement and is now pulling out without making good the social and ecological damage the mine has done or taking the trouble to work with mineworkers and local communities to develop a just mine closure plan.

10. You may also have thought that they would want to draw attention to the sale of their share in Cerrejón as an example of their wise exit from thermal coal, especially as Chairman MacKenzie was at pains to stress the company’s low-carbon credentials. BHP has made enormous amounts of money over the years from mining coal and drilling oil, but now it is presenting itself as the saviour of the world because it is planning to mine more and more copper and nickel to contribute to the decarbonisation of the world’s economy. CEO Mike Henry said that copper production in the next thirty years must be double what it has been in the past thirty years if we are to save the climate. This is like a drug-pusher pushing you the antidote to the drug he got you hooked on in the first place.

11. And in any case, BHP’s involvement in oil and metallurgical coal continues. Indeed, mining metallurgical coal, which creates carbon dioxide when burned, just the same as any other kind of coal, is supposedly a necessary part of saving the world from the climate change caused by elevated levels of carbon in the atmosphere. This is because building the infrastructure needed for the low carbon transition will, says BHP, require enormous quantities of steel, and for the foreseeable future steel-making will require metallurgical coal. So, to save the world from carbon emissions, we must emit plenty of carbon. BHP, along with its peers, lacks imagination – instead of seeking a wholly different economic paradigm, they simply plan to hurtle slightly more slowly towards the final climate cataclysm.

12. BHP’s way of thinking about climate is perhaps best summed up in one of Ken MacKenzie’s remarks at the AGM and one paragraph from its 2021 Annual Report.

13. In his opening remarks, the Chairman said that a ‘Paris-aligned 1.5 degree rise is the most beneficial to BHP shareholders’. Now, my understanding is that a global average temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees compared with pre-industrial levels is likely to cause apocalyptic ecological catastrophe, rendering parts of the world uninhabitable, turning hundreds of millions of people into climate refugees, pushing thousands of species into extinction, and destroying entire ecosystems. The implication of the Chairman’s remark is that BHP shareholders may indeed continue to benefit – as the company will be busy mining the copper and nickel and iron ore (and the metallurgical coal to smelt it) needed to tackle the calamity which will have overwhelmed us, and so they can still cash in on their dividends even as they float away on the remnants of their flooded houses or expire from heat exhaustion when their air conditioning gives out. Indeed, the Chairman said that ‘the more the world decarbonises, the more valuable BHP becomes’. So I suppose that continuing to profit from oil and metallurgical coal as long as possible, combined with the most rapid possible expansion of copper, nickel and iron ore mining to counter the effects of profiting from the extraction of oil and metallurgical coal for as long as possible, is the ideal strategy to maximise shareholder dividends.

14. Meanwhile, buried in the middle of a grey text box on page 60 of the 2021 Annual Report are the following words.

15. ‘Despite recent progress, all 1.5 degree C pathways to 2050 represent a major departure from today’s global trajectory and we do not believe the technological, regulatory or economic foundations for a rapid transition to net zero emissions are currently in place. Therefore, a 1.5 degree C Paris-aligned scenario is currently not an input into our planning cases.’

16. Given the company’s obsession with returns to shareholders, perhaps the Chairman should have mentioned this when he said that a 1.5 degree rise is most beneficial to BHP shareholders. He should have added, ‘however, get yourselves ready, because we’re all doomed.’

17. Clearly, the world’s salvation lies in something other than a headlong race to replace fossil-fueled consumerism and the extractivism which underpins it with some other kind of extractivist-based consumerism. A 2019 LMN/War on Want report states that a Just(ice) Transition is a Post-Extractivist Transition. A more recent War on Want report calls for a Material Transition. In his document Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls for an Ecological Conversion. Whatever we call it, spuriously ‘greening’ business as usual will not avert the looming catastrophe, and we cannot expect the likes of BHP to lead us where we need to go.

Questions and answers

Ending the Dual Listed Structure

A shareholder asked how the company’s plan to end its dual listed structure and stop holding AGMs in London would affect UK shareholders. Ken MacKenzie replied that UK shareholders would get one BHP Limited share for each BHP plc share they held, would still receive their dividend in pounds sterling, and would benefit from the increased profitability that the simplified structure would surely produce. The shareholder seemed reassured.

The Samarco tailings dam disaster in Brazil

Damage done by the Samarco tailings dam disaster

Paul Robson pointed out that the future is not ‘clear’ for the survivors of the Samarco tailings dam disaster – it is full of uncertainty. He said that the audit report on RENOVA’s activities by the consultants RAMBOLL shows that RENOVA’s 42 programmes in many areas are rated as incomplete (yellow) or not yet underway (red).

Communities along the Rio Doce have low confidence in the progress of RENOVA’s programmes and low confidence in them achieving their objectives – for them the future is certainly not clear.

Section 4.9 of the annual report outliines legal cases that involve the BHP Group. All of the cases involve SAMARCO. The background to many of these cases is dissatisfaction by Brazilian authorities in the progress with RENOVA’s 42 programmes and the capacity of RENOVA.

SAMARCO is now in administration and under financial pressure to fund the restart of operations and pay creditors, as well as fund RENOVA’s work.

Does BHP agree that, after five years, there is still a great deal left to be done in paying damages and restoring the environment along the Rio Doce?

Can BHP give an unequivocal commitment to the completion of the 42 programmes for paying damages and restoring the environment along the Rio Doce, including ensuring full funding of these programmes?

The Chairman called for all other questions on Samarco.

Terry Blackman asked the following questions.

‘The accounts of your subsidiary Samarco show that it is liable to repay to BHP the contributions that BHP has made to the Renova Foundation so far, which your Annual Report says amount to 1.6 billion dollars to date.. There are concerns raised by local journalists that when Samarco does repay BHP, it will seek to treat these costs as deductible expenses from the income tax base. Can you, as owners of Samarco, assure us that this will not be the case?

Ken MacKenzie said that the Samarco disaster must never be forgotten (though he had forgotten to mention it in his introductory remarks). Samarco has restarted operations so it is now making money again and is paying taxes and royalties. It has paid US$3.6 billion on reparation and 1.3 billion for assistance to affected people. BHP has a forward provision of US$2.6 billion and so has Vale. A lot of work has still to be done but the company has made provision for it. Resettlement is happening more slowly than hoped because of COVID-19 but those whose homes have not been replaced continue to be supported in rental accommodation. BHP is in negotiation over the settlement of all claims but there are many stakeholders and the matter is very complex. The company has the financial resources to make good the claims. Samarco’s debt restructuring would not affect the ability to carry out the necessary programmes. But neither Ken MacKenzie nor Mike Henry were aware of any tax implications. This was for the future, Mike Henry said. The Chairman said they would let Terry know when they have an answer. [They better had!]

Antamina, Peru

Richard Harkinson asked about the company’s Antamina Non-Operated Joint Venture in Peru. He said that BHP’s reporting on the mine was minimal despite it being one of the ten largest copper mines by value. The mine is 4500 metres up in the Andes. Copper and zinc are sent out as a slurry in a pipeline while molybdenum and lead are sent out by truck, which must be logistically difficult. JV partner Teck is more informative in its reporting, and talks of mine expansion. Antamina’s website says the mine will operate in its present form until 2036 with no plans for expansion. Peruvian groups are concerned about the nature of the company’s engagement with affected communities. Is the BHP board aware of the changes that will come when the Peruvian government implements the Escazu environmental agreement? This will affect how Antamina operates, with a new tailings dam being built at 4500 metres. Communities are worried about the effect on their water supply, and are confused by the limited and contradictory information available. Antamina’s water is said to be 100% recycled, and yet the company has two water licences, with no quantification. They need to know the impact on the aquifer and its capacity to recharge. Finally, there are two conflicts with communities which have not been resolved.

Ken MacKenzie said that BHP owns 33.75% of Antamina, a joint venture with Glencore, Mitsubishi and Teck. BHP does not operate it but seeks to influence its design, operation and engagement with communities. The mine is not expanding but its life is being extended to 2036 and this will require greater storage capacity for its tailings facilities. Plans will be discussed with public authorities and affected communities before authorisation is given. All the water used by the mine is rainwater. There is high rainfall in the area so there is no competition with other water users. Antamina is committed to maintaining the flow of the Ayash River throughout the year.

Richard Harkinson asked for clarification: is the company building another tailings dam? Richard’s information was that the company is indeed building another tailings dam, but the Chairman seemed to be saying that they were not. Communities are concerned about contamination of their water by tailings. Ken MacKenzie said that the existing tailings facility would be expanded. [He did not explicitly say that another tailings dam would not be built.]

Resolution Copper, Arizona, USA

Roger Featherstone of Arizona Mining Reform Coalition

I asked questions on behalf of two organisations in Arizona.

‘The Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners’ Coalition says that Resolution Copper’s proposal in Arizona would destroy the surface of Oak Flat, and both drain and pollute the deep aquifers around Superior, and the water supply of farmers and residents of the valley east of Phoenix, using 250 billion gallons of water as drought ravages Arizona. It says the block cave design will not work. Will you abandon the project so that local people may enjoy Oak Flat and prosper for many generations to come? If BHP really needs additional copper from Arizona, why don’t you reopen the San Manuel mine (which had 30 years of copper still underground), instead of destroying Oak Flat?

‘The Arizona Mining Reform Coalition adds that after majority partner Rio Tinto blew up the sacred rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, you promised never to do anything similar. They say that if your words mean anything, BHP has no choice but to abandon the project. You would devastate a people’s culture and religion. You would destroy a valley with a mountain of toxic tailings that would cover the city of London 5 feet deep. Will BHP drop its interest in the Oak Flat proposal and focus on better alternatives?’

Ken MacKenzie said that Resolution Copper is one of the most significant copper deposits in the world but it is a joint venture managed by RT and so questions should be directed to them. But BHP recognises that the areas has historical cultural significance for Native American tribes and BHP is engaging directly with a number of the local Native American communities. BHP also continues to monitor and support Resolution Copper’s consultation with Native American tribes. Development of the project is contingent on obtaining all necessary state and federal permits, and the process is being led by the US Forest Sservice. The tailings dam location has not yet been finalised. All decisions will be considered under BHP’s Indigenous Peoples policy, including Free Prior Informed Consent. The Chairman said he did not know where the San Manuel mine is.

Mike Henry confirmed that the final site of the tailings dam has not yet been set. Mine design and community consultation still have a long way to go. BHP would not support the project without keeping both its policy on Indigenous Peoples consultation and high environmental standards. The world will need a lot more copper, so both mines may be needed. [He did not let us know whether or not he knew where the San Manuel mine is.] The world will need up to twice as much copper over the next 30 years, he said, as was used in the past 30 years if we are to stay in line with the Paris agreements.

BHP’s plans in Ecuador

I also asked about BHP’s plans in Ecuador.

What guarantees can BHP provide its shareholders that its continued explorations in the Intag area are in compliance with local ordinances and protected areas under Ecuador’s state systems including forest and hydrological reserves? It should be noted that the region has been found in a 2018 study to contain over 270 endangered species, and BHP states in its charter it will not conduct activities in areas where there are IUCN-listed species. What guarantees can BHP provide its shareholders that plans to take into account the wishes of the majority of the community regarding mining in this area, considering the expressed distaste of the communities and the numerous ordinances declaring Intag as a mining-free zone?

Ken MacKenzie said this was a green field exploration project. BHP is undertaking low impact exploration works, water sediment and soil sampling and airborne geophysics. Exploration policy involves careful engagement with communities and environmental due diligence. Activity is at a very early stage. None of the concessions is located in national system of protected areas but BHP does recognise the environmental significance of some of its licence areas and will ensure that protection of these is foremost in its planning. They are comprehensively assessing the ecosystems in the area and will meet all environmental requirements in the environment code and the company’s standards. They are open to engaging with any stakeholders in the region. The areas of interest to BHP are not listed by the IUCN or similar organisations. BHP takes seriously its commitment to protection of endangered species and will make sure their studies specifically address these issues.

I said that I hoped that in BHP’s Indigenous Policy the company accepts that when Indigenous Peoples say no to mining the company will accept the ‘no’ rather than keep trying to bully them into saying yes. Ken MacKenzie replied that BHP is ‘absolutely committed to pursuing Free and Informed Prior Consent’.

BHP’s operations in Chile

Salt flats in the Atacama region

Armando Caroca said he was asking questions on behalf of the Council of Atacameño Peoples and the Atacameña Peine Community in relation to the BHP projects Minera Escondida y Cerro Colorado.

With regard to the Punta Negra Salt Flat, he asked:

  • The conciliatory agreement seeks to enforce actions to remedy the environmental impact. One of the main needs of the community is for BHP to recognize its responsibility for these events. In order to move forward it is necessary to clarify the causes and strengthen the trust that BHP has lost. Why did BHP decide not to sign a settlement agreement, acknowledging its responsibility on these impacts, especially on the drought of the salt flat?
  • One of the main proposals emanating from indigenous communities and the State Defense Council was the reinjection of the aquifer to accelerate recovery. Why does BHP refuse to take this action?
  • Regarding the conciliatory agreement, what does include exactly and how is it going to be implemented?

With regard to the wells at Monturaqui and Tilopozo, he asked:

  • The Monturaqui closure plan is still pending. What are the specific steps that BHP will take to enact the Monturaqui closure plan?
  • What are the issues surrounding the transfer of the water rights in relation to the Monturaqui wells? Do you plan to transfer those rights to local communities or to use them for another operation?
  • In relation to the impact BHP has had on the Monturaqui and Tilopozo ecosystems, what is BHP doing, beyond that required by Chilean legal regulations, to address climate change?
  • Knowing that the Greenhouse Gases emitted in mining operations are the cause of the crisis we are experiencing, and knowing that the water from the desalination plant also impacts the ocean ecosystem, what measures are you taking to address this?

Ken MacKenzie said that BHP has stopped using any ‘continental’ water at Escondida [which made me wonder whether they are perhaps using ‘full English’ instead…]. All water used at the mine is desalinated sea water. At Spence, desalinated water is used for the concentrators and the company is committed to end use of continental water at the mine by 2025 and at Cerro Colorado after 2023. Water availability is essential for the company, the host communities and the ecosystems so it is essential to manage it well, working with all stakeholders. BHP does not need its water rights any more and is looking at the best way to return those rights to the community and the government. The company has invested US$4 billion over the past decade to construct two desalination plants for Escondida and Spence. They have moved away from water extraction from the Punta Negra salt marsh even though they always had permits in place. They stopped extracting water from the Punta Negra in 2017. Since then they have been working with the community at Peine to establish an environmental management plan. They have signed a settlement with the regulator and local indigenous communities. There is an environmental plan with a cost of US$81 million and it will be fully managed by representatives of the Peine, the People’s Council the State Defence Council and the company. The group is already meeting. It was decided jointly that the water table should return naturally to its original level but the company is irrigating the area to mitigate the effect on wetlands and help wildlife while the water table recovers. At Monturaqui, between 1998 and 2019 Escondida extracted water in compliance with its permit but closed its wells ten years ahead of schedule. In 2021 the company was charged with overuse of water in past years but is challenging this on the grounds that the interpretation of the environmental licences is inconsistent with the previous twenty years of regulatory interpretation, and since 2019 the company has not been withdrawing water from Monturaqui.

Armando asked again about the impact on flora and fauna of the extraction of water for desalination. Mike Henry replied that the evidence shows an impact within 100 metres of discharge but it dissipates quickly. He did not answer the question about extraction, simply commenting on discharge.

The Cerro Colorado mine

BHP’s legacy at Ok Tedi, Papua New Guinea

Patrick Scott said: ‘Rio Tinto is currently undertaking an assessment of its legacy and outstanding responsibilities for the Bougainville disaster, including environmental damage. How will BHP address its responsibilities for the environmental damage caused by the Ok Tedi mine?’

Ken MacKenzie said that the question went back to 2002 when BHP withdrew from Ok Tedi because of concerns about its impacts. BHP’s preference was to close the mine early, but the Government of PNG said that this would not be acceptable because of the loss of revenue to the state, so BHP gave its share to the PNG Sustainable Development Programme, which supports local projects. BHP has had no connection with the project for over 18 years.

Patrick pointed out that BHP had profited fro years from the project, and so surely it retained some moral responsibility for the damage done.

Ken MacKenzie said that everyone had acknowledged this as a responsible exit, giving its shareholding to a not-for-profit entity.

Patrick said that this was not a satisfactory response. [Indeed, it is self-evident that not everyone thought that the company’s exit had been responsible, otherwise Patrick would not have been asking the question.]

Cerrejón Coal, Colombia

The diverted Bruno Creek

Diana Salazar said her questions were on behalf of communities and workers affected by BHP. She said that BHP, through the Carbones del Cerrejón company, claims to respect juridical rulings. Why does it distribute advertising material stating that the impacts on health due to mining operations are a myth, after a Colombian court made a juridical call to the company to stop denying complaints? Does BHP have any statement on the complaint filed with the OECD in January of this year for the violations associated with the coal mine in Colombia? In the company’s selling plan for the coal business, what plans are in place so as not to evade its responsibility for the environmental and social liabilities that still remain unremediated at this time of departure – linking back to the question before, where the Chairman said it was not BHP’s responsibility.

Diana said her next questions were from workers’ union Sintracarbón.

The first related to the ‘Death Shift’. During 2020, the Carbones del Cerrejón company tried to impose a shift that abruptly increases the number of working hours, and therefore, the stress of workers for performing a high-risk job consecutively for seven days. Additionally, the shift implies the loss of direct contact with their families for very long hours, which is detrimental to the mental and physical health of workers and their families. In turn, the shift affects the employability of more or less 700 workers, since it reduces the total number of employees by 25%. Sintracarbón resisted the imposition of this shift with a 91-day strike and a month of negotiation. However, the company insists on imposing this shift on its workers. Why does the multinational mining company BHP use, as an economic strategy for the sustainability of the company, the reduction of the labour rights obtained by Cerrejón workers through years of negotiation and putting the employability of around 700 workers at risk?

Protest against worker dismissals – blocking the railway line from the mine to the export port

Diana said the second question was about the 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. Sintracarbón 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 BHP recognize its responsibility in the massive and unjustified dismissal of more than 200 workers in the midst of a global pandemic?

Diana said that the final question related to the stigmatization of communities affected by the mine in claiming their rights.

The company’s economic strategy proposes the expansion of the mine, which includes diversion of the Arroyo Bruno (Bruno Creek) to make way for the Puente pit. Indigenous Wayuu and African descent communities affected by such expansion have claimed their rights to a clean environment, health and water. Why has BHP stigmatized the communities that have made claims, many of them protected by court decisions, making them seem to be the cause of the company’s economic problem?

Ken MacKenzie said that Cerrejón is another Non Operated Joint Venture. [Useful things, these – they allow you to take X percent of the profit while avoiding any responsibility.] BHP, Anglo American and Glencore each own 33% of the mine. BHP seeks to influence how Cerrejón operates but is in a minority. Cerrejón management are responsible for operational decisions and so detailed questions should be directed to them. In June, BHP announced its proposed sale of its share to Glencore. Anglo American is also selling to Glencore. Glencore will then own 100% of Cerrejón Coal. The sale is subject to satisfactory completion of regulatory requirements, probably in the first half of 2022. It is a good outcome for the communities. BHP takes seriously its responsibility to exit its operations in a responsible way. Glencore will be a good operator, he said [despite the history of paramilitary violence around Glencore’s coal operations in the neighbouring province of Cesar or the fact that, now they are no longer profitable, it has told the Colombian government that it is relinquishing them, without any effort to remediate the land; or indeed the fact that Glencore is suing the Colombian government at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington over a Colombian Constitutional Court decision prohibiting Cerrejón Coal from mining under the Bruno Creek…]. Glencore is a FTSE 20 company and a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals, and it understands community issues. Glencore has said it is committed to a responsibly managed decline of its coal portfolio. So BHP is exiting in a responsible way by transferring its share to a responsible owner.

On the OECD complaint, Ken MacKenzie said that BHP is co-operating with the Australian national Contact Point for the OECD and that it is too early to discuss potential outcomes. He said he was not aware of any impact of the company’s divestment from Cerrejón on this complaint.

On the Bruno Creek, he said that there were ongoing legal proceedings relating to the diversion. When the diversion was carried out to enable mining under the original creek bed, it was fully permitted by the National Environmental Licensing Authority. They considered the project sustainable and found that it would not affect the hydrology of the creek. They said that there should be consultation with one local community, and this was carried out. Later, other communities said they also required consultation, and work under the creek bed has been halted while these consultations are carried out.

Mike Henry added that the questions on industrial relations were detailed operational issues best addressed to Cerrejón management, but Cerrejón is a major contributor to local communities and to local, regional and national governments. It must be competitive if this is to continue. It needs to uphold high standards of productivity. The new roster is in line with other mining operations which operate safely. There was full consideration of the risks of any change before it was implemented.

Diana pointed out that what the Chairman and CEO had said did not let BHP off the hook for the damage done and profited from. She said that the province of La Guajira is one of the poorest in Colombia, on a level with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, so it is not true that the mine has brought wealth to the area. The mine has only brought poverty.

BHP’s Climate Action Plan

Chairman Ken MacKenzie then presented the company’s Climate Action Plan. He said that BHP would become more valuable as the world decarbonises. The board cannot see a net zero pathway for the steel industry by 2050 so BHP cannot set a hard target for zero Scope 3 emissions in steel.

Surprisingly, investors working on climate issues appeared not to be around, and no questions were asked at the AGM. But it seems questions had been asked in writing in advance, and they were not addressed at the AGM. BHP was being less open than it had suggested in its Notice of Meeting that it would be.

Light after darkness

The meeting ended after only an hour and three quarters. It was good to emerge into the autumn sunlight after that unwelcome sojourn in the heart of darkness. Company AGMs truly are unpleasant experiences.

Cutting and running again?

However, we do not want BHP to be able to cut and run from accountability at AGMs in London as it has cut and run from responsibilities elsewhere. However limited AGMs are as fora in which to hold companies to account for their misdeeds, they are better than nothing. The ending of the Dual Listed Structure will probably be approved at the Extraordinary General Meetings in the first half of 2022; but it will be a shame if it is.