By Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network, with assistance from Ana Reyes-Hurt, Andrew Hickman, Carlos Mitraud, Diana Salazar, Gabriela Sarmet, Javiera Martinez, Leah Sullivan, Paul Robson, Peter Frankental, Sebastian Ordonez and others, and particularly our friends in the communities directly affected by Anglo American’s operations.
The Chairman’s presentation, results of the voting and the company’s 2021 Annual Report are all available on the company’s website. However, unlike last year, the company does not seem to have made a recording of the whole AGM available. I can’t think why. It surely cannot have anything to do with the fact that most of the AGM was taken up with highly critical questions – and not all of them from people connected with LMN!
The company used to publish transcripts of its AGMs on its website. That also ceased, perhaps to avoid giving too much publicity to the criticisms levelled at the company. I would be interested to know whether anyone else takes full notes of the meeting. It is certainly a demanding task and makes me regret that I never learnt shorthand.
Chairman Stuart Chambers mercifully began the meeting, unlike BHP and Rio Tinto, without a promotional video. This was certainly something to be thankful for, as such videos are richly productive of attacks of nausea.
There are a few other things to commend about the Anglo American AGM.
It was a hybrid meeting, enabling people to participate in person or online. Those participating online could ask questions, including follow-up questions, by telephone, or have them read out with crystal clarity by the same excellent reader who performed the task at last year’s AGM. This is, in my view, the best way of holding a company AGM, even if improvements are needed in the quality of telephone connections and the availability of interpretation for those who suffer from the company’s activities but do not speak English.
As usual, the Chairman accepted all the questions that were asked, and attempts were made to answer them. Furthermore, the company continued its tradition of ultra-politeness. In this, Anglo American certainly surpasses all other companies whose AGMs I have ever attended. However, politeness to people in London does not make up for the many forms of suffering undergone by people living around the company’s operations around the world, many of which were mentioned in the questions below.
Like Rio Tinto, it is clear that the board and management of Anglo American believe they are saving the world; or at least that it makes good business sense to present themselves as saving the world. Just like Rio Tinto, having contributed so much to the impending global climate catastrophe by mining coal for decades, they are now protecting us all by pulling out of coal and increasing the mining of minerals for the ‘low carbon’ transition – never mind the increase in ecosystem destruction, biodiversity loss, social and cultural dislocation that this expansion of the mining frontier is causing.
Company Chief Executive Mark Cutifani is now leaving Anglo American after nine years of leadership and is being replaced by Duncan Wanblad. Stuart Chambers thanked him for his contribution to the company.
How these multinational Chairs and CEOs come and go! I have been attending Anglo American AGMs for twenty years now, as part of the struggle to get justice for the people of Tabaco in Colombia, violently evicted from their village in 2001 to make way for the Cerrejon coal mine. It would be good if one of the temporary leaders at Anglo American would actually, finally, do justice for these appallingly treated people, who still lack the reconstructed village they were promised in a court decision in 2002. Instead, Anglo American has now pulled out of Cerrejon Coal without making sure either that this promise was fulfilled or that fellow-multinational-miner Glencore, which now owns 100% of the mine, will fulfil it.
Mark Cutifani included in his own address the welcome, and honourable, declaration that, at Anglo American, people are not assets or resources but are the business, and that management is trying to create safe, inclusive work places where each person can give of their best. Let us hope that the company does the same for the people affected by all their operations, including those that they have left behind.
The struggle for justice continues – in company AGMs, in law courts, in Parliaments, at demonstrations, at events, in online campaigns, and most importantly in the communities most affected by the company’s operations.
Questions and Answers from people in the room
1. Twickenham in South Africa and Kabwe in Zambia
Peter Frankental, of Amnesty International UK, said:
“My question relates to Anglo American’s group-wide human rights policy, which states explicitly that it applies to Anglo American globally and that where Anglo American does not have full management control, the company will exercise its available leverage to influence compliance with this policy.
“There are two particular issues reflecting Amnesty’s concerns that I want to raise. The first relates to the activities of Anglo American Platinum in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Amnesty International in conjunction with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies and partners on the ground produced a recent report on the Twickenham Platinum mine, finding that the mine was not compliant with the company’s Social and Labour Plans that were developed to gain regulatory approval and to mitigate adverse human rights impacts. Particular concerns arise from the company’s failure to engage the affected community in informed and meaningful consultation on moving people off their land, and failure to comply with the company’s water and sanitation commitments in schools in the area. Both these failings have considerable human rights implications. My question to the Board is, will Anglo American Plc will hold its subsidiaries in South Africa accountable for delivering commitments under their Social and Labour Plans, in particular with regard to giving effect to the Group’s human rights policy.
“My second question relates to Anglo American’s approach to remediation. In your Group-wide human rights policy, you explicitly state that “Where we have caused or contributed to adverse human rights impacts we will contribute to their remediation as appropriate”.
“A key test of the company’s commitment to remediation arises from the ongoing environmental contamination in Kabwe, Zambia, caused by the operations of a lead mine which had been under the control of the Anglo American Group (AASA) for 50 years until 1974. Kabwe is one of the most heavily polluted mining sites in the world. Medical studies over the past 45 years have consistently shown massive levels of lead in a significant proportion of young children in Kabwe, linked to a high incidence of kidney damage and cognitive impairment which is transmitted from generation to generation through the placenta of pregnant women. The affected communities of Kabwe are seeking compensation from Anglo American, including the funding of an effective blood screening programme for children and pregnant women, and funding of the clean-up of contaminated soil in the area, where lead levels have been found to be more than 50 times higher than the internationally determined limit.
“My question to the Board is, what is Anglo American doing to ensure remediation for the lead-affected communities of Kabwe in line with commitments in your human rights policy?”
Company Chairman Stuart Chambers said that human rights informs Anglo American’s whole approach to the company’s guidelines, policies and code of conduct. It is possible that the company’s policies may be in contravention of local law, but this is extremely rare, and adjustments can be made as necessary and all subsidiaries are expected and required to adhere to company policies in letter and spirit.
Mark Cutifani commented on relocations around the Twickenham mine in South Africa’s Limpopo province. He said that relocation of residents is ongoing. The original resettlements occurred before the current IFC standards had been developed, so Anglo American is trying to upgrade the standards retrospectively. There is an ongoing dialogue with those still in the process. 90% of residents have been relocated. The board is working closely with Natascha Viljoen [CEO of Anglo American Platinum] and her team in their negotiations. In the last two or three months about 50% of the remaining residents had come to agreements with the company but there is more work to be done. Anglo American needs to keep improving its processes and is still learning.
Stuart Chambers said that, with regard to Kabwe in Zambia, the company is deeply sorry about all of the contamination referred to and any harm that has come to anyone. “We do not consider ourselves to be responsible for this in any way,” he said, “but this does not mean we turn a blind eye.” He said it is important that Anglo American is adding its own voice to try to understand the nature of the issues and, where the issues are in any way the company’s responsibility, to step in and take remedial action. This mine was run, and then closed in 1994, by a company in which Anglo American had a minority shareholding. Anglo American was not involved in the running of the mine and its shareholding was not significant. What is concerning to Anglo American is that the company has had a claim launched against it by a law firm that has only singled out Anglo American for something happening in Zambia, taken it through the courts in South Africa, where Anglo American has a strong presence, they have not included in the case the company that was actually running the mine up to 1994, then it was state owned, then closed, and no attempt is being made to take into consideration what has happened since 1994, which has included a lot of mining activity, including artisanal mining, which has contributed to a lot of the challenges. Anglo American is contesting the legal case. The board believes it is right to challenge this as the company is not responsible for it, but it means that there is a limited amount that Stuart Chambers could say but he assured shareholders that if there were any suggestion through the legal proceedings that Anglo American had in any w =ay any case to answer, it would step up as shareholders would expect it to.
Mark Cutifani added that it was unfortunate that the case had been launched before a conversation had been held with the company and the legal process binds the company, but all the information work the company had done supports the position outlined by Stuart Chambers. The company would have to see how the case goes and how it could engage in a constructive way.
2. Cutting and running from Cerrejon Coal in Colombia
I asked about Anglo American’s exit from Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia: “Could you tell us the relative sizes of Anglo American’s budget, profits and assets on the one hand, and the state budget of Colombia on the other? Is Anglo American prepared to provide resources to a reparations fund to compensate for the adverse effects the mine in Colombia has had – effects which will long outlast the company’s departure? What are Anglo American’s responsibilities regarding the mine closure plan at Cerrejon, given that the company has advised Carbones del Cerrejón in the preparation of this plan – though, as I understand it, the plan has not been discussed either with workers in the mine or residents around the mine?”
Stuart Chambers said that he could not answer the question about the relative sizes of budgets. Anglo American’s current turnover is about $40 billion but he was unaware of the size of the state budget of Colombia and would provide me with an answer afterwards. Mark Cutifani added that the mine was a significant contributor to the regional GDP. I said that our colleagues in Colombia had asked the question as a way of suggesting that Anglo American is in a position to contribute to a reparations fund. Stuart Chambers replied that an enormous amount had been done and was still being done by the local management. He explained to shareholders that Cerrejon was a three-way joint venture operation involving Anglo American, BHP and Glencore, with an independent management. As a 33% shareholder, Anglo American was not without influence, he said, and the company always endeavoured to apply as much influence as was possible to get the whole operation running according to Anglo American’s expectations and the expectations of its joint venture partners. Glencore bought Anglo American’s 33% and BHP’s 33% of the operation and since January this year has owned 100% of the mine and is therefore responsible for the day to day operations. Glencore is a key partner for engagement. Now that Anglo American has sold its share to Glencore, Glencore has inherited, with the asset, all the accountability and responsibility for past, current and future operational issues and Anglo American would expect Glencore to step up.
Mark Cutifani added that Anglo American remains engaged in the finalisation stage to make sure there is nothing that the company had not identified that it should consider in that exit process and it will remain responsible within that process. The company has tried to make sure that all issues have been properly covered in the exit process but it is not finalised yet and Anglo American will keep people posted if there is anything else that comes out of that dialogue. The process is nearing an end but the company is keen to ensure that it has not missed anything that it needs to attend to.
3. Environmental and social responsibilities at Cerrejon Coal, Colombia
Diana Salazar, of Colombia Solidarity Campaign, asked: “Following Anglo American selling its share in the coal mine in Colombia, what actions will the company take to prevent it avoiding responsibility for environmental and social liabilities which have not been resolved by the time of its departure?
What action is Anglo American taking with trade unions, local communities, civil society organisations, interested parties and the government to plan for a responsible and fair departure from the Colombian coal mine?
The technical study ordered by the Colombian Constitutional Court, in the sentence SU-698 of 2017, demonstrated that destroying a stretch of the Bruno stream’s natural course has significant cultural and spiritual consequences, and negatively impacts the underground water and the climate. Does Anglo American consider it appropriate to charge the Colombian Government millions in compensation, for the protection of that river, through the ISDS claim?
Stuart Chambers said that from now on, Glencore is the party with which we should engage. Anglo American has no influence any more as it has no shareholding any more.
Mark Cutifani added that the difficulty with the Bruno Creek had been the process of the approval for the diversion. Challenges had occurred since approval had been given and since Cerrejon had ceased mining in that area. After that process, there had still been debate on areas that had been impacted and how those issues should be dealt with, which currently lie with the current owners. In Anglo American’s process of leaving in the right way it continues to need to see what else it should consider about exiting in an appropriate way. The company understands the issues raised. It is complex. The company is trying to ensure that it is covering all issues in an appropriate way.
[I found this answer rather unclear. Is Anglo American still involved or not? Is it willing to make good the damage it has done or not? What is an ‘appropriate’ way to cover the ‘issues’, and what does it think are the ‘issues’ it needs to cover? Does it agree that the complaints against it have substance or not?]
Diana said that she was not sure what was meant by ‘leaving the asset in an appropriate way’. The final thing that had happened regarding the Bruno Creek was that peasant communities in the upper part of the river had been displaced and the company is trying to do ‘environmental protection’ in this area, but it is displacing more people. Is this what is meant by ‘leaving in an an appropriate way’?
Mark Cutifani said that the conversation between those who have been impacted and the final resolution is still a work in process between the three parties. There are always two sides of the conversation. Anglo American is trying to monitor whether there has been an appropriate process. The process is not at its end and therefore no final conclusion can yet be drawn.
4. Investor State Dispute Settlement claim at Cerrejon Coal, Colombia
Leah Sullivan, of War on Want, said: “For decades, Anglo American has been invested in the Cerrejon mine, a project which, for the indigenous and African-descent communities who live near it, has resulted in the forcible displacement, devastation and loss of livelihoods, natural resources and sites of spiritual and cultural importance, while exacerbating the climate crisis through the extraction of coal.
“Following a campaign by the communities against the expansion of the Cerrejon mine, the Colombian Constitutional Court ordered the diversion of the Bruno Stream to stop and for the mine owners, including Anglo American, to restore the natural course of the stream. Instead of complying with this order, Anglo American registered an investor-state dispute settlement claim (known as ISDS) against Colombia over plans to expand the Cerrejon mine by mining the bed of the Bruno Stream.
“ISDS is a secretive and opaque mechanism that bypasses national justice systems, and has been used all over the world by corporations to extract billions in tax-payers money, largely from developing countries, for supposed future lost profits. These cases are often taken when community resistance thwarts plans to initiate or expand destructive extractive projects, such as we are seeing in the case of the Bruno Stream.
“How does Anglo American justify the fact that this ISDS dispute completely disregards a Colombian legal ruling that seeks to protect the rights of a marginalised community?
“Is Anglo American now prepared to withdraw this ISDS claim?
“The board has highlighted the withdrawal of investments from thermal coal and that Anglo American is no longer invested in the Cerrejon mine – however, by taking this ISDS claim despite having sold these shares, Anglo American is seeking to recoup lost profits from a decision taken in the public and global interest to limit coal exploitation.
“Is it Anglo American’s policy to use ISDS, or corporate courts as they are often known, against countries of the Global South every time national courts come to a decision which prioritizes the need to protect the human rights of its citizens who are under threat or at risk, over corporate interests?
“These claims send a message to countries that seek to protect the rights of indigenous and marginalised communities and meet their climate goals, that these attempts will be met with predatory corporate claims for often vast sums of money.
“How does Anglo American square this ISDS claim with its supposed commitment to tackling the climate crisis? If people are central to Anglo American, as we have heard, then why have the rights of the people of La Guajira been sacrificed for your profits?”
Stuart Chambers replied that there is nothing sinister in using ISDS. It is not an attempt to extort money or get some gain. The issue for Anglo American was that it was experiencing, as a shareholder of this mine, inconsistent and odd judgements which were threatening the success and value of the mine. The company felt that it was appropriate to take an action within this Bilateral Investment Treaty, which is also there to protect Colombia as well as companies which invest there. It is intended to create a successful and reliable framework for people to invest, for the benefit of the country, the communities and the investors. The world has changed now for Anglo American. It is no longer involved at Cerrejon. It was sold to Glencore. Therefore it is appropriate to review that case and that is happening as we speak. The company will review its position and then take a view of what it should do given it has sold its share in Cerrejon.
Regarding the Bruno Creek, he said, a huge amount had gone on over many many years. The company followed all the usual procedures to explore the possibility of mine expansion, and its success should be of benefit to local communities and the whole of Colombia. The Bruno Creek is a river that comes in to the upper reaches of the mine. It travelled originally seven kilometres through land over which Cerrejon has a licence to mine. The river has been condemned for human consumption, which happens way upstream from the mine. The company does not extract from the stream or put water back into it. The fact that it is unfit for human consumption does not stop local inhabitants drawing water from it in difficult times. Nevertheless, he added, where there are displacements and where people’s lives are affected by a move such as diversion of a river, the company needs to make sure that when relocation is done the people are at least as well off as they were before.
Mark Cutifani said that Anglo American would take Leah’s point about the litigation seriously in its deliberations on the ISDS case.
Leah commented that the ISDS system does not benefit country parties, as only investors can take a case and the country may have to pay tens of millions just to defend itself. She said she did not see any logic behind the statement that ISDS benefits Colombia. Communities would strongly contest the suggestion that the diversion of the Bruno is in their interests.
5. Anglo American’s legacy at Cerrejon Coal
Sebastian Ordonez, of War on Want, said that despite the fact that Anglo American is leaving Cerrejon and has sold to Glencore, the communities are still there and mining operations will continue to have an impact on them. The Chairman had said that the company was not extracting water from the creek itself, and that may be true, but up to seventeen creeks had dried up, and despite the claim this has nothing to do with coal extraction, the fact remains that 17 creeks had dried up in a climate-vulnerable area where Anglo American had a coal operation.
Former executive director of Glencore, Ivan Glasenberg, had said “getting rid of fossil fuel assets and making them someone else’s problem is not a solution and will not reduce total emissions”. Today the company had voiced its commitment to health, education and employment in communities living near its mines, and workers in its mines, beyond the lifespan of the mine. “In light of this,” Sebastian asked, “how is Anglo American demonstrating that it has not got rid of its coal assets in Colombia in an irresponsible manner? Linked with this, how are you complying with your commitments to the OECD directives for transnational companies and steering principles for companies and human rights in relation to a responsible and just separation from the mine in Colombia?
Stuart Chambers replied that Ivan Glasenberg is in a very strong position to deliver on his words, as he has a large shareholding in Glencore despite no longer being its CEO. Glencore’s new CEO Gary Nagle will approach that mine in a responsible way. There had been a lot of conversations about Cerrejon in the past. The situation of each company involved holding one third of the shares and having no direct control over the operation of the mine was a frustration for Anglo American and probably also for its partners, and Anglo American “sought to address it by going forwards or backwards” [I was not entirely clear what he meant by this]. One Joint Venture partner wanted to go forward, “and that is how we arrived where we are.” Anglo American’s exit from thermal coal is the result of very strong pressure from shareholders in the company. Shareholders were not keen on mining companies holding on to thermal coal. Pulling out of thermal coal was not a case of management or the board simply doing what they wanted to do. “If you look at the strength of performance of Thungela, it continues and will continue to be successful for a good period. Of course, there will be a limit to that period as climate change bites and we make the progress we all need to make, but in the medium term it would have been an alternative strategy to have continued. It was not as a result of our assessment: it is our shareholders who wished us to do it.”
[How extraordinary! Management and board agreed to pull out of thermal coal not because they became convinced by the science that climate change is one of the greatest threats to the health of the planet and the future of humanity, but simply because they were nagged by shareholders. Stuart Chambers sounded as though he regretted this. Why not carry on making money out of coal until the point that the flood waters rise and extreme weather renders human civilisation impossible? Is this a responsible attitude? No! Nor is it responsible to pull out of a mine without ensuring that the damage done to communities and the local environment is repaired and that mine workers have decent, well-paid, post-mining livelihoods.]
Mark Cutifani said he understood the point about responsible transition. Anglo American took the process of sale to Glencore very seriously. Glencore is a responsible partner, able to finance its environmental obligations. Anglo American had held discussions with the Colombian Government to make sure they were comfortable with the way the transaction was dealt with. Some stakeholders were not happy with the agreements. Mark Cutifani had been on the ground with many people who had been relocated. Some were happy with the relocations, some were not. Anglo American improved the standard of relocation and continues to make its standards available. “We have done as much as we think we reasonably can do in the transition,” he said. “We think that there is a responsible owner and operator of the asset.” Cerrejon represents 60% of regional GDP, he said, it invests in infrastructure and, through the government, is able to provide social support and other benefits that are very important to the region.
6. El Soldado and Los Bronces Integrado, Chile
Javiera Martinez, of London Mining Network, asked about Anglo American’s operations in Chile, at El Soldado and Los Bronces Integrado.
She asked first about the impacts of the El Soldado mine on the community of El Melon. “The community of El Melón, in the Valparaíso region, has been facing serious problems due to the presence of Anglo American’s El Soldado operation and El Torito tailings dam. Since 2015, the community has not had constant access to drinking water and is suffering from a mega drought in the sector. Anglo American owns water rights for around 400 litres per second. The impacts on the environment and ecosystems are evident and generate significant concern in the community.
“When will the El Soldado division stop using continental water for its operations and will it be replaced by desalinated water, obviously with all the necessary studies to avoid an even greater impact on the quality of the water in the Estero El Cobre basin, since there is also a risk in salinization of continental water in this case, in which the operation is very close to the population and agricultural and livestock activities?.
“Why doesn’t Anglo American close its El Soldado mining operation, since it is located in a Priority Biodiversity Conservation Site, which is also a problem for operating, but above all a problem for the preservation of species, for the sustainability of ecosystems and a better quality of life for neighbouring communities?”
She then asked about Los Bronces Integrado. “The expansion project, Los Bronces Integrado, has been denounced by various organisations and communities in Chile. This project includes the expansion of the mining belt between the Cordillera de los Andes and the Valparaíso region, which would correspond to an underground mine under the Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary. This project generates a direct impact on nature. In 2010, it was already shown that the Los Bronces operation would be directly affecting the area of the glaciers. According to the authorities of the Environmental Impact Assessment System, this project is harmful due to the intensive and irresponsible use of water, it is considered a potential risk to ecosystems and people’s lives.
“This project puts the water security of more than seven million people in Chile at risk, since it directly impacts the glaciers, as has happened with the Yerba Loca Sanctuary, the La Paloma glacier and the Riecillo estuary in the Valparaíso Region.
“The Chilean Environmental Assessment Service has mentioned that due to the emissions of particulate material and black carbon generated by Anglo American’s operations, this project may put the population’s water security at risk, since these particles affect the glacier system and its ecosystems, increasing its melting. The Undersecretary of Health of Chile has mentioned that this project could produce a disproportionate humanitarian and health crisis. Why does Anglo American continue to impact the glacier zone if there is evidence that this could generate an irreversible crisis? Why does Anglo American insist on carrying out this project?”
Stuart Chambers replied that at El Melon, around El Soldado, there was extreme drought. Anglo American has instigated investment in initiatives including five new wells for the local community to improve availability of access to water. The company’s effect there is almost negligible. It only extracts about a quarter of the water it is entitled to extract. Of course, any water use in a mega-drought is an issue. He also said that there is no substitute for local engagement. It is important to get community representatives, NGOs and local management together. Any effort that Javiera could make to persuade people in the local communities to engage with the company would be great, because without it it is difficult to make progress. Despite Anglo American’s efforts, the communities refuse to engage with the company. Any support that Javiera could give would be helpful.
[This is something which both Anglo American and, in the case of Colombia, Cerrejon Coal, have asked us to do in the past. Our view at London Mining Network is that it is not for us to tell our friends in mining-affected communities what they ought to do or not do: that is for them to decide. We can share with them the experience of other communities facing similar issues with the same companies; we can discuss with them the advantages and disadvantages of particular courses of action; we can arrange contact with various organisations should they wish us to do so; and, of course, raise whatever issues thay want us to raise at company AGMs. But it is not for us to persuade them to engage, or not to engage, with a company.]
Mark Cutifani added that El Soldado is a microcosm of the water issue around mining in Chile. Mining consumes 5% of Chile’s water; 8% is used by agriculture. In some of the areas in which Anglo American is working, rainfall in the last few years has dropped 80% in some areas. In one town, Anglo American has been involved in water recovery systems for the town. The council and courts in January 2021 recognised Anglo American’s positive contribution. There is a need to find new solutions together. Mining is a relatively small user of water. The system of using 70 to 80% recycling of water is important. Desalination and other technologies are also important, and Anglo American has set up a technical centre at El Soldado to address this. Avocados are high water users in the agricultural sector. At Los Bronces, technical work on new mining methods for the underground section would not have an impact on glaciers and would have a net positive impact. The challenge to mining companies is to be part of a long term solution for the whole country.
Stuart Chambers said that scientific studies suggest that the methodology and technology proposed would have zero effect on glaciers and if this not the case and if a solution to water problems could not be found the board would not support the project. Water availability is easily as big a problem for that part of world as climate change.
7. Minas Rio in Brazil
Carlos Mitraud, from Conceição do Mato Dentro, Brazil, explained that Conceição do Mato Dentro, Brazil is a community affected by Anglo American’s Minas-Rio Project. He said he was representing communities affected by the project. He said: “according to the legislation of the State of Minas Gerais, where the Minas-Rio Project operates, environmental licences cannot be granted when they are verified in studies on dam failure scenarios in communities in the so-called self-rescue zone. However, in Conceição do Mato Dentro, Anglo has its operations and licenses in a context in which three communities live in this exact circumstance: Água Quente, Passa Sete and Jassém. How does the company maintain these operations despite violating the aforementioned law? Why does the company interpret the law only for its benefit and disregard the principles of International Human Rights Law? How did the company obtain these licences? And what are the resettlement plans for these communities?”
Stuart Chambers said that this was news to him and that if this were happening as Carlos suggested, then the company needed to do something different. Anglo American does not act in contravention of human rights or environmental law, so the board needs to understand more about this situation. The board does not expect that to be happening and if it is happening it will stop.
Regarding the situation in Conceição do Mato Dentro, Stuart Chambers said he had thought that Carlos would ask about resettlement. Mark Cutifani asked if Carlos was referring to the original human rights claims because Mark Cutifani had met with some of the former claimants. Carlos said that he was talking about communities in the zone of risk below the mine’s tailings dam.
Mark Cutifani said that the company is going through a process. In the approval process, Anglo American had offered all people within ten kilometres relocation. Around 70 or 80% of residents had come to agreements and there is still negotiation. There had been a request for relocation for communities within a further two kilometres, that is, within twelve kilometres. The process the company is following is consistent with its programmes and the authorities are aware of the offers it had made. In some cases, there was a difference of view on the terms of relocation. The company had taken everyone in those areas, within ten or twelve kilometres, and it would not increase the height of the dam for another seven or eight years. There is a process going on that addresses the issues that Carlos had raised. Mark Cutifani had just come back from Brazil and had been at Conceição do Mato Dentro the previous week, and had discussed the progress being made.
Carlos said that the people who live in these communities had not received clear communication about the processes. Because of the difficulty of communicating with these communities, with poor telephone and internet reception, people are not receiving communication about these issues and this creates a great deal of fear and insecurity. Therefore the vision of what the company is doing is quite negative.
Stuart Chambers thanked Carlos for pointing this out and said that the company would follow up offline and make sure it beefs communication up. He said that they were talking about six communities, around 300 families, 70 or 80% of whom have agreed to terms but there are always people who get left behind. This is an ongoing process and the company certainly needs good communication because it is so important to the affected families. Mark Cutifani said the company would be in touch soon.
Carlos said that one of the reasons why people, in the communities feel insecurity is that there was another community moved into a new situation about ten years ago, Gondó, and people believed they had moved into a place where they would be secure, but the mine expanded again and they came again into the mine’s area of operations, and they have been impacted again, and this has had an effect on other communities.
Stuart Chambers said that this had started in 2020. Some families had agreed to move but the company does need to make sure communication is excellent. The company will make sure that communication is beefed up.
Andrew Hickman, of London Mining Network, asked about land title arrangements around Anglo American’s Minas Rio mine in Brazil.
He asked why Anglo American had not registered the properties of resettled families. Years ago, Anglo American forced people to leave their lands and go elsewhere within the area. Why has Anglo American not registered their new properties? Why was the Adverse Possession Institute being used to resolve the issue of lack of registration? Even with the system employed by Anglo American, why had the company failed to complete all payments on land properties? The issue of land title is very important for people who have been moved. In Conceição do Mato Dentro, if communities have no land title, they cannot access public services for their rural products. They cannot get credit lines for their businesses. They might be making cheese or vegetables but they cannot sell them to schools. Cheese is a heritage product in Minas Gerais. Families have been resettled to urban areas, where some of them have been living for years without electricity, without hot water, light, television or internet. Without electricity they cannot access the company’s dialogue channels. They cannot move from the new properties to which they have been relocated as they have no land title and the value of property without land title is almost worthless. Why has Anglo American not registered the properties of these resettled families? The company is saying that these families have to go to the Adverse Possession Institute, to appeal in a humiliating fashion, as if they were squatters. Even with the system that Anglo American has had, it has not fulfilled all the payments on these properties.
Stuart Chambers said that Andrew was telling him something which neither he nor CEO Mark Cutifani knew. It could not be resolved in the AGM. The company needed to follow up on it and would engage with Andrew directly. The company needed to get to the bottom of these things. In Gondó, his understanding was that 23 families had agreed to resettlement and Andrew was saying they have not been able to move in. He asked Andrew to give him time to find out what is happening and respond appropriately.
Paul Robson, of London Mining Network, said that the company’s Sustainability Report says that 83% of Anglo American’s mine sites have medium to high water stress. This shows how important this issue is. There is a commitment in the Sustainability Report to reduce water withdrawals by 50% in areas of water stress by 2030. In the company’s main and sustainability reports it talks about various new technologies which may reduce water use at mine sites and reduce risks from tailings dams and other tailings storage facilities. In the case of the area around Minas Rio, it was clear from various studies being done that there is a problem in the quantity and quality of water, and that this may be linked to the Minas Rio project. The company was talking about new technologies but there was no discussion of moving iron ore by pipeline to the coast. This may have a significant impact on water availability in the area. Where does this leave the issue of technology? Is pipelines technology to be pursued or will it be phased out? Also in the case of Minas Rio, where does this leave communities in the area who have issues of water supply in terms of quality and quantity? Communities are receiving water by lorry. Will they continue to receive it in this way? When Anglo American is no longer in the area will they still be dependent on receiving water in this precarious manner or will there be a more permanent solution?
Stuart Chambers summarised the issue of water and technological development goals and said that Paul had asked a fair question about the use of water in the slurry pipeline at Minas Rio to get ore to the coast 500 miles away. He said that the company recovered that water and made sure it was safe to discharge. He asked, rhetorically, what is the mining industry’s answer to the question. Should companies stop using slurry pipelines or restrict mining to places where they are not needed?
Mark Cutifani said that it is an efficient use of water as the company can recycle it. At Minas Rio, the company does not use any of the community’s water. The fact that the company is providing water in areas of water stress is not connected to its operations.
Stuart Chambers said that the company had been closely monitoring water use by communities since 2008 and it had remained stable. If this changed, the company would act on it.
Paul asked for clarification. The issues of water quality and quantity are not connected to the Minas Rio Project?
Stuart Chambers said that this was correct. Mining activity had not, for the last fifteen years, affected other users of water in the area.
Mark Cutifani said that the only exception was when there was the pipeline leak, when the company provided water to communities. But the company helps provide water to communities even though it does not affect their water.
Paul said he looked forward to seeing an analysis of mineral pipelines in next year’s Sustainability Report.
8. Emissions targets and the Carbon Trust
Andrew Harper, of the Methodist Central Finance Board, asked whether the company would commit to update its 2030 emissions target to bridge any gap identified by the Carbon Trust or explain to shareholders why this is not possible.
Stuart Chambers said that the company would continue to update its climate goals. It has 23 emissions reduction targets and plans that underpin delivery. The company will report on all of this as it has committed to do. he said he was not not envisaging looking at gap closure from the Carbon Trust.
Mark Cutifani added that this is a learning process for everyone. Inputs from the Carbon Trust were very helpful. Anglo American had helped shape the debate in the industry and will try to improve its reporting. “When we comes up with things we think we have a pathway for we will put it in the report,” he said.
9. Capital alignment to climate targets
Climate campaigner Kelly Shields said: “I recognise Anglo American’s progress in having a net zero by 2050 ambition and having set some medium and long term targets. However, as the latest IPCC report pointed out it is ‘now or never’ if the world is going to stave off climate disaster. The climate action 100+ (CA100+) 2022 assessment found that Anglo American failed to meet any of the capital alignment criteria that the investor coalition expects to be met. When will Anglo American align its capital expenditure plans to with the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5C and phase out planned expenditure in unabated carbon intensive assets?
Mark Cutifani said that everyone is rightly being asked about whether their capital plans reflect their climate pathway. These are works in progress. Anglo American has been working through connecting wind farm, solar and hydro pumping strategies. The work is happening, the company is working through these programmes. Some of the assets are in third party hands. As soon as Anglo American can identify improvements, it will.
10. Links with Russia and Ukraine
Another shareholder asked about Ukraine, Russia and Anglo American. Russia and Anglo American produce the same kind of minerals. How will the financial isolation of Russia as a consequence of what is going on in Ukraine impact on the operations of Anglo American? To what extent was the company previously involved with Russian companies? Can it make sure there will not be similar collusion with Russian companies in future?
Stuart Chambers said that the impact on Anglo American operations was almost non-existent. The only presence that Anglo American has is that there is a franchise De Beers store in a mall in Moscow, but Anglo American does not own it. It is a sales operation. Since the conflict the company has cut all supply to that store. These are not easy initiatives to take. When you take action like that it is important for the company reputation but not easy for the local people as there have been heinous threats by Russian authorities against local companies taking action. There has been no collusion or cooperation with Russian companies. Alrosa is a Russian company and responsible for over 25% of the world’s rough diamonds, so there is a Diamond Council on which they sat, though they have stepped down. Anglo American competes with them and have no links with them. Stuart Chambers said he could not imagine Anglo American getting into bed with a Russian company in the foreseeable future. When he has gone, the questioner could ask his successor. Anglo American condemns Russia’s military action in Ukraine.
Questions submitted online
11. Taxation in South Africa
One shareholder congratulated the company on its “tremendous and inspirational progress” over the past eight years [perhaps less inspirational for those suffering the negative impacts of the company’s operations rather than receiving a share of the profits made as a result of that suffering.] He asked a question about tax in South Africa. Mark Cutifani replied that, given the progress that has been made, Anglo American will remain an investor in exploration in South Africa in diamonds, iron ore, PGMs (platinum group metals) and manganese. Policy support for eliminating foreign exchange controls shows the country’s support for major businesses, including the mining industry. But there is still a way to go and Anglo American has offered support to the country to develop an exploration policy that would be more attractive to the mining industry.
12. Conflict free diamonds and Israeli apartheid
A question followed from Shareholders Against Blood Diamonds. Will the board undertake to publish evidence to substantiate claims made in De Beers’ marketing material which said that De Beers diamonds are conflict free? Last week, Israel launched a military strike on the Gaza Strip., killing 254 Palestinians including many children. Human Rights Watch documented actions which may constitute war crimes. Amnesty International and others have condemned Israel’s rule over Palestinians as apartheid, which is a crime against humanity. Has anyone at the board at De Beers read the reports and considered how collusion with Israeli apartheid constitutes a risk to the company’s reputation?
Stuart Chambers replied that the definition of conflict diamonds is controlled by the Kimberley Process. The whole area of conflict diamonds is subject to the rule of law and adjudicated by others, and it is inappropriate for players in the market to define it in any way they wish. It is clearly defined. Supplying a company as a sight holder that happens to be Israeli and pays taxes there does not fall under the definition of conflict diamonds. Anglo American is subject to regular follow ups from Kimberley Process representatives to ensure that De Beers’ diamonds are conflict free. Anglo American does not think it is necessary or appropriate to make other statements over and above what it has already said. The company was not aware of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) inquiry at the time but the ASA rejected the claim. Regarding attacks on Palestinian people, there have been many in a long conflict that is heart-breaking. He said he would make it his business to look at the report mentioned, and if there is any suggestion that Anglo American needs to make a response regarding its supply chains it would do so.
Shareholder J Tynan said that, as a result of links to war crimes by Russia in Ukraine, Alrosa’s diamonds are seen as conflict diamonds. Anglo American is making a five million dollar donation to Ukraine. Given the link between De Beers and Israel’s war crimes, would Anglo American make a similar statement in support of Palestinians?
Stuart Chambers said that, in the case of Ukraine, the conflict was very significant in scale, with five million people displaced already, some of whom would be given support in the UK. Anglo American has links to the Salvation Army, and the conflict is close to home so the company stepped up. Regarding assessment of the many terrible things going on around the world, the board could ask colleagues the question as to what they think the company should do with regard to Palestine and Israel, but this is not linked to the Ukraine issue.
Mr Tynan noted that the next week, Sotheby’s would auction the Blue Diamond, which was linked to Israeli businessman Benny Steinmetz, who helped fund an Israeli army brigade linked to brutal repression of Palestinian people. Would Anglo American donate the money from the sale of the Blue Diamond to those most severely impacted by the actions of this brigade in Gaza?
Stuart Chambers said that it would not. Taking into account the plight of people in that region should be done on its merits. Benny Steinmetz has no interest in the Diacorp Group and no link with De Beers. If what Mr Tynan was postulating were true the company would have a very different answer, but it was not true to the best of the company’s knowledge.
Another shareholder asked a further question about De Beers. Can De Beers assure shareholders that it has confidence in the integrity of all its business partners?
Stuart Chambers replied that yes, it could. Sight holders are subject to strict ‘best practice’ principles. Mark Cutifani added that compliance procedures apply to sight holders, to whom the company sells most of its diamonds. They are audited on an annual basis and this is done in compliance with the Kimberley Process.
13. Removals around Kumba Iron Ore operations, South Africa
A question followed from G Wellman on resettlements at Kumba Iron Ore operations in South Africa. In many cases, two families had been placed in one small flat despite many flats remaining unoccupied.
Stuart Chambers replied that all resettlements were done in conformity with the company’s ‘Our Social Way’ policy and international standards. People renting properties should have at least equal, and if possible better, accommodation than they had before. Stuart Chambers’ understanding of Kumba is that this is the case. Mark Cutifani added that Anglo American had won many awards for this work. If there is a complaint where one or two families feel they have not been treated appropriately, the company will look at this.
G Wellman said that Kumba had recently responded to a family resettled from Dingleton, who received around £600 when they were resettled. This household was told they should approach the government for housing. Does Anglo American believe that any family can achieve security of tenure with £600?
Stuart Chambers said that this was a very specific case. He asked that the questioner engage on a one to one basis to resolve these issues. If, despite meeting international standards, the result is unfair, then Anglo American will address the situation, he said. he said he thought that 570 households had been relocated, but in the process some rented their properties out, and now the renters need to be relocated. Each case is different. Please allow the company to engage locally. Mark Cutifani said that this may be a case of a renter applying for relocation support. The company will look into it. There is a process of negotiation. Not everyone accepted all the offers. The company would have to check out what the individual issues are. All landholders have been resettled but the cases that remain open are renters and Anglo American has followed the IFC [International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank] process but in some cases people did not agree with offer and the company has facilitated getting people into government rental accommodation as soon as possible. In some cases there has been no agreement with the renter and further discussion is needed.
14. Quellaveco copper mine, Peru
Ana Reyes-Hurt, of Peru Support Group, asked a number of written questions about the Quellaveco mine. I have to confess that, despite the beautiful clarity with which they were read out by the silver-haired announcer, by this time in the meeting neither my brain nor my hands were functioning adeptly enough to catch and record all the questions. I am feeling my age. Perhaps the onward march of technology will soon enable us to replace me with a robot. Reproduced below, therefore, are the questions which Ana would have asked had she been in the room. As illness prevented her attendance, and she had to submit the questions online, she had to edit them to fit the limited space provided on the Lumi platform which was facilitating online participation, so the questions below are much fuller than the questions actually submitted on the day.
About the water emergency in Moquegua and the contamination of the rivers
At the end of 2021, the Moquegua authorities declared a health emergency in the water supply for human consumption in the Tumilaca valley, a region within the area of influence of the Quellaveco project. This was in response to rising evidence found in water monitoring studies of polluting metals found in the Asana river basin and other rivers on which the population depends on for water consumption.
The early environmental assessment in the area of influence of the Quellaveco Mining Project carried out in 2017 and 2018 found that the concentrations of sediments in all the streams and rivers in the area exceeded the values of the Internal Sediment Quality Guide (ISQG) and/or the Canadian Standard Probable Effect Level (PEL) for arsenic, cadmium, copper, chromium, mercury, lead, and zinc. On the other hand, laboratory studies (2019 – 2021) confirm the presence of heavy metals in the blood of boys and girls in the area. All this increases the population’s suspicions about the use of Quellaveco water and about the impact on current water sources.
Questions: What is Anglo American doing to monitor the quality of the waters of the Asana river before and after entering the tunnel? Are the results of these monitoring public? Can Anglo American confirm or rule out with evidence that the contaminants and heavy metals found in the water came from the construction of the Asana River tunnel?
About the collapse of the Asana River dam
Heavy rainfall in the department of Moquegua at the start of February 2019 caused the Asana-Tumilaca rivers to overflow, causing severe floods and the loss of large parts of farmland surrounding the river.
According to testimonies, because of the torrential rain, the dam that “Anglo American Quellaveco” was building at the time to divert the natural course of the Asana River, collapsed. Rainwater with mineralized materials then entered the tunnel and flooded the area.
Questions: How did Anglo American handle this incident? How did Anglo American handle the situation with farmers in the area who lost their crops? What is Anglo American’s contingency plan in case of torrential rains that endanger the infrastructure surrounding the mine?
About the leaks in the Asana River tunnel
According to Peruvian media, in 2019, the National Water Authority (ANA) found Anglo American Quellaveco mining company responsible for dumping wastewater into the Asana River and imposed a fine of just over 10,000 Peruvian soles.
Testimonies collected from grassroots organisations in the Tumilaca Valley, Moquegua (the area through which the Asana-Tumilaca river crosses), affirm that the tunnel through which the Asana river has been diverted was built on land where there are sulphurous rocks. According to testimonies, an inspection of the tunnel carried out in 2019 found that some areas of the tunnel had leaks of acidic water.
Other testimonies from Moquegua affirm that the tunnel is built in an area where there are geological faults, many of which are active and generate the risk of fractures and seepage of acidic waters into the course of the Asana River. In response, the company built dams to store this water and be able to discharge it into the Asana River.
Questions: What is the type of water treatment given to these acidic waters, knowing that the populations consume water directly from the river? Is there a danger of these acidic waters coming into contact with the waters of the Asana River? What is Quellaveco’s contingency plan in the event of a natural disaster, an earthquake, or excessive rainfall in the area that could put the tunnel infrastructure at risk?
About the hydro mining scheme of Quellaveco
Within the Anglo American hydro-mining scheme for Quellaveco, the Vizcachas dam plays a very important role. The company affirms that part of the water dammed there will be used for agricultural activity in the Moquegua region. The idea is for the dam to deliver 150 litres per second for agriculture, which will benefit 13,300 farmers in the region. Anglo American states that, with this system, “Quellaveco will improve the environmental conditions found at the beginning”.
Currently the population of the Tumilaca Valley does not have clean water for human consumption, nor with a treatment plant.
Questions: How does Anglo American plans to distribute water from the Vizcachas dam to the population of the area? Is there a treatment plan for that water? What is the infrastructure and mechanisms for distribution? Is there coordination with the social organisations of the Tumilaca Valley on the availability of these waters?
About the start of operations
Quellaveco has announced that, according to the mine’s construction schedule, it will start operations this year.
Questions: What are the dates that Quellaveco will formally start operating and extracting minerals from the mine? Is there coordination with local, regional or national authorities, and with social and peasant organisations for the start of operations?
With regard to the rivers, Mark Cutifani said that there are two rivers in the area, the Asana and the Titere. The Asana river has the greater flow. The Titere can only be used for some of the year because the minerals content from the volcanic area upstream pollutes the water with metals. Communities asked Anglo American in 2011-12 for a solution by putting the rivers together so they would have access to good water all year round. This was part of the company’s commitment to improve water for agricultural activities. Monitoring is part of its commitment to the communities. In periods of very low rainfall, those elements of volcanic origin will increase to some degree and Anglo American monitors the water to try to improve its quality. Before the communities could not use the water at all but now they can. The pollution comes from the volcanic region further upstream.
Stuart Chambers said that the company monitors both the quality and the abundance of the water and makes sure that the tunnel and river diversion have not resulted in a deterioration of water quality and quantity, and these results are published and made available to the communities.
Mark Cutifani said he had just come back from the site. The work is going well and feedback is positive, he said.
With regard to water treatment, Stuart Chambers said that the local community sometimes do their own monitoring and there is an active dialogue. He said that the company’s offer to engage locally is the best way to resolve things satisfactorily. Anglo American encourages contact with the local team. The key strategy is proactive monitoring of the diversion tunnel and other structures, and this occurs on a daily basis. During the recent extreme weather event the structures stood up well. There were five bridges that were lost but not associated with what Anglo American built. The dam in the higher regions, the flow ensures that the quality meets the requirement. The actual distribution is actually something that the municipality should determine. Anglo American does not want to be in the business of allocating the water.
The mine should start operations before the end of June. Pre-commissioning activities have started already. The final approval step of the process is happening now. The company is engaging with the local community.
And one final question from inside the room
15. Mining exploration applications in Brazilian Amazonia
Andrew Hickman, of London Mining Network, said that Anglo American had made a commitment to withdraw all its exploration permits in the Amazon region, especially those which overlapped with Indigenous territory. But there are 65 applications outstanding, including eleven in Indigenous lands, on the Land Registry in Brazil. Could Anglo American give an assurance that it will not develop them?
Stuart Chambers replied, “Yes.” He said the company had no applications for Indigenous land in Brazil. The Land Registry records take a long time to catch up with the actual situation. One concession, which the company gave up nine years ago, still appears in the company’s name in the register. “I can give assurances that we have no permits for exploration on Indigenous land in Brazil,” he said.
And with that piece of good news, the Question and Answer session drew to a close, votes were cast on the numerous resolutions, and we emerged once more from the sunless gloom of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre into the brilliant light of the outside world.