“For many years Anglo American contaminated our territory. It has caused tremendous and irreversible damage to our lives. But now it has left the territory and not taken responsibility for its actions. Anglo American … violated our rights and now who is responsible for that? They talk only about extracting … never about how to repair their crimes. They have to answer for what they have done.”

Member of Wayuú community, La Guajira, Colombia.
Could Do Better report

Last week, major UK mining multinational Anglo American released its latest Production Report. The company reiterated its commitment to ‘sustainability’.

London Mining Network’s report Should do better –  Anglo American’s mining operations and affected communities in Latin America, published today, reviews Anglo American’s annual reporting and indicates that the company omits full public disclosure of problematic environmental, social and (to a lesser extent) governance issues, including how its operations have impacted, or risk impacting, local communities. 

Without such full disclosure, investors and other readers of the reports cannot assess whether the company is taking adequate steps to determine its impacts on local people or to provide sufficient redress.

What is it like for communities living around Anglo American’s mining operations? Should do better examines the impacts of Anglo American’s activities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru. The report paints a grim picture of those impacts based on individual interviews and continuous communication with contacts in affected communities over recent years. It reveals:

  • unfair, irregular and divisive land acquisition processes; 
  • company miscommunication with communities and failure to abide by agreements; 
  • a disregard for mining’s socio-cultural impacts; water scarcity and contamination; 
  • loss of territory, local biodiversity and access to nature for cultural and spiritual practices; 
  • destruction of smallholder farming; 
  • wind-blown and potentially contaminated dust; 
  • harms to human health from water and air pollution and insufficient health monitoring; 
  • noise, danger and damage from heavy road traffic and mine detonations; 
  • social fragmentation; 
  • mental and emotional health problems; 
  • fear and anxiety among people downstream of tailings dams about the risk of dam breaches; 
  • widespread mistrust of company intentions, practices and communications; 
  • suspected collusion between the company and government authorities; 
  • and fear of speaking out against mining, due to persecution, criminalisation and threats against social, indigenous and environmental leaders. 

In the case of the Cerrejón mine in Colombia (formerly owned one-third each by Anglo American, BHP and Glencore but sold to Glencore in January 2022 and now wholly owned by Glencore), issues have been intensely problematic around the relocation and resettlement of communities, which have at times involved brutal and violent police evictions and resulted in lasting economic, social, cultural and emotional damage. 

Anglo American is one of the best-regarded global mining companies. Its policies compare well to its peers and it is favoured by many of the more ethical investors. London Mining Network has had a constructive relationship with company officials and it is clear that many in Anglo American genuinely wish to improve the company’s record. But even given all this, the report suggests that the company’s impacts are gravely damaging. 

Richard Solly, Co-ordinator of London Mining Network, said: 

“Anglo American representatives have been keen in recent months for London Mining Network to help arrange dialogues with affected communities in Latin America. Some of the communities with whom we have worked over many years have engaged in dialogue with the company but feel that there is little to show for that engagement. Others feel pressured by the company and threatened by the company’s supporters. They feel that their collective position is clear and are reluctant to engage in a dialogue that they believe is aimed at watering down their demands. Should do better helps explain why many do not wish to speak to the company – on the basis of its record, they do not trust it.”

Javiera Martinez, London Mining Network’s Latin America Coordinator, said:

“We sent Anglo American a draft copy of our report and invited comment on it. Nobody in the company acknowledged our requests, despite being in correspondence with us at the time over other issues.”