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Rio Tinto destruction of sacred sites spurs calls for oversight

November 26, 2020


Rio Tinto’s destruction of sacred Indigenous rock shelters in Australia this year has dismayed and galvanised a swathe of investors who want big changes in how mining firms manage heritage issues and have begun to tell them so.

They have stepped up communication with mining companies both in volume and frequency, putting them on notice to improve accountability and risk management, according to Reuters interviews with two dozen major investors and corporate governance advisers.

Such engagement is nothing to be sneezed at, they add.

“(For) many of the most influential investors, a quiet conversation with the chair to make their expectations clear is enough. More transactional approaches are often unnecessary,” said Susheela Peres da Costa, head of advisory at Regnan, an adviser on environment, social and governance (ESG) issues.

Shareholder campaigns against the use of thermal coal for example, have led to more than 120 financial institutions restricting related financing, insurance or investment, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. 

[Melanie Burton, Clara Denina, Helen Reid, Zandi Shabalala, Simon Jessop and Sinead Cruise]

More: Analysis: Shocked by sacred sites blast, investors press mining firms to revamp heritage oversight

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