CoE to vote against mining company chairs over dam safety

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A view of the Brazilian mining company Vale's tailings dam in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais state, Brazil December 10, 2019. Picture taken December 10, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves

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  • Shareholder resolutions could follow
  • CoE calls on other investors to take same stance
  • Seventy-nine companies have signed, 183 have yet to sign

LONDON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The Church of England Pensions Board said on Tuesday it planned to vote against the re-election of company chairs of 183 mining companies unless they sign up to a new global standard on managing mine waste.

Created by a 100-strong group of investors representing $20 trillion in assets in partnership with industry, the standard was initiated after 270 people were killed in the Brumadinho mining disaster in 2019, when a dam holding back waste known as tailings collapsed.

Since then, a further 12 accidents have occurred in countries from Angloa to India and Turkey, three of which involved fatalities and all damaged the environment, the group said.

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Those who have yet to sign include U.S.-listed Southern Copper (SCCO.N) and Arcelor Mittal (MT.LU). Neither was immediately available to comment to Reuters.

Adam Matthews, Chief Responsible Investment Officer for the Church of England Pensions Board, which looks after $5 billion in assets, said that as a first step the Church would vote against the chair of companies that have not signed.

It is also urging others in the 100-strong group of investors to do the same.

Tailings safety is a risk not just to communities and the environment, but to investors and the Church was not confident it is being adequately addressed, Matthews said in a statement.

"If the chair of a board does not see this as a major risk that requires the highest standards of operation, then they themselves pose a risk to us as a shareholder in that company," he said.

"As a first step, we will vote against the chair of those companies and are considering shareholder resolutions."

Seventy-nine of the world's biggest miners, including BHP (BHP.AX) and Rio Tinto (RIO.L)(RIO.AX) have already committed to or are assessing the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, the Church said.

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Reporting by Simon Jessop; editing by Barbara Lewis

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