A coalition of global investors managing a collective $14 trillion has written to Australia’s biggest mining companies describing Rio Tinto’s destruction of Aboriginal rock shelters as a wake-up call and demanding assurances about their relationships with First Nations peoples.
In a letter circulated on Thursday, the investor group which included America’s Fidelity, the Church of England Pensions Board and several top local super funds said their long-term investments meant they needed to have confidence in how miners obtained and maintained their “social licence” with the traditional custodians of their land on which they operated.
The push comes after traditional owners were left devastated and investors shocked and outraged at Rio Tinto’s ill-fated decision to blast through two culturally significant 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Western Australia’s Juukan Gorge to enlarge an iron ore mine. Over several weeks, some of Australia’s largest superannuation funds applied pressure for greater accountability for the disaster that eventually forced the resignations of Rio’s chief executive Jean-Sebastian Jacques and two of his deputies last month.
“The events at Juukan Gorge have shown this is a significant risk for investors and have prompted us all to take a deeper look at how relationships between companies and First Nations and Indigenous peoples are formed and function,” said the letter, whose signatories also included HESTA, Cbus Super, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), Aviva Investors, Legal & General, AXA, and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.
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