Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Patchy safety record still dogs mining sector

October 2010

UK-listed mining companies are failing to improve their overall health and safety performance even though many are implementing policies aimed at reducing employee fatalities to zero.

A report from Transparent Consulting on the 12 mining businesses in the FTSE 100 says that, although reported fatality rates have fallen between 2006 and 2009, there have been increasing rates of injuries over the same period, huge disparities between company performance, and ‘major inconsistencies’ in disclosure.

The report also expresses concern over ‘widely differing’ performances on injury and fatality rates over the past three years.

Vedanta was singled out as causing particular concern – mainly because the number of workers killed at Vedanta sites rose from two in 2004-05 to 68 in 2009-10. Fatalities have risen every year at the company since 2005. Xstrata’s fatality rate has also increased, quadrupling since 2006.

The 2006-9 figures showing an overall reduction in fatalities across the 12 companies are less encouraging than they appear to be, as the number of mining sector accidents in the years before 2006 had risen dramatically.

Other companies have made progress, however. Anglo American, Rio Tinto and the platinum miner Lonmin recorded fewer deaths and injuries and improved their reporting.

Transparency urges investors to do more to improve performance across the industry. ‘From the outside, investors who could be encouraging mining companies to improve are not yet having the impact they might,’ it says. ‘As a consequence, injury and fatality rates remain higher than they might be.’

The report adds: ‘Investors can do something about this. They can and should demand consistent definitions of health and safety, and use company performance to guide investment choices. No one else will enforce this change, because mining operations are regulated differently in each country. Investors in the London market can drive it.’

The latest study’s findings follow research published by the Financial Times earlier this year which showed that fatalities among employees of UK-based mining companies had risen sharply during the past five years.

The newspaper’s study found that with the exception of Anglo-American, the largest UK-based mining groups – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Vedanta and Xstrata – collectively saw fatalities more than double from 2004-05 to 2008-09.

Transparent Consulting | UK & NI Ireland | Health and safety

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