NZ Super Fund excludes world’s biggest gold miner on ethical grounds

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The New Zealand Superannuation Fund has excluded Barrick Gold, the world's biggest gold miner, and an African subsidiary from its $22 billion investment fund, citing its human rights and environmental record.

The Canada-based mining giant, which has a market capitalisation of $C21 billion, did not meet the human rights and environmental standards of the UN Global Compact, which the Super Fund uses as its benchmark for corporate behaviour, says Anne-Maree O'Connor, the fund's manager for responsible investment.

"Barrick's mines in Papua New Guinea and Tanzania have experienced a series of security-related, environmental and community problems over a lengthy time period," she says.

While the company had taken steps to improve its policies and practices, "there was no practical remedy for the environmental impact of riverine tailings (disposing of mine wastes into rivers) and the fund's view was that progress on resolving community grievances and security issues had been slow," she says. The use of riverine tailings breached international norms.

The Super Fund had decided not to engage with Barrick or its African Barrick Gold unit because it believed that "engagement with Barrick would be unlikely to be successful" in changing the company's behaviour.

The Super Fund has sold the $1.8 million of Barrick Gold shares and $78,824 shares of African Barrick Gold shares from its global equity portfolio, it says in a statement.

Its decision follows a move by the Norwegian Pension Fund in 2009 to drop Barrick Gold on ethical grounds. The Norwegian fund cited Barrick's involvement in the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea, Mining Journal Online reported at the time.

Barrick's website carries an extensive section titled responsibility, which includes statements such as "respect for human rights where it does business" and a goal to "minimise our environmental footprint and safeguard the environment, now and for future generations".

Shares of Barrick Gold last traded at $C21.11 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and have declined 44 percent in the past 12 months.

In December, the Super Fund said it had excluded three Israeli companies from its portfolio on ethical grounds because of their involvement in illegal settlements and the security wall.


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6 Comments & Questions

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Barrick is one of, if not, the worst performing gold majors over the last decade. It would not take much investigative work to find a better gold miner, even taking into consideration the last 18 months or so of declining share prices. So at least the fund hasn't wasted its capital on a dog.

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Wonderful. Not much-but a start at least.
Interestingly, we have relatives in Papua New Guinea and PNG family here, too.
Also we have World Vision children in Tanzania.
Wish the world would put the pressure on Barrick Gold. Remember that name, everyone.
We have seen the damage they're doing in PNG. Just appalling!

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Great. Good investment management, yet with spine.

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"environmental and community problems over a lengthy time period", yet NZ Super have only now decided to sell down. Why the sudden crisis of conscience?

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Because the fund has performed poorly so the fund managers thought they would get good publicity for their BS high ground.

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Are they going to invest in the gold miners digging up Puhipuhi instead? Perhaps they better wait until the environmental evidence is in for third world NZ. Anyone know if they invest in Fonterra or NZ Pharmaceuticals?

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