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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.