NW pensions invested in mine at centre of disaster

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Londonderry public sector pensions are invested in a global mining company partly responsible for a mine at the centre of what’s been described as the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history.

On November 5, dam collapses at a Samarco Mineração S.A iron mine near Bento Rodrigues unleashed havoc along the Rio Doce basin.

Iron ore: 40 million cubic meters of mud and water were released into the Rio Doce

Iron ore: 40 million cubic meters of mud and water were released into the Rio Doce

At least 11 people were killed, several remain missing and hundreds have been displaced as a result of the catastrophe.

Toxic orange waste has since flowed through the Rio Doce basin as far as the Atlantic Ocean.

It transpires the pensions contributions of many local council workers, alongside staff at Ilex, Education Authority, NIHE, Magee, City of Derry Airport, NWRC, Ulsterbus and some local schools have been partly invested in the mine’s co-owner, the Anglo-Australian mining giant, BHP Billiton.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC) pension fund, which invests on behalf of local workers has almost 456,731 shares worth £6,729,931.29 in the company.

Immediately following the disaster, the mining firm stated: “BHP Billiton understands that a serious incident has occurred at the Samarco Mineração S.A’s iron ore operation in Minas Gerais, Brazil. BHP Billiton holds a 50 per cent interest in that entity. Samarco Mineração S.A is the operator.

“BHP Billiton is concerned for the safety of employees and the local community.”

Addressing the matter last Tuesday, November 17, BHP Billiton CEO, Andrew McKenzie, said: “BHP Billiton has been deeply affected by the terrible incident at the Samarco iron ore operation in Minas Gerais in Brazil just over a week ago. And we continue to be filled with both sadness and concern for the community there.”

He revealed that more than 600 people lost their homes as a result of the accident and had to be placed in hotels and B&B accommodation.

“We can confirm that Samarco has today signed a Preliminary Commitment with the Brazilian prosecutors in connection with the state of Minas Gerais, “ said Mr McKenzie.

“And, under the Commitment, Samarco will guarantee the allocation of funds totalling one billion Reais (which is around, at current rates, 260 million US dollars) to an emergency fund.”

He continued: “And separately, we can also confirm that Samarco has signed a Commitment with the authorities in Espirito Santo, which is the problems further downstream, and this covers the measures to prevent and mitigate the socioenvironmental impacts in that State. And there, most importantly, we need to make sure of a supply of water in the affected areas, analysis of water in the Rio Doce basin and the recovery of the fauna in the area that may have been affected by some of the tailings entering into the river.”