ESG rating agencies

We are committed to reporting on our performance, and to engaging with our stakeholders to understand their concerns.  We recognise the value of objective benchmarking of our performance against peers, and support efforts by environmental, social and governance (ESG) rating agencies to do so. We do this by providing detailed, thoughtful responses to queries by the rating agencies, and by reviewing their assessments when made available to us.

A large number of our investors, analysts and banks use ESG rating agencies and we recognise the reliance placed on such assessments by many of our stakeholders. 

In August 2022, we became aware that changes to the ESG rating agency MSCI’s methodology had resulted in a downgrade to an incident associated with our Cerrejón coal asset in Colombia due to Glencore becoming Cerrejón’s sole operator. We have provided a detailed response to the allegations listed by MSCI, which is available below. 

Responses to MSCI

On its profile of Glencore, MSCI has downgraded the ‘controversy’ relating to Cerrejón from Severe to Very Severe, following Glencore becoming the sole operator of the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia. 

MSCI has also determined, although on what grounds and with what qualifications are not clear, a United Nations’ Global Compact (UNGC) Compliance Fail for this incident, noting UNGC Principle One: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.

MSCI have provided the following explanation for the downgrade:
“The UNGC downgrade was related to the company acquiring full ownership of Cerrejón Mine, in January 2022.
“Partial ownership of the mining project, along with BHP Group Limited and Anglo American PLC, was previously viewed as an extenuating factor reducing the overall severity of the case, as a result of Glencore’s limited liability.  Transfer of ownership from BHP Group and Anglo American to Glencore means that the company now has full ownership and control over operating practices and policies related to Cerrejón mine, and full responsibility for stakeholder relations. Since the MSCI ESG Methodology document indicates that company controversies are only reviewed annually, the impact of Glencore’s changed ownership status in respect of Cerrejón Mine that took effect in January 2022, was only reviewed in June 2022.
“If the company making the acquisition has an existing ESG Controversies report, the company's assessment will take into account the performance of the newly acquired entity at the time of the next full review of the company. 
“Since partial ownership no longer applies as an extenuating factor, the case has been reassessed and downgraded to ‘Very Severe’, due to the extensive scale of the alleged social impact on the local community (up to 1000 people potentially affected), and ‘Very Serious’ in terms of Nature of Harm, due to allegations from civil society organizations that the mine’s operations is responsible for exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the La Guajira region which includes water and food insecurity. The MSCI ESG Controversies Methodology is designed to support the company in assessing its reputational risk and indicators such as the impact on vulnerable communities and ecosystems are considered vital in assessing the company’s corporate conduct.”

This explanation shows that there is absolutely no change in the controversy itself, rather that the downgrade was triggered by Glencore becoming the sole owner and operator of Cerrejón. In addition, MSCI’s response does not provide a reason for the UNGC ‘fail’; we are awaiting MSCI to provide their reasoning behind this decision.

We have set out below the steps taken by Cerrejón to address the allegations detailed by MSCI:

Water use

MSCI’s alleges Cerrejón’s extensive water use reference has exacerbated the impact of a drought on Indigenous People, referencing a 2014 United Nationals Development Programme report claiming that local people could access an average of only 0.7 litres of water daily per individual and a 2016 NGO report on malnutrition in Indigenous children. 

Over the years, both Glencore and Cerrejón have provided details on Cerrejón’s water usage that have not been reflected in MSCI’s overview of the controversy. Of the total amount of water withdrawn from the Ranchería River during 2021 by all users, around 79% was used for agriculture, 17% for domestic purposes, 4% for livestock. Cerrejón takes around 1% of the total water withdrawn and this is mainly used for drinking water on site, as well as being provided by Cerrejón to local communities. This source of water accounts for around 11% of Cerrejón’s total water consumption. Cerrejón has reduced its water consumption from the Ranchería River and its aquifer by approximately 50% over the last 10 years.

The balance of Cerrejón’s water consumption (89%) is from low-quality sources, extracted from coal seams or rainwater, and is used to reduce dust levels. This water is not suitable for human or animal consumption or for agriculture.

As it passes through Cerrejón, the flow of the Ranchería River is measured at three stations (before, during and after the mining operations). The data shows that the average flow rate over one year increases by up to 37% as it passes through the mining area, with a 200% increase during the dry season. 

La Guajira suffered a prolonged drought from 2014-2016 due to the El Niño phenomenon. The region is a semi-arid area with the lowest rainfall in Colombia.

Water discharge impacting the environment

MSCI notes a 2020 Christian Aid report alleging that Cerrejón had dumped millions of litres of toxic wastewater into the Ranchería River and that in 2020 a UN Special Rapporteur stated that Cerrejón’s activities had severely damaged the environment and the living conditions of local populations.

Cerrejón provided a detailed response to information requests from Christian Aid Ireland (CAI) and is disappointed by the misinformation contained throughout the report. CAI did not respond to the information provided by Cerrejón, did not provide an opportunity for Cerrejón to review a draft of the report and did not visit the mine site. Cerrejón’s statement detailing the inaccuracies in the CAI report is in the process of being uploaded to its website.

In November 2020, Cerrejón responded to the UN Special Rapporteur’s request for information, providing details on its policies in relation to environmental, social, and human rights, as well as its alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Cerrejón has a robust Environmental Management Plan (the EMP) that complies with Colombian legislation and aligns with international standards for environmental management. The EMP is ISO14001 certified and addresses environmental and social impacts generated by its activities. The EMP aligns with the environmental permits granted by the ANLA (National Environmental Licensing Authority) and Corpoguajira (regional environmental authority), who monitor its compliance on an ongoing basis. Cerrejón is committed to open communication regarding its environmental impact and information on its environmental compliance (Environmental Compliance Reports – ICA) is publicly available.

Cerrejón has a real-time system for monitoring the quality and quantity of surface water at different points of the Ranchería River and its tributary streams that surround its operations. The online monitoring network is made up of 29 sensors that measure different variables at key sampling points, which allow real-time observation of current conditions. 

Cerrejón takes more than 4,000 annual samples each year to analyse the physical, chemical and bacteriological content of the water to mitigate and manage any impacts the mining operation or its activities may cause on water quality. In this continual monitoring, nothing has been found to indicate that Cerrejón’s operation puts the quality of water from the Ranchería River at risk, nor the survival of its aquatic flora and fauna, nor effects that compromise the health of the communities downstream from the mining operations. Independent laboratories also confirm that Cerrejón complies with all water quality parameters imposed by Colombian legislation.

Cerrejón publishes data on water quality its website; this information is also available in real time on the IDEAM Colombia (Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales) website.

Cerrejón has human rights risks and impacts assessments (HRIA) every three years, which are conducted by an independent expert. The HRIA involves consultation with employees, contractors and surrounding communities regarding potential human rights impacts and mitigation strategies. In 2010, it implemented a rights-based grievance mechanism.

Diversion of the Bruno Creek

MSCI notes a campaign by local environmental and human rights group against an expansion project that diverted a portion of the Bruno Creek. It acknowledges that the diverted waterway began operating in 2017, referencing an NGO criticizing the lack of independent technical experts

The partial diversion of Bruno Creek involved a 3.6 kilometre stretch of the streambed being moved 700 metres north of its old position while using state of the art techniques to replicate the natural conditions in the best possible manner to the ones found in the original channel. The new course reproduced the physical and biotic conditions of the original streambed: curves (meanders), gradient, speed of flow, and capacity of water flow, supporting the integration and reproduction of species of flora and fauna. The new channel preserves the flow of water, similarly to that of the old one, allowing its waters to be delivered to the Ranchería River. The project was approved by the relevant environmental authorities.

In 1998, the then Ministry of the Environment established the EMP for the New Mining Areas (NAM) at Cerrejón. This plan considers the partial modification of the course of Bruno Creek as an environmental measure to allow the mining of the La Puente Pit.

In 2013, Cerrejón presented detailed engineering plans and the required socio-environmental analysis to the ANLA, which were approved in 2014 by the environmental authorities. In addition, studies required by Corpoguajira to grant the environmental permits were carried out. These included a study demonstrating Cerrejón’s compliance with the IDEAM recommendations on hydrology, hydrogeology and fluvial mechanics. These studies are backed by the national organisations of Ingetec and Conconcreto, and international organisations, including Alluvium and are available on Cerrejón’s website.

The Bruno Creek partial diversion has also been positively reviewed in terms of design, engineering, and environmental management by experts from the public sector (von Humboldt Institute, Ministry of Mines and Energy, National Mining Agency), academia (Javeriana University, University of the Andes, National University, and Canada’s University of Calgary), and the World Bank multilateral development bank. Further information is available on Cerrejón’s website.

Following its partial modification, the new Bruno Creek channel has become an example of environmental ecological innovation, to date maintaining water flow even in dry weather seasons, which was not previously the case in this part of the basin. The new channel has become a biodiversity corridor that is home to more than 390 wildlife species and has allowed the planting of around 12,000 trees, as well as around 2,000 that have sprouted naturally. Among the identified species are 120 species of birds, 58 of amphibians and reptiles, 154 of insects, 32 of fish, 30 of mammals, as well as of more than 70 species of native plants in the area.  

At the beginning of the project for the partial diversion of the Bruno Creek, the Ministry of the Interior certified Campo Herrera as the only community directly affected, with whom the respective prior consultation process was carried out. However, the Council of State subsequently ordered Cerrejón to consult the La Horqueta community, which has ended with agreement, as well as Tigre Pozo and El Rocío communities, these consultations are ongoing. In addition, Cerrejón has consulted with the communities designated by the Ministry of the Interior and has socialised the project and its status with more than 7,000 people.


MSCI’s concerns on particulate matter and gas emissions relate to a 2015 Colombian court order requiring Cerrejón to reduce these emissions.

Open-pit mining produces a certain level of emissions of particulate matter into the air. Cerrejón is committed to improving air quality in the La Guajira region. It consistently monitors particulate matter and had done so for many years, in line with applicable Colombian legislation. Air quality results are posted bi-monthly on Cerrejón’s website.

In addition, factors, unrelated to Cerrejón’s activities, can exacerbate regional air quality issues. These regional background conditions include both natural and anthropogenic factors such as marine aerosols, desert sands, open unvegetated and/or dust-producing areas, and forest fires. Cerrejón measures these background conditions at recording stations located upwind from its operations (meaning that these stations do not record emissions from Cerrejón’s operations) to understand how they are impacting air quality. The combination of these background conditions has sometimes caused air quality readings that are above WHO guidelines.

Cerrejón’s Integrated Environmental Management System (IEM) is part of its EMP and closely monitored by national and regional environmental authorities. The IEM has defined several mitigation measures to control particulate matter that use lower quality water from coal seams and rainwater, which is not suitable for human or animal consumption or for agricultural use. In addition, when appropriate, Cerrejón applies its protocol for adverse weather conditions, which restricts specific mining activities to avoid the exacerbation of dust levels. The IEM’s mitigation measures also include:

  • Frequent watering of roads to reduce dust generated by the trucks that transport coal and sterile material. This is done by fleet of tankers that spray water taken from coal seams and rainwater, for which the company has catchment permission from the environmental authorities. Chemical additives, innocuous to human health, are added to this water to limit evaporation and avoid emissions on transport roads.
  • Use of water sprinklers prior to loading sterile material on mining levels, to moisten the soil, ensuring control in both loading and unloading of the material.
  • Addition of water in drilling activities.
  • Temporary or definitive closure of roads not required by the operation.
  • Rehabilitation of lands intervened by mining and released by the operation to establish plant cover and prevent the emission of particles from wind erosion.
  • Changes to the mining plan as well as a temporary reduction or suspension of operations.

An Environmental Oversight Committee ensures community participation in the monitoring of Cerrejón’s performance. The committee comprises of 17 community representatives, Corpoguajira (regional environmental authority), the University of La Guajira and Cerrejón. Its purpose is to analyse environmental management indicators and measures and to disseminate results among communities and broader audiences.  

Cerrejón keeps the local community informed of air quality results and other environmental issues through visits from local community members and other stakeholders to the mine. Cerrejón has developed capacity building programmes for impact management, environmental health, leadership and environmental communication. 

MSCI’s profile also includes two additional allegations:

Blockade of Cerrejón’s facilities at Puerto Bolivar

In May 2021, MSCI notes the blockade by the Media Luna community of Cerrejón’s Puerto Bolivar, demanding jobs and other undisclosed requests. In June 2021, the Colombian government and the company had conversations with the Media Luna community and made deals to lift the blockade.

In the agreement signed on 27 May 2021 between Cerrejón and the Media Luna communities, with the presence of representatives from the La Guajira Governor’s Office, the Uribia Mayor’s Office and the Ministry of Mines, it was agreed to create an employment committee to deliver seven key areas: 

  1. Employment: Cerrejón will look for employment opportunities for the community. During Q3 2022, 93 people from Media Luna were hired by contracting companies and 69 currently continued to be employed by contracting companies. This is a 94% increase on Q3 of 2021.
  2. Education: Cerrejón undertake maintenance to the local school, classrooms and bathrooms; in addition to other maintenance that will be carried out by the Uribia Mayor’s Office.
  3. Health: Cerrejón will carry out improvements to the fences of the local health centre in Media Luna to enhance its security by providing the material required; contracting of works will be done by the local hospital.
  4. Childhood programmes: Cerrejón will build two early childhood attention centres over a five-year period to enhance services in the two communities of Etkimana and Chorretchon.
  5. Water: over 300 water tanks, 1,000 litres each, have been distributed to Media Luna families to enhance water storage capacity. The local Mayor’s Office committed to the delivery of one additional water truck per week.
  6. Housing: Cerrejón will support the construction of 13 houses for the Media Luna traditional authorities. The houses will be built by community members to promote employment opportunities.
  7. Humanitarian aid: Cerrejón delivered 500 food baskets for Media Luna families affected by Covid-19.

Blockade of Cerrejón’s rail line

In May 2021, approximately 200 former workers led a blockade at Cerrejón’s rail line, demanding they be reinstated and compensated for the months they were off work since losing their jobs in February 2021. However, the protests resumed in June 2021 after the employees rejected an offer from the company. Cerrejón said it would not rehire the employees.

Workers that were laid off in 2021 received an initial offer of a compensation package higher than the minimum legal requirement, which they rejected. This resulted in them receiving the legal minimum. Following the initial blockade, Cerrejón met with Sintracarbon union representatives and leaders of the laid off employees and offered to give the difference between the minimum received and the additional package that Cerrejón had offered. To date, 133 of the laid off workers have signed agreements with Cerrejón. Cerrejón continues to engage with the leaders, clarifying that the are no possibilities to rehire.

Response to MSCI allegation “Kamoto Copper Company, Democratic Republic of Congo: Artisanal miners killed in collapse at Kolwezi Open-Pit Mine”

In June 2022, MSCI downgraded from ‘severe’ to ‘very severe’ its assessment of a 2019 fatal incident involving artisanal miners at Glencore’s Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) industrial asset in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The downgrade is based on revisions to MSCI’s methodology and does not reflect any changes to the incidents recorded by MSCI.

MSCI’s overview of the incident does not provide any updates or amendments that justify the downgrade – the last update is from Glencore’s 2020 Annual Report. Rather, MSCI notes that the controversy would be considered for an upgrade if all or most of the following conditions have been met:

  • Implements measures to mitigate dangers associated with illegal trespassing on mining sites [see points below]
  • No criticisms from local governments, and NGOs related to its Kamoto Copper operations [none noted by MSCI]
  • No new similar controversies within a 12-month period [none recorded]

As Glencore has met these criteria, it is unclear as to why MSCI has downgraded this 2019 controversy, rather than giving it an upgrade.

Glencore’s approach to artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in the DRC

Our operations in the DRC are in areas where ASM is present. ASM is a source of employment for circa two million people in the DRC. 

We believe ASM can co-exist alongside large-scale mining (LSM) when carried out responsibly and transparently. We recognise the legitimacy of responsible ASM operations in the global supply chain and welcome the efforts by responsible sourcing initiatives and international organisations to improve practices and address the risks of human rights violations.

Glencore’s approach is to support the co-existence of LSM and ASM where we operate through visible and impactful programmes implemented in-house and with strategic partners. We are committed to working with our local communities and other stakeholders to address the causes of ASM around our operations. We engage on ASM with communities living around our industrial assets, local and national authorities, civil society, and other key stakeholders to promote community development and support alternative livelihoods to ASM.

KCC has various initiatives to prevent intrusions by artisanal miners, these include:

  • Daily monitoring of ASM;
  • Constructing a boundary wall around the site, which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of intrusions from around 750 per month in 2019, to around 100 intrusions per month in 2021, to zero YTD in 2022; 
  • Engaging with the public security providers present in the area; and
  • Visible private security patrols.

We fund micro-enterprises and our operations support direct and indirect employment opportunities. Through our support and mentoring of local co-operative associations, we also promote economic diversification programmes. These projects generate sustainable income sources including agriculture, artisan skills and food security.  

We work with local NGOs and civil society organisations to deliver holiday camps for school children to help discourage their participation in ASM activities. The camps offer a wide range of activities, as well as discussions on the risks of ASM and the importance of education. 

Glencore’s cobalt supply chain

Around 80% of cobalt produced in the DRC does not involve any form of ASM or child labour. This includes Glencore's industrial assets; we do not tolerate any form of child, forced, or compulsory labour anywhere in our business or our supply chain. We do not purchase, process or sell ore from ASM activities.

While most of the cobalt we supply to the market is from our own operations, we also source some from a select group of third-party suppliers. Recognising the specific supply chain risks for cobalt, such as ASM, we prioritised rolling-out our enhanced supply chain due diligence process to our cobalt purchasing activities and have identified no significant adverse human rights impacts.

We apply the Cobalt Industry’s Responsible Assessment Framework (CIRAF) reporting framework and management tool for our cobalt producing industrial assets. The CIRAF strengthens the ability of cobalt producers and buyers to assess, mitigate and report on responsible production and sourcing risks in their operations and supply chain. It also enables a more coherent and consistent approach to cobalt due diligence and reporting by the cobalt industry. 

As part of our commitment to operating transparently, we have joined two blockchain initiatives (Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network and ReSource) to support the use of technology for greater transparency through introducing traceability throughout the cobalt supply chain.

Supporting responsible ASM

We are a member of the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA). Through our support of the FCA, we support legitimate ASM cooperatives in their endeavours to transform their practices and align with international human rights practices, especially in the prevention of child and forced labour, as well as other dangerous practices. FCA's objectives include achieving a child-labour free Kolwezi, supporting the professionalization of ASM through the adoption of responsible mining practices, and identifying and supporting alternative livelihoods to help increase incomes and reduce poverty.

As a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) and the Global Battery Alliance we participate in programmes to develop frameworks and standards that support responsible ASM. In 2020, we worked with the RMI to pilot its Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (RMAP). The RMAP uses independent third-party assessments of smelter and refinery management systems and sourcing practices to validate conformance with RMAP standards. RMAP standards meet the requirements of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance and the US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. KCC is listed in the conformant cobalt refiners list of the RMI and regularly undergoes the RMAP, with the findings published on Glencore and the RMI’s websites.

McArthur River Mine, Australia: Indigenous community concerns over environmental and health risks

In July 2022, MSCI downgraded from ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ its assessment of allegations relating to Glencore’s relationship with Indigenous communities living near to its McArthur River Mine (MRM) zinc industrial asset in the Northern Territory of Australia. The downgrade is based on revisions to MSCI’s methodology and does not reflect any changes to the incidents recorded by MSCI.

In particular, MSCI noted claims relating to contamination of two creeks and that local residents were warned not to eat the fish. Concerns were also expressed on the security of Sacred Sites on MRM concession. 

However, MSCI did record that MRM’s 2020-21 Annual Environmental Performance Audit Report (AEPAR) found the mine to be in accordance with environmental obligations. The AEPAR assesses the mine's performance based on multiple regulatory approval conditions, including the NT Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recommendations.

Addressing MSCI’s allegations

MRM’s operations are regulated via licences and approvals issued by the Northern Territory (NT) and Commonwealth governments, as well as the conditions of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) certificates, designed to protect Sacred Sites. MRM complies with the NT Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act and has internal processes laid out in its Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan, to protect and respect Sacred Sites and cultural heritage. It understands its obligation to protect such sites on its mining lease and takes this obligation very seriously.

MRM’s approach to Indigenous peoples

MRM’s operations are on or near the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples. Studies including archaeological and ethnographic surveys dating back to the mid-1960s have identified several culturally significant sites in the mine lease area. 

MRM’s approach seeks to make a positive difference in its surrounding communities, respect the unique cultural heritage and partner with local groups to make a positive and enduring contribution to the region’s future. Its community team has a permanent office in Borroloola for regular engagement with the community. MRM holds meetings in Borroloola, which are open for every member of the community to attend. 

MRM’s workforce currently has around 25% Indigenous employment and it continues to implement a dedicated Indigenous Employment Program to increase this number.

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Review

MRM has undertaken an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Review to identify potential gaps between its history and compliance in respect with Sacred Sites and cultural heritage sites. The review confirmed details of known Sacred Sites and cultural heritage sites but also found some discrepancies between MRM’s records and those held by the AAPA. MRM had documented the details of sites in the immediate vicinity of its operational areas but did not accurately document sites further away on its mineral lease.

One reason for this is that some of the original studies of cultural heritage sites occurred before modern GPS and mapping technologies were available. As such, while the general location of some sites was known, its exact location was not accurately mapped. In some cases, mapping was deliberately vague as Traditional Owners did not want the locations of sites recorded to protect them from potential harm.

MRM has engaged an expert archaeologist to work with Traditional Owners to “ground-truth” every cultural heritage site on its mineral lease. This work is well underway with Traditional Owners nominated by elders in community. The archaeologist documents each site that receives a ground truth and works with the AAPA and the Heritage Branch to update their records.

MRM recognises that there are always opportunities to strengthen its relationships with local communities and is currently negotiating an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA). The ILUA negotiations involve broad consultation with Traditional Owners on a variety of matters, including Sacred Sites and cultural heritage protection. This process is expected to be finalised in 2023.

Lead levels in fish

MRM’s wastewater discharge licence is issued by the NT government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources under the Water Act 1992. The licence provides conditional approval, including strict environmental controls, for the discharge of excess water to the receiving environment. It provides protection to the receiving environment, community values and beneficial uses of the McArthur River by defining site-specific trigger values for water quality, which must not be exceeded at a defined location.

In 2012-13, a small number of non-eating fish, found in area on the mine site that cannot be accessed by the public, recorded elevated levels of lead. Analysis found that the fish were taking up lead from the sediment rather than from water and that this was isolated to one location deep within the mine site. Remedial measures included excavation of accumulated sediment in the creek and installation of a sediment catchment runoff system to reduce metals entering the creek. The controls successfully reduced sediments in the isolated location, as evidenced by subsequent fish monitoring. Biannual testing of both edible and non-edible species shows that fish from local waterways are safe to eat.

Queensland, Australia: Adverse health impact on children from lead emissions in Mount Isa city

In June 2022, MSCI downgraded from ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ its assessment of allegations relating to lead-in-air emissions from Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines industrial asset (MIM) in Queensland, Australia. The downgrade is based on revisions to MSCI’s methodology and does not reflect an update or change to the incidents recorded by MSCI.

MSCI alleges that emissions from the company's facility allegedly resulted in elevated blood lead levels in Mount Isa residents, particularly in children under the age of five. 

Addressing MSCI’s allegations

Managing emissions

Emissions generated by MIM are constantly monitored and managed. Its Air Quality Control (AQC) Centre was established in 1975 and is continually reviewing engineering approaches, operating procedures and monitoring programmes for ways to reduce emissions.

MIM has stringent systems to manage emissions and dust generated by its operations to minimise impacts to the local Mount Isa community. MIM’s air quality monitoring programme for Mount Isa city is one of the most intensive of any city in Australia and quality data is captured at 13 stations located across the city and region. It operates and monitors more air quality sensors than required by the Environmental Authority (EA) to provide additional information to guide its approach. The AQC Centre uses real-time air quality data to monitor emissions and observe emerging weather patterns. 

The ACQ Centre works both predictively and reactively to minimise impacts to the community and ensure compliance with regulatory limits. The AQC Centre provides daily forecasts and planning advice to MIM’s smelter operations and monitors real-time air quality data and conditions at ground level to ensure smelter operations can respond appropriately to any unexpected weather events. 

As part of its air quality monitoring system, MIM has two continuous metal monitors in the community which measure metals in air 24/7 to ensure it minimise any impact to the people of Mount Isa. MIM monitor the concentration of metallic particulates in the air, including arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc, as well as an additional 19 metals, within the Mount Isa community using its comprehensive air quality monitoring system.

MIM publishes real-time and historical air quality data. This is also made available via its Air Quality in Mount Isa (AQMI) app, which enables the current air quality to be checked at any time via a smartphone.

Lead pathways

Focusing on land, water and air, MIM’s Lead Pathways Study of Mount Isa is the most comprehensive study of its kind in Australia. 

MIM commissioned the Lead Pathways Study in 2006. It was conducted by the University of Queensland’s Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR) in collaboration with the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (Entox).

The study investigated the natural and industrial pathways of lead and other heavy metals into the Mount Isa community and assessed the potential risks to human and environmental health. The study was completed in 2017 and concluded there was a relatively low health risk from lead in soil, water and air for most of the Mount Isa community.

Detailed findings from the study are available on MIM’s website.

Espinar, Peru Operations: Studies indicate heavy metal contamination among local residents

In July 2022, MSCI downgraded from ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ its assessment of allegations relating to heavy metal contamination among residents living near Glencore’s Antapaccay industrial asset in the Espinar province of Peru. As part of this allegation, MSCI references studies demonstrating water contamination and community exposure to toxic substances, a protest in 2012 that led to the deaths of two civilians, a 2021 Amnesty International report on public health and negotiations with local communities on the development of the Coroccohuayco project. The downgrade is based on revisions to MSCI’s methodology and does not reflect any changes to the incidents recorded by MSCI.

Addressing MSCI’s allegations

Antapaccay’s water use

The drinking water for Espinar’s urban area, where most of the province’s population live, comes from the Huayllumayu dam, which receives water from the Apurimac catchment area. The 13 rural communities living around Antapaccay draw water from springs, separate from the Salado and Cañipía Rivers. Due to natural causes, these springs contain naturally occurring heavy metals. Antapaccay is located between the Salado and Cañipía Rivers; neither the Huayllumayu dam, nor the Apurimac River basin are part of Antapaccay’s catchment area. The water used at Antapaccay is not connected to the province’s drinking water source.

While the mine has a licence to use water from the Salado River, it only takes water from underground wells that are part of the mine’s drainage system. Antapaccay’s water is mostly recycled, with only a small amount being treated and discharged into the Cañipía and Salado Rivers, in line with permits provided by the national water authority (ANA).

Access to water is a problem across Peru. In Espinar´s urban area, many residents have access to water for only a limited period each day due to the lack of public infrastructure or a water treatment facility. In rural areas, where smaller communities live, the quality of surface and groundwater is influenced by the geochemistry of the soils of the Salado and Cañipia River basins, as shown by government-conducted studies. Rural areas also have a lack of infrastructure to draw, treat and store water. As a result, water has been an ongoing source of tension in the area, with allegations being made against Antapaccay, who does not draw or discharge water from the same catchment area used for the Espinar urban area and treats the small amount of water that is discharged into Salado and Cañipía Rivers. 

2012 social unrest

In 2012, the mayor of Espinar fuelled the common misperception of negative environmental impacts caused by mining operations, giving rise to a demonstration in which the National Police killed two people and seriously injured others. Criminal proceedings were initiated against three people, including the mayor.

Following the demonstration, allegations of human rights abuse were made against the police and Antapaccay. Some of the alleged victims tried to pursue their claims in the Peruvian court. In addition, 22 people launched a civil case in the English courts against Xstrata (the owner in 2012). The claimants argued that as Xstrata had identified Peru as a moderate or high-risk country for human rights abuses, it knew or should have known of the risks of human rights abuses by public and/or private security forces in Peru and should have taken steps to prevent such abuses. Xstrata rejected liability for the actions of the Peruvian police and/or private security forces and denied providing any assistance or encouragement to the police. In January 2018, the English High Court dismissed the claimants claim.

Natural presence of heavy metals

Following the social unrest in 2012, a dialogue table between the mine, local communities and government representatives, originally started in 2001, was restarted. The dialogue table included an Environment working group, with a purpose to “develop an integral health and environmental intervention plan for the Espinar province”. Its approach included the implementation of several water studies, the results of which were summarised in the Participatory Health and Environment Monitoring Report published in 2013. 

The Participatory Health and Environment Monitoring Report concluded that the quality of surface and groundwater in Espinar is influenced by the geochemistry of the soils of the Cañipia and Salado river basins. However, no causal link was made to Antapaccay’s operations. This means that the mineral content in water is related to the natural presence of minerals in the soil.

Independently of the studies carried out as part of the Participatory Health and Environment Monitoring Report, Antapaccay carries out monitoring of the water upstream and downstream in accordance with its approved water monitoring plan, i.e. it is carried out by a state-accredited laboratory that follows a chain of custody for the water samples. The water monitoring results are submitted to the government’s Environmental Assessment and Enforcement Agency (OEFA) on a monthly and quarterly basis and are reviewed by their specialists to ensure that the established standards are indeed being met. Accordingly, Antapaccay ensures that its activities conform with the environmental permitting conditions.

Antapaccay’s investment in water and health

Antapaccay has a ‘Framework Agreement’ with Espinar Provincial authorities. Under the Framework Agreement Antapaccay is required to make an annual contribution of 3% of profit before tax to finance social improvement projects for the benefit of 76 communities in Espinar Province.

Antapaccay encourages efforts to improve access to water for Espinar’s urban area and rural communities through supporting initiatives that address water quantity and quality issues. Antapaccay uses the government work-for-taxes programme to fund the construction of a water and sanitation systems that will provide potable water to Espinar (urban area) 24 hours a day. The studies required for the project are currently underway and construction is due to start in April 2023 and complete by 2025. The project will benefit the residents of the provincial capital of Espinar.

In the 13 rural communities in Antapaccay’s area of influence, studies are underway to evaluate the community water and sanitation systems, aiming to identify existing infrastructure and beneficiaries. In a number of communities, this type of study has been the foundation for building potable water and sanitation systems. For instance, a water and sanitation system has been built in Tintaya-Marquiri, and similar projects are underway in Huancané Bajo and San José. 

Agriculture is an important livelihood for many communities surrounding the Antapaccay operation. However, many of these communities lack the relevant water infrastructure required to support agriculture and livestock activities. Under the Framework Agreement, Antapaccay supported the construction of an irrigation system in the Apurimac River basin. In addition, prefeasibility studies for the Jatarana-San Martin Dam construction project, located in the upper part of the Cañipia River basin. The project includes the installation of an irrigation system for agricultural production and hydraulic infrastructure to collect dam rainwater in the upper part of the basin for transferring to the middle and lower basins, the implementation of which will be funded through the work for taxes programme. It is anticipated that ten different communities’ agriculture and livestock activities will benefit from the dam.

In addition to investments in water infrastructure, Antapaccay continues to support health initiatives in Espinar. The Espinar hospital, which is fully integrated into the public health network, was built with funds from the Framework Agreement inn 2007 and continues to receive support from Antapaccay. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Antapaccay supported the hospital through the donation of equipment.

2021 Amnesty International Report

In 2021, Amnesty International published its Failed State of Health report. The primary objective of the report was to make recommendations for the government of Peru to address health-related challenges associated with community exposure to toxic substances in the Espinar province. Amnesty International’s report also referenced Glencore’s presence in this region, through Antapaccay mine and the Coroccohuayco project (an exploration project that is currently on hold, Antapaccay has postponed its construction). 

Approval of a government plan to address community exposure to toxic substances was approved in 2021 and is an encouraging step towards addressing the issues raised in the Amnesty International report.

Coroccohuayco Project

Antapaccay is planning to develop a new mining zone, the Coroccohuayco Project, to replace its current mining area. Antapaccay carried out public consultations with the communities living around the Coroccohuayco project as part of an environmental impact assessment and in accordance with Peruvian environmental and social regulations for mining activities and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. As part of the permitting process, targeted consultations with local communities are being carried out by the Ministry of Energy and Mining in accordance with Peruvian law; Antapaccay supports these consultations.

Currently Antapaccay needs to acquire land from third parties, including rural communities, for the development of Coroccohuayco. The land acquisition will be performed in accordance with Peruvian Law and IFC Performance Standard 5. 

After an internal assessment, Antapaccay has postponed the construction on the Coroccohuayco project; a new start date is currently being evaluated.