$10trn investor group presses resources giants after Rio Tinto crisis

·2-min read

A group of powerful investors managing assets worth more than $10trn (£7.65trn) will this week pile pressure on the world's largest mining companies to justify their "social licence" in the wake of the crisis sparked by Rio Tinto's destruction of an ancient Aboriginal site.

Sky News has learnt that a letter from more than 60 institutional investors will be sent to companies including Anglo American, Barrick Gold, Glencore and South32 - all of which have a substantial presence on the London stock market - calling on them to justify their "management of cultural heritage".

City insiders said investors including the Church of England Pensions Board, Legal & General Investment Management, M&G Investments, Schroders and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) had agreed to sign it.

It is expected to be published later this week.

The letter will be sent six weeks after Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two other executives resigned over the decision to proceed with the decision to blow up two caves at Juukan Gorge in western Australia.

It reignited a bitter debate about resources groups' management of important cultural and historical sites, with Rio's original decision merely to cancel executive bonuses causing particular anger among the company's shareholder base.

The Church of England's investment arm led a wave of protest, saying that the incident had left Rio Tinto in "a dreadful position".

The letter from institutions will say: "As responsible investors and their representatives, we are committed to working with the mining sector to support verifiable outcome-oriented processes and standards that ensure that such events are not repeated.

"To do so, we need to better understand your approach to management of the cultural heritage and First Nations and Indigenous community relations.

"The events at Juukan Gorge have shown this is a significant risk for investors and have prompted us all to take a deeper look at how relationships between companies and First Nations and Indigenous peoples are formed and function over the long period of mine operation and remediation."

The Church of England Pensions Board and USS, along with other signatories to the letter contacted by Sky News, declined to comment on Tuesday.