By Alistair MacDonald
Anglo American PLC, one of the world's largest miners, gave a full picture of fatalities related to its operations Thursday, a major shift in an industry that typically undercounts the number of deaths.
A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed in December that many mining deaths are not captured by global safety statistics, making the industry seem safer to regulators, investors and consumers.
Four Anglo American employees were killed at its managed operations in 2019, the company said in its full-year results. Taking into account other incidents -- including employees who died off-site in road accidents, two who died in 'security incidents' and one at a joint venture that Anglo doesn't manage -- a total of 18 miners died.
Miners don't report deaths at joint ventures they don't manage, despite having influence over health and safety policy, leaving dozens of fatalities off the books. Fatalities that occur during the transportation of mined materials are also often undercounted.
"We are not terribly good as an industry at reporting all incidents," said Anglo's Chief Executive Mark Cutifani. "They are our colleagues, we know them all, so we report all of those types of incidents," he said, talking of some of the deaths outside of mine sites last year.
Between 2010 and 2018, the world's three largest publicly listed miners, BHP Group Ltd., Rio Tinto PLC and Vale SA, reported 117 deaths globally at their managed operations.
There were an additional 89 deaths of workers during the same period at joint ventures the companies weren't running, according to a Journal analysis of company and government records, stripping out double counting.
Miners have reduced fatalities and injuries in recent decades, but a lack of reliable accounting in the most basic safety metric makes it difficult to determine the extent of any gains.
Anglo's disclosure "represents a very significant development which can and should become an industry standard," said Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board, which has around $3.3 billion under management.
The pressure to improve safety and transparency is especially intense after a mine-waste dam operated by Vale burst last year, unleashing a river of mud in the Brazilian town of Brumadinho.
In another example of how mining deaths are underreported, the Brazilian government doesn't count many contractors who die in mining accidents. As a result, as many as 139 of the 270 people who died at Brumadinho weren't classified as mining deaths.
BHP, the world's largest miner, also recently began disclosing in some publications all deaths at all of its operations. Anglo went further on Thursday by tallying all deaths related to its operations high in its annual results announcement and placing that number alongside fatalities at managed operations.
Write to Alistair MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org