Why Did a Norwegian Firm Ditch a Chinese Company Over What It’s Doing in Papua New Guinea?

How’s this for a testament to the complex nature of globalization: Storebrand, Norway’s largest private asset manager, recently divested from Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), because the Ramu nickel-cobalt mine the company operates in Papua New Guinea dumps millions of tonnes of toxic mine waste into the ocean each year. Meanwhile, back in Norway, a pair of controversial new mines are poised to begin dumping massive amounts of waste into the country’s famous fjords.

But let’s focus on the good news. Storebrand’s decision is important for communities in Papua New Guinea, who have been fighting the Ramu mine for years. By divesting from MCC, Storebrand is taking a clear stand against mining practices that are harmful to the environment and Indigenous peoples.

“Dumping of mining tailings directly into marine environments is a controversial practice internationally. Marine ecosystems are crucial to a healthy planet and must be protected”, said Bård Bringedal, Chief Investment Officer, Equities, Storebrand Asset Management.

Storebrand joins several other financial institutions taking measures to prevent disposing of tailings in the ocean. Citigroup and Standard Chartered both issued new policies that restrict financing submarine mine waste disposal in response to the Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign. The campaign, which has support from 40 groups in 17 countries, is calling on financial institutions to divest from any project or company that employs aqueous tailings disposal.

Mining companies dump 220 million tonnes of mine waste directly into our oceans, rivers and lakes every year: more waste than the United States puts into its landfills. While it has been phased out in many parts of the world, new mining proposals in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Norway include the outdated practice.

By taking concrete measures to address aqueous mine waste dumping, Storebrand, Citi and Standard Chartered are joining a growing movement of governments, mine-impacted communities, and civil society organizations shining a spotlight on the harmful practice.

But there is still a long way to go. In Norway, the government approved the Nussir mine, despite lingering questions on its economic viability and despite the clear harms and opposition from Indigenous people.

Hopefully Storebrand’s decision to drop MCC and the Ramu mine will not only encourage other investors in Ramu to address rampant environmental damage, but also push Norway to confront its own issues with ocean mine waste dumping. We encourage investors in the Nussir and Nordic Mining mines (the controversial proposals threatening the fjords) in Norway to follow their lead.