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NEW YORK — This week Citigroup announced it will no longer finance mining projects that dump mine waste into the ocean. The move comes in response to pressure from the Ditch Ocean Dumping campaign, which is calling on financial institutions to divest from any project or company that employs the practice.
“Citi’s decision says loud and clear: ocean dumping is dirty, unnecessary and wrong,” said Ellen Moore of Earthworks, who is coordinating the campaign. “It’s high time we ditched ocean dumping once and for all. Banks and financial institutions must actively take steps to ensure that they are not bankrolling the destruction of our oceans.”
After negotiations with the campaign, Citigroup agreed to add specific language to its environmental and social policy framework: “…Citi will not directly finance new mining projects… that utilize submarine waste disposal.” The policy framework covers corporate loans over $50 million, general corporate transactions and project finance.
Companies that employ aqueous mine waste dumping will land on the bank’s watchlist, an internal policy and process document used to identify high risk practices. Inclusion on the watch list means companies are identified as having elevated environmental, social or reputational risks and are automatically subjected to additional environmental and social review. The policy change does not, however, address Citi’s brokerage business that holds nominee or custody shares on behalf of clients, which makes is possible for such investors to remain anonymous.
“We are encouraged by Citi’s decision but remain concerned about transparency in financing of these types of harmful practices,” said Eiliv Erdal, local chair of the Association of Norwegian Salmon River Owners. “My livelihood depends on a healthy Førdefjord and I should be able to communicate directly with shareholders about how their investment will affect my business and my community.”
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 While the outdated practice has been phased out in many parts of the world, new mining proposals in Papua New Guinea and Norway signal ocean mine waste dumping is being ramped up, not phased out.
Following Citi’s commitment, the campaign will shift focus to other financial institutions that facilitate mine waste dumping. In Norway, two proposed mines escaped a recent moratorium on submarine dumping permits, jeopardizing the fish-rich Førdefjord and Repparfjord, as well as the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous Saami people.
“The Saami Parliament has twice voted against dumping mine waste in the Repparfjord,” said Silje Karine Muotka, member of the Governing Council of the Saami Parliament of Norway. “It is illogical and immoral to sacrifice our traditional, sustainable and profitable fisheries for an uncertain mine project that relies on outdated practices to turn a profit.”
Traditional reindeer herding and fishing are an important source of sustenance and livelihoods for the Saami. According to the Institute for Marine Research, the area of the Repparfjord designated for mine waste dumping is a critical cod spawning ground.
Mine waste can contain up to three dozen dangerous chemicals, including arsenic, lead, mercury, and cyanide. These metals accumulate in fish and, ultimately, the wildlife and people that eat them. The pollution contaminates drinking water, decimates ecosystems, and destroys fisheries.
The Ditch Ocean Dumping coalition includes Earthworks, Friends of the Earth Norway, Bismarck Ramu Group, MiningWatch Canada, and many others.