Concessions and counter attack mark Anglo American AGM
It wasn't all prevarication and pro-crastination at last week's annual general meeting of London's third biggest miner, Anglo American.
In response to several law suits and increasing trade union and civil society pressure (as well as press coverage) it announced that it would "assist" former miners who were dying of silicosis caused by their operations. See: Glimmer of justice for sick gold miners
Not that Anglo would admit to any liability - preferring instead to offer funding for existing claimants' health care "so [that] independent health checks establish that they are suffering from silicosis or silico-tuberculosis".
The well-organised, liberally-funded, opponents to Anglo American's planned Pebble mine in Alaska also had their say - without securing any concessions from the company.
And, once again this year, questions were raised over allegations of continuing human rights abuses at the huge Cerrejon coal operations in Colombia.
* Article updated on 1st May with information on Theo Botha being excluded from the Anglo AGM.
Report on the Anglo American AGM
21 April 2011
[Comments in italics are provided by LMN Coordinator, Richard Solly].
Of the three largest mining companies with London AGMs, (the other two being BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto), Anglo American is perhaps most adept at managing criticism and containing dissent.
Faced with a large delegation opposing the Pebble project in Alaska, the company ensured that Native Alaskans who favour the project were also present, and company Chair Sir John Parker stressed differences of opinion in the state as justification for proceeding with studies to enable people to make decisions based on ‘facts' rather than ‘fears'. He also took all questions and comments on the Pebble project in one go and offered one inadequate response to all, preventing any further discussion of the matter.
Native Alaskan critics, pointing to a documented 80% opposition to the project in the area around Bristol Bay, whose pristine waters and salmon fishery would be threatened if mine development went ahead, asked what level opposition had to reach before Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll kept her promise not to go ahead with the project if a majority opposed it. This question was dodged.
More surprisingly, both the Chair and the CEO announced in their introductory remarks that the company would assist former miners in South Africa who are ill with silicosis and tuberculosis and who are suing the company for health care costs.
Refusing to admit any liability, the company said that as a humanitarian gesture it would propose to the claimants' lawyers that it would pay for existing claimants' health care, as far as independent health checks establish that they are suffering from silicosis or silico-tuberculosis, until the court case is completed.
This was apparently because of the company's concern for the wellbeing of claimants in a case that has been dragging on since 2004. It may also have had something to do with a press conference held the day before in South Africa, which received massive coverage in the South African press and threatened to cast the company in a very unfavourable light; and with a letter to the company the day before that from British Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Avebury and others.
Challenged on the conduct of the company's Cerrejon Coal joint venture with BHP Billiton and Xstrata, the Chair and the Chief Executive of Anglo American's thermal coal operations were vacuous, asserting that community relocations were occurring according to international standards in the face of reports from the communities that they are not.
Sir John Parker began the AGM by thanking Nicky Oppenheimer, now retiring as a non-executive director, for his 43 years of service on the board. The Chair said that the legacy of Nicky's grandfather Ernest Oppenheimer lives on. [Anglo American is insistent on presenting its history of profiting from apartheid as a lengthy, enlightened struggle to abolish apartheid and to forge the new South Africa. It is happy to take credit for its contribution to a post-apartheid legacy that has included the rise of a new Black moneyed class and the perpetuation of massive inequalities between rich and poor. RS].
The Chair then praised the heroism of Anglo American workers and management in Queensland, where metallurgical coal workers had helped in the rescue operations during the New Year floods, and in Chile, where help had been given in rescuing survivors of the 2010 earthquake and in rebuilding schools.
He spoke about improvements in mine safety and said it showed that the goal of zero harm is possible.
He talked about the company's work on climate change and water scarcity. In addition to increasing production of coal, [which, when it is burnt, will of course make an enormous contribution to damaging climate change.RS] the company is, he said, working on Carbon Capture and Storage, the use of platinum in clean fuel cell technologies, and the use of algae to produce sustainable fuels.
He also spoke about the company's commitment to the UN Global Compact, the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, the Investment Climate Facility for Africa and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, and its new partnership with NGO International Alert.
Pebble project, Alaska
Jeweller Greg Valerio asked how the company would prevent the spread of controversy around the Pebble project to the company's other projects, implying that the move among jewellers to boycott any gold produced at a future Pebble Mine may be widened. Several speakers pointed out that significant investors have pulled out of the Pebble project and that 80% of people in the Bristol Bay area oppose it.
Native leader Bobby Andrew said that CEO Cynthia Carroll should honour her publicly made promise not to move forward with the project without the support of the Bristol Bay communities. Another speaker said that Section 404c of the Clean Water Act would close the project down. Bob Waldrop of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, representing most of the Bay's commercial fishermen, asked whether Anglo American would pull out of the project if studies showed that it would have a damaging impact on salmon.
Bonnie Gestring of US organisation Earthworks said that the Federal Government is assessing the appropriateness of the development and asked whether the company would honour its promise to abandon the project if there were damage to salmon.
Other speakers, from Native communities close to the site of the Pebble project, said that there were many people in the area who had not yet made a decision, and did not accept the right of others to speak for them. One said that it was irresponsible to circumvent due process because of opposition from jewellers from outside Alaska. This was a violation of Indigenous Peoples' rights.
Communities close to the possible mine site are economically depressed and want the right to control their own resources, and some favour mineral development. The Alaska Peninsula Corporation, involving five Native villages in the Bristol Bay region, takes the view that Section 404c of the Clean Water Act, which mine opponents hope may halt mine development, may also ban Native people from developing their own resources, and therefore violates their Indigenous rights.
They believe that the National Environmental Policy Act will protect the salmon. They do not wish to swap salmon for mining but want to have all the information before making a decision for or against mining.
Sir John Parker, replying to all questions and comments in one go, said that the company was listening to people's views. The company wants the project to enhance life in local communities. Alaskans are welcome to visit any of the company's operations elsewhere, for instance in Chile, to see the way in which the company conducts its operations. Pebble is still an exploration project.
No mine is planned yet. A pre-feasibility study is needed before the board could approve a mine plan. Pebble lies on land designated by the Alaskan government for mineral exploration and development. Alaska has protected 174 million acres, an area five and a half times the size of England. The Pebble project team is 75% Alaskan.
The company wants to hire and train Alaskan people. They want the Alaskan people to judge the project on facts, not rhetoric or scaremongering. They are employing some of the best scientists in the world to establish the facts, and will give the Alaskan people, and not just the government, full access to their scientific findings and to the mine plan. There is a long process before any plan is approved.
It needs to obtain sixty different kinds of permits from state and federal agencies. Fish and mining can coexist. Good examples are at the Red Dog, Fort Knox and Greens Creek mines. The Fraser River shows that fish and industrial activity need not threaten each other. This year, 35 million sockeye salmon returned to the river, despite the presence of largescale copper mining. The Pebble Partnership can design a mine which can bring benefits to all.
[Sir John did not refer to the precautionary principle. No mine can ever be failsafe. Bristol Bay's waters are pristine. A single major spillage would end that. But it is clear that the company is not willing to accept the judgement of 80% of the people in the area, and will continue attempting to persuade them that its mine plans will be infallible.]
The Cerrejon coal mine, Colombia
Richard Solly, of Colombia Solidarity Campaign, spoke about community relocations around the Cerrejon mine in La Guajira, Colombia. Anglo American owns one third of the mine. Richard had met two weeks previously with representatives of Cerrejon Coal to learn about the company's plans for mine expansion and the process of community consultation.
He was concerned about how people could feel free to express opinions about the mine in the context of human rights abuses and impunity. Mine workers have suffered because of attacks on the mine by some armed groups, and critics of the mine have been threatened by others.
There is also concern about the existing relocation process for communities affected by current mining operations. Cerrejon Coal's account of the process differs from the account given by the communities involved. They speak of divisions in the communities caused by the pressure to move quickly. The community of Roche has been split between those who have moved to the new site and those who want their concerns about economic security dealt with before they move.
Economic projects are not yet in place and there is insufficient land in the new community for people to keep their cattle, so a move will lead to loss of livelihood. The company frequently cuts the electricity supply to the village and is threatening to close the school and the health centre as a way of pressuring residents to move.
What was meant to be a collective relocation has degenerated into family by family removal. Families without title to their land will lose what they have without being provided with anything in the new settlement. The company has now stopped paying independent advisors, Indepaz, and the communities lack the advice they need.
What will Anglo American do to ensure that Cerrejon Coal improves its handling of the distressing process of relocation?
Sir John Parker stated that Anglo American worked closely with the other two shareholders, BHP Billiton and Xstrata. Mine management has worked to improve security. Head of Thermal Coal, Norman Mbazima, said that Anglo American does exert influence over Cerrejon's operations. He said that relocations had been going on for some time. Some communities were moved before the current consortium took over, and remedial work had to be done.
Discussions at Roche have taken place over several years and relocations will occur in accordance with international standards. The Independent Third Party Review will sign off with regard to communities still to move. He said that communities would have more land than they had before.
[If what Mr Mbazima says is true, then Cerrejon Coal has been spectacularly unsuccessful in communicating it to many villagers facing relocation. But it is also possible that Mr Mbazima has been misinformed. Accounts given by the company and by community representatives continue to diverge widely.RS].
South African former mineworkers with silicosis
Rachel Nkumanda spoke on behalf of Alpheos Blom, one of the former mineworkers suing the company for health care costs. She asked for confirmation of two points. The Chairman had suggested that changes in the exact nature of the claims being brought against the company would mean that they would take longer to resolve. Was this the case, and if so, does the company have no influence in this matter? And was the company really committing to a humanitarian response regarding the financial cost of medical help for the duration of the court process?
Sir John Parker repeated that the legal position had not changed but that the company had been influenced by the speech given at the 2010 AGM by Ms Nkumanda on behalf of Alpheos Blom, who was present on that occasion. The company had agreed on purely humanitarian grounds that Anglo American would offer to help the 24 individuals who had claimed to date. The company would pay for an independent medical check and would meet medical bills arising from it until the court cases were settled.
Other shareholders' questions
In response to a lengthy question about acquisition strategy, the Chair said that few ‘transformational deals' were available. The company had looked at Riversdale's Mozambique operations but was not willing to pay what Rio Tinto paid for them, partly because of problems with transportation. The company was expanding its nickel operations and actively interested in copper deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A tribute to the Oppenheimer family led to a question about what might happen to the family's shareholding in the company. The Chairman would not comment.
And finally, one shareholder called for better refreshments after AGMs, particularly the serving of wine from the company's South African vineyard. There was more audible support for this than for protection of the waters of Bristol Bay, or the livelihoods of Colombian farmers, or the health of former mineworkers dying of silicosis in South Africa.
British Parliamentarian calls on Anglo American to assist dying miners
19 April 2011
Anglo American PLC
20 Carlton House Terrace
Anglo American South Africa
44 Main Street
Dear Board and Shareholders,
You will be aware of the cases brought against Anglo American South Africa Ltd by ex-miners who suffer from serious respiratory diseases caused by dust in their gold mines. Last year, one such victim, Alpheos Blom, attended Anglo's AGM in London to talk to the Board and its shareholders about his condition and that of thousands of other ex gold miners. Since then, Mr Blom's health has deteriorated and he is now too ill to travel. Many others have died undiagnosed, untreated and uncompensated. As members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on international corporate responsibility, we are calling on Anglo to take urgent steps to address this tragic epidemic of lung disease that has affected ex-gold miners and their communities.
Studies have found high rates of silicosis and tuberculosis in black miners who performed the dustiest jobs without respiratory protection. Despite having known for almost a century of the need to reduce dust levels to avoid these diseases, a 1994 commission of inquiry concluded that dust levels on the gold mines had not improved for fifty years. Estimates of the number of victims are in the tens of thousands, if not higher. Those affected are from the former "bantustans" and neighbouring states such as Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana & Mozambique, from which migrant labour on the mines was drawn during apartheid.
Silicosis sufferers are far more vulnerable to tuberculosis, which is endemic in South Africa. Lack of TB diagnostic and treatment facilities in rural areas means that the consequences are frequently serious or fatal. Ex-miners who contract TB (often of a drug-resistant variety) may then transmit the infection to family and community members. One medical expert has referred to a "river of disease flowing out of the gold mines". But the industry seems to have done little to ensure that miners' health is monitored or treated promptly, even though this unfolding public health disaster has been fuelled by lax health and safety standards. Neither does the industry seem to have done anything to assist in ensuring that affected miners, unable to work and feed their families, are compensated for their injuries.
Anglo PLC's subsidiary, Anglo American South Africa Ltd, headed probably the largest gold mining house in South Africa over the past century. Anglo prides itself on its commitment to protecting the health of employees and in improving the well-being of the communities in which it operates. Since Alpheos Blom last attended Anglo's AGM in London a year ago to remind the Board and shareholders of Anglo of the situation, his health has deteriorated and many other ex-miners have died. We therefore call on Anglo to establish:
(a) a settlement scheme that properly compensates victims of silicosis and silico-tuberculosis
(b) a system to identify miners who are eligible for compensation
(c) a system for ensuring early detection and treatment of TB in ex-miners.
We look forward to your response.
Eric Avebury, The Lord Avebury, House of Lord, London S W 1A OPW
Patricia Feeney, Executive Director, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID)
Michaela Clayton Director, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)
Anglo faces questions about dust-related illnesses
Workers illness to be put on agenda at Anglo American AGM on Thursday
By Allan Seccombe
Business Day (South Africa)
21 April 2011
ANGLO American, one of the world's largest resources companies, is likely to face some tough questions about sick workers in SA at its annual general meeting today.
A representative of Alpheus Blom, a worker who contracted silicosis at a South African gold mine, is likely to raise the question of what Anglo is doing about dust-related illnesses for a second time in two years at today's meeting of shareholders, said Richard Meeran, a lawyer from Leigh Day & Co.
Mr Meeran, who successfully spearheaded claims for workers made sick by asbestos and mercury in SA, is a consultant for the legal team representing 18 South African workers afflicted with silicosis, a lung illness brought on by inhaling silica- laden dust while mining for gold.
Preparatory work has been going on since 2004 for the court case due to start next year to decide the merits of the compensation demands from sick employees who once worked for Anglo's subsidiary Anglo American SA, which was the holding company of gold mines.
Silicosis, which damages the lungs by scarring, leaves the victim susceptible to tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and emphysema.
Anglo spokesman Pranill Ramchander said the company's response was unchanged.
"Anglo American does not believe that it is in any way liable for the silicosis claims brought by former gold mine workers and is defending the actions," he said.
"The claimants were employed by South African gold mining companies in which Anglo American had an interest of less than 25%. Anglo American maintains that these companies were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them," he said.
It will be interesting to see how Anglo CEO Cynthia Carroll and chairman John Parker respond to the issue raised given the strong emphasis they have brought to the company on health and safety and community relationships.
Tony Davies, an occupational medicine specialist, said if the test case was successful, claims against SA's gold miners could run into billions of rand.
The statutory maximum payment for a mineworker with silicosis is a once-off R38000 and those with silicosis and tuberculosis could receive a maximum R80000 once- off payment.
One of the claimants in the Anglo case is seeking R3m, which is not the highest claim, Mr Meeran said. He declined to put a total value on the claims against Anglo American SA or give a range of the claims brought against the group.
Graham Briggs, the CEO of Harmony Gold, said yesterday that dust reduction at gold mines was one of the mining industry's four main issues it was tackling to improve safety and health.
Test case against Anglo SA could lead to suit avalanche
By Ayanda Mdluli
21 April 2011
A test case against Anglo American South Africa, which if successful will bring an avalanche of suits against the mining industry, will be heard next year after miners who contracted silicosis or silicosis tuberculosis from exposure to dust have been waiting decades for compensation.
Legal Aid South Africa and London law firm Leigh Day said in a press briefing yesterday that the test case involving 18 ex-miners, four of whom have since died, was at an advanced stage of litigation and although a trial date had not yet been set, it would be in 2012.
The attorneys representing the plaintiffs, represented the Cape PLC and Thor Chemicals victims and were successful in their UK claims.
Richard Meeran, an attorney from Leigh Day, said out of the 500 000 miners employed by the industry, 25 percent had contracted silicosis due to excessive exposure to dust and the lack of adequate safety measures from mining companies. The disease takes years to develop and most of those affected, were people who worked between 1970 to 2000.
"Anglo American South Africa was the largest gold mining company during that period and most of the affected workers were on Anglo American mines," said Meeran.
Meeran said the main idea was that when the case went on trial, the court would look at the issues and assess how the company would be held liable.
Miners from the Free State, Lesotho, Swaziland and the Eastern Cape were employed at Anglo's President Steyn Mine in the Free State in the 1970s.
Tony Davis, a professor of occupational health and safety, said the disease was derived from a mineral called silica which is a constituent of the earth's crust. When inhaled, the dust reached the depths of the lungs and caused scarring, which shrunk the lungs and impaired the transfer of oxygen and ultimately lead to heart failure. The disease also caused tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema, he said. "People do not die from silicosis; they die from the tuberculosis which is superimposed on damage done by silicosis. Once a person is exposed to silicosis it increases the risk of tuberculosis for the rest of their lives."
Davis said according to an enquiry known as the Leon Commission, the dust levels in South African mines had not changed for over 50 years, and this had presented an increased and unnecessary risk of silicosis due to the failure to process data and the high TB rate.
Nombulelo Matu, a former secretary of the mine workers' unions in the former Transkei, said many doors were slammed in their faces when they sought assistance from stakeholders, including the Chamber of Mines, which passed the buck onto government.
They approached the Department of Health in 2006, which assessed people who worked on the mines and found that 18 563 ex-miners were affected in the Eastern Cape. Discussions for compensation with the department concluded that an amount of R54 million would be available for the 18 563 affected people, each getting a measly R2 700. They rejected this offer, Matu explained.
Anglo communications manager Pranil Ramchander said that as much as the company was sympathetic to the silicosis victims and supported initiatives by the industry, government and labour to ensure that they were properly treated and provided with statutory compensation, the company was not liable for their claims.
"The claimants were employed by South African gold mining companies in which Anglo American South Africa had an interest of less than 25 percent. Anglo American maintains that these companies were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them," said Ramchander.
Lesiba Seshoka, the spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers (Num), criticised this statement and said thousands of workers who had contracted silicosis were sent home to die every month.
He refuted claims that the unions were not assisting affected mine workers.
"Num has been at the forefront to assist sick workers, however, we can't represent people who are not members."
Richard Spoor, a human rights attorney from Spoor and Fischer, said he was putting together a large group action on mining companies. He said there was a substantial damages claim to compensate mine workers as conditions in mines were unacceptable.
"The industry has been doing this without consequence and they have not been paying damages. They must be held accountable. If we make it expensive to kill and maim people, then the mining companies will kill and maim less."
Frans Barker, a senior executive at the Chamber of Mines, dismissed claims that the chamber had closed its doors to sick workers, saying it had launched an ex-mineworker project, which trained hospitals on how to assess and deal with lung diseases. "The purpose was to assist in claims from the compensation commission. We assisted former employees to be examined."
Anglo American to help miners with medical claims
By Alex MacDonald
21 April 2011
LONDON - Global diversified miner Anglo American PLC said Thursday that it will offer to cover the medical expenses of gold miners in South Africa who have filed claims related to respiratory ailments against the company.
"This is one of those situations where, even though Anglo American firmly believes it is not liable, it has decided, as a responsible corporate citizen, to respond to the request for assistance," Chief Executive Cynthia Carroll told at an annual general meeting with shareholders here.
Alpheos Blom, a former gold mine worker, shared his story of ill health with the help of a representative at the company's annual general meeting last year. He said he was suffering from silicosis and that he had also contracted tuberculosis.
Silicosis is a lung illness brought on by inhaling silica-laden dust. Silicosis damages the lungs by scarring, leaving victims prone to tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and emphysema.
Blom, along with seven other former gold-mine workers, filed individual legal actions in South Africa against Anglo's subsidiary Anglo American South Africa, but the case hasn't been heard yet.
Further claims were brought in 2009 and will likely be heard in conjunction with the 2004 claims but Anglo has been told that the claims are not likely to come to trial for a considerable period of time.
"I understood Mr. Blom to be concerned about the length of time that it is taking for his claim to be decided by the Courts in South Africa, and he has asked for our help," Anglo American's Chairman John Parker said. "In the circumstances, Anglo American--despite denying all liability--will respond positively to Mr. Blom's request for help," he said.
In an effort to expedite the claims, Anglo American had already taken the unusual step some time ago of agreeing with Blom and the other initial claimants upon a way to streamline the progress of their claims ahead of any trial date, while also attempting to find a method of resolving the disputes out of court.
Anglo American has now decided to also make proposals to the claimants' attorneys to provide appropriate medical treatment insofar as the claimants suffer from silicosis or silico-tuberculosis.
"This proposal will be made on humanitarian grounds, without any admission of liability," Carroll said. "If accepted, it will mean the claimants will very soon benefit from proper medical treatment, which will continue for as long as it takes their claims to be finally resolved by the Courts."
The claimants were employed by South African gold-mining companies in which Anglo American had an interest of less than 25%. Anglo American maintains that these companies were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them, Anglo American spokesman James Wyatt-Tilby confirmed.
Coalition to save Bristol Bay, Alaska
21 April 2011
We write on the day of Anglo American's shareholder meeting to register deep concerns about the proposed open-cast, gold and copper Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. We are unusual bedfellows, including Alaska Native leaders, the director of Bristol Bay's largest commercial fishing group, royal jewellers, fisheries conservationists and keen anglers. Together we express our support for protecting Bristol Bay, home to the world's largest, sustainable and most valuable wild-salmon fishery.
Anglo American has not gained broad community support for the mine. Some 80% of Bristol Bay residents are opposed. The all-party parliamentary group for tribal peoples has tabled an early day motion, expressing concern at the lack of consent of the local population, as required by the UN declaration of the rights of indigenous people.
Last week a group of 30 investors, including the UK local authority pension funds, representing over £106bn, wrote to the US Environmental Protection Agency urging a review process under the Clean Water Act to evaluate the waste impacts of the proposed mine on the Bristol Bay watershed, which produces roughly half the world's commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon.
We do not want to see a renewable resource that feeds the local communities, employs 10,000 people and provides a source of healthy seafood to the world put at risk for a non-renewable resource. We are proud to stand together in our opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine.
Bob Waldrop Executive director, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Agency, David Harsila, President, Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association, Bobby Andrew, Spokesman, Nunamta Aulukestai, Martin Horwood MP, Chair, all-party parliamentary group for tribal peoples, Paul Knight, Chief executive, Salmon & Trout Association, Tim Ingle, Director, Ingle & Rhode, Christian Cheesman, Director, CRED Jewellery, Charles Jardine, Angler.
Anglo gives activist Botha the boot
Independent (South Africa)
26 April 2011
Anglo American officials prevented shareholder activist Theo Botha from attending the company's annual general meeting (AGM) in London last Thursday because they were unable to confirm that Botha had a "valid right of entry to the AGM".
Early last week, Botha had indicated to the company that he intended raising concerns about the group's chief executive, Cynthia Carroll, and its executive remuneration policy.
Botha, who frequently attends AGMs and has never failed to produce the correct documentation, was adamant that he had the right papers.
A lawyer described Anglo American's move as reminiscent of the 1980s when firms resorted to all sorts of tactics to prevent trade union representatives from attending AGMs.
Botha, who is known to the Anglo American executives, had travelled to London at his own expense. He has been particularly critical of the appointment of Carroll as chairman of Anglo Platinum (Angloplat), a company that is controlled by Anglo American.
Botha told Business Report at the weekend that, faced with the intransigence of the Anglo American employees, he had no choice but to walk away.
He was not given the option of attending the meeting as a "guest" either. This option is reserved for journalists who are allowed to attend but are not allowed to ask questions.
Anglo American head of media and communications James Wyatt-Tilby said Botha's "paperwork wasn't right" so he could not be allowed into the AGM. He said Botha was not able to attend unless he could prove he was a shareholder or had a valid letter of proxy.
"If you deviate from that rule you would have all sorts of people attending the meeting," he said.
In a statement, Wyatt-Tilby later said that when Botha arrived at the AGM, Anglo American's UK registrars telephoned the South African registrars to ascertain whether the company who had provided Botha with a proxy "was indeed a shareholder" in Anglo American.
"Unfortunately, no link could be made with the register of shareholders in South Africa and it was therefore impossible for us to verify that Mr Botha had a legitimate letter of representation."
The decision to refuse Botha entry to the meeting in any capacity was taken despite earlier e-mail communications between Botha and Anglo American's company secretary Nick Jordan. Earlier this month, Jordan e-mailed Botha asking if he intended attending the AGM this year. Botha had attended the meeting last year.
"May I ask if you are intending to attend our AGM this year and whether you have questions that could be answered in advance," he wrote.
Botha replied: "I will be asking more or less the same questions I asked at the Angloplat AGM ... the chief executive's appointment as chairman of Angloplat, remuneration issues, share buybacks". - Ann Crotty
Anglo ducks activist's charge
Mail & Guardian
29 April 2011
Anglo American has admitted that it erred in preventing South African shareholder activist Theo Botha from attending its annual general meeting (AGM) in London last week, but has attempted to pass the buck to service providers Link and Equiniti.
Last Thursday Botha was denied access to the AGM even though he was properly accredited to act as a proxy by Strate, an Anglo American shareholder.
This week Botha received an email from Anglo American company secretary Nick Jordan admitting that Botha's paperwork was correct but that there had been an administrative error that resulted in his exclusion.
Jordan says that Botha's surname was written in the wrong space on the form and because of this his name was captured as Theo Bennett instead. Botha says he accepts that the service providers made a mistake but feels that Anglo American should be apologising to him and not apologising on behalf of its service providers.
In a letter he sent to Jordan this week, he says: "You state further that you are satisfied that your staff acted correctly; I disagree. I presented the correct documentation to your assistant company secretary and he even made a comment that he remembered my attendance at last year's AGM. "If, as you say, your staff acted correctly then why didn't they phone Goudstad Nominees? After all, their contact details were on the proxy letter.
"At the end of the day, you and I can blame whoever -- but the company Anglo American Plc has to accept responsibility for not allowing me to attend the AGM which was held on April 21 2011," Botha says.
He had been planning to query the appointment at the AGM of Anglo American chief executive Cynthia Carroll as the chairperson of subsidiary Anglo Platinum. Botha had raised these concerns at the Anglo Platinum AGM earlier in the month, particularly the involvement of Carroll in Angloplats's decision about dividends, which has a direct impact on Anglo American's performance and thus on the remuneration of Anglo American executives, including Carroll.
At the time she said she recused herself from board decisions "when I feel any conflict". Botha also argues that on April 18 he told Jordan by email that he would be attending the AGM in London and informed him of the questions he would be asking.
"In the 10 years that I have attended AGMs my stockbroker has never made a mistake regarding my documentation," writes Botha in his letter to Jordan. "So I find it very strange that your assistant company secretary prevented me from attending the 2011 AGM." Jordan's letter does not acknowledge any wrongdoing by Anglo American.
"While I am satisfied our staff acted correctly on the day with the information they had, further research this morning has revealed that the cause was a bizarre error made by both our SA transfer secretaries and UK registrars prior to the AGM," he writes.
"You were, indeed, validly appointed [as a] proxy by Strate; however, because the form they completed had your surname on the line below your forenames, both the SA transfer secretaries and UK registrars independently made the same error -- by recording your surname as Bennett instead of Botha.
"It is also disappointing that the error was not noticed when the registrars spoke by phone immediately prior to the AGM when we were trying to establish your credentials," writes Jordan. "I must therefore offer my apologies on behalf of both Link and Equiniti, who no doubt will wish to add theirs.
"I can also confirm that they will reimburse your expenses in travelling to the AGM, if you would kindly confirm the details to me. For our part, we will ensure you receive full answers to the questions you intended to raise at the meeting had you been admitted."
Responding to the Mail & Guardian's questions this week Anglo American said it was "genuinely sorry" that Botha had not been admitted to the AGM. "The error was not Anglo American's; it was made by our agents on our behalf," a company spokesperson said.