Shareholders join Rio protest


Shareholders join Rio protest
From: AAP
May 04, 2006

SHAREHOLDERS have joined protesters outside the annual general meeting of mining giant Rio Tinto in Melbourne, concerned about the company’s mining practices in Papua New Guinea.
Organised by the Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) and Free West Papua campaign, the protest – outside the Sofitel hotel in busy Collins Street – was against alleged corruption and human rights abuses at the giant Freeport mine in Indonesia’s Papua province.
MPI said the Freeport mine was engaging in similar irresponsible conduct to that at the Rio Tinto-owned mine in Bougainville, which led to a 10-year civil war.
It follows the release of a report by the Indonesian Environment Forum which alleged that Rio Tinto was releasing copper tailings from its Freeport mine into a nearby river.
Shareholder John Poppins said he was concerned about the report and was there to support the protest as well as voice his opinion at the AGM.
“I have a growing level of concern as I grow older in the way in which my dividends are earned, and the impacts on the other people, particularly in countries where the law is not as strong as it is here,” Mr Poppins said.
Mr Poppins said he was concerned about the report which was released this week by the Indonesian Environment Forum.
“Deeply, yes. It seems in my youth I invested all my savings in the bad guys,” he said.
“There are really only two alternatives: you can sell in disgust or you can hold on to the shares and start to question the company.”
Some shareholders had given their proxy votes to Papuan and environmental activists, allowing them to attend the meeting.
Herman Wanggai, one of the Papuan asylum seekers recently given visas to stay in Australia, was at the protest and said there was one thing he wanted to ask at the AGM.
“The question I ask is why are we suffering for the rich resources?” Mr Arumisore said.
Moses Havini, who described himself as the international representative for Bougainville, said Rio Tinto should be held accountable for what it was doing to the environment in Papua.
“There seems to be two rules: one for Rio Tinto in other countries; and the other one is in other countries such as Bougainville and Papua New Guinea where it is fine to pump mine tailings directly into the water systems and the sea,” Mr Havini said.
Rio Tinto has invested $2.2 billion in the mine.
http://finance.news.com.au/story/0,10166,19022917-31037,00.html
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