Trouble at mill [mine]

 

 

Aust warned to stay out of B’ville affairs

Source: 
The National, Wednesday 27th February, 2013

FORMER Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander Sam Kaona has warned Australia not to meddle in Bougainville affairs.
He said the first policy draft on mining in Bougainville was no different from the colonial policy that caused the crisis.
“The Australians have taken control of mining policy in Buka and the first policy draft by ABG legal unit headed by Tony Regan is no different from the previous policy,” Kaona, who is chairman of the recently formed Bougainville Resources Owners Representative Council, said.
He added that the proposed policy, sponsored by AusAID and drafted by Regan, risked Bougainville’s first constitutional crisis.
“Since the constitution is the supreme law of Bougainville, section 23 of the Bougainville constitution, which restores ownership of resources on Bougainville to the customary landowners, is the only option that is constitutionally legal.
“So any attempt to impose any other resource ownership system would be invalid and ineffective – they are risking a constitutional crisis.”
Resources rights activist Simon Ekanda shared similar sentiments.
“Bougainville mining policy does not belong to Regan, BCL (Bougainville Copper Ltd) or the Australians, it belongs to the resource owners and the people of Bougainville.
“This is to be a Bougainville mining policy written by Bougainvilleans in Bougainville for the Bougainville resource owners and people.
“Section 23 of the Bougainville constitution returning the resource ownership to the customary landowners is to be the foundation of that policy.
“Let me be absolutely clear – there will be no compromise on this.
“The Panguna landowners must determine that their interests will be best served by securing a special mining lease over their resource and then to entertain qualified mining companies with the view to putting Panguna back into production.
He also cautioned ABG President John Momis to be careful with the new mining policy.
“Both PNG and Bougainvilleans have died and it is unwise if Momis allows colonial administrators to rewrite Bougainville mining laws.”

#closingceremony

no ADF, no Stones, not even Donovan – could any of them even face performing at that Nuremberg rally? on that stage that was a cross between a police kettle and a technicolor swastika? With Boris, Harry and Cameron pretending to dance, to George Michael singing ‘freedom’ for the peoples of Helmand Province? I don’t think so.

Yeah, so I am realizing I did not really get into the spirit of the closing ceremony, as much as I liked the running, the bikes and the canoes. It just pisses me off no end that criminals like Rio Tinto can parade as sponsors (providing the nickel behind the plate covered medals. Especially during the closing ceremony when I thought maybe some sort of musical contribution, the UK has made some, might get noted. Here for the archive is part of the messy record of the tweets of despair: @sputnyk

 

Australia wins Gold! But can the same be said for Rio Tinto?

Good to see Bougainville Freedom Movement is having a good games. (My view: Fuck Riotinto and all her major shareholders]

Australia wins Gold! But can the same be said for Rio Tinto?
Australia has won its first gold medal, and the athletes were awarded medals made from gold produced by Rio Tinto, the official supplier to the London Olympics. The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games claims all suppliers have passed the requirements of its ethical sourcing guidelines, but one does not have to dig much at all to see that Rio Tinto should never have been accredited as a supplier to the Games. See http://publishwhatyoupay.org/newsroom/blog/australia-wins-gold-can-same-be-said-rio-tinto.


Rio Tinto – a record fit for the Olympics?
Updated background briefing on the impacts of Olympic medal metal provider Rio Tinto’s mining operations around the world.
http://londonminingnetwork.org/2012/07/rio-tinto-a-record-fit-for-the-olympics/

Sturm in the South Seas

This is yet another example of the crazy lengths the worlds most grotesque mining company will go to pass off transparently laughable public relations propaganda as fact (lets just say that Rupert Murdoch is mere paper to this lot’s stone in the paper-scissors-stone game that is global plunder). For readers, BCL = Bougainville Copper. RTZ = Riotinto – and BCL belong RTZ – in riotinto’s, and Australia’s, colonial era (as in, just the other day, and ongoing) adventure in PNG = Papua New Guinea (note also: Bougainville aka Autonomous Bougainville, AKA Mekamui)…

The Evidence of BCL’s role in the Bougainville Conflict: A Reluctant Response to Axel G. Sturm’s Open Letter

April 26th 2012

The Evidence of BCL’s role in the Bougainville Conflict: A Reluctant Response to Axel G. Sturm’s Open Letter

Posted by Effrey

By Dr Kristian Lasslett*

On the 23rd of April 2012, Act Now posted a blog I had written on BCL and the Bougainville conflict. It was a critical but hopefully constructive piece, on how BCL might mend certain bridges with communities on Bougainville, using fairly orthodox transitional justice techniques. It was not a new argument, indeed the distinguished ANU scholar John Braithwaite wrote in 2011: “Reconciliation between the mining company, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, and Bougainvilleans is yet to be achieved. An obstacle here is that the company fears ritual apology would expose it to liability in the courts. Yet this reconciliation to some extent holds a key to international reconciliation among Bougainville, Australia and Papua New Guinea”.

In response to my article the President of the European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper composed an open letter addressed to me. This letter included comments that bordered on the slanderous. In particular Axel G Sturm argued:

Your disgraceful lampoon is remarkable. It’s really shameful if an expert in criminology completely ignores facts and reality. Your naive adoption of statements and claims from rebel groups on the ground disqualify you as an honest scientist…I suppose your work in Ulster [Northern Ireland], a region well known for rebellion and organised crime, troubled your vision…Unfortunately you are also allowed to spread your ideas among you students. You shall not use your academic position as a platform for indoctrination and agitation. (emphasis added)

I took it from Mr Sturm’s statement, he had not bothered to familiarise himself with my research on the Bougainville conflict. Had he, Mr Sturm would have discovered that my findings are based upon interviews with General Managers and three Managing Directors who steered BCL during the 1987-1991 period. These interviews were triangulated through extensive documentary research, using internal BCL records including meeting minutes and company memorandums (these documents became available following two court cases involving BCL and its parent company). I also interviewed senior state officials in Papua New Guinea, including the former Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu (1988-1992), and senior military officers involved in the operations on Bougainville.

I remained somewhat aloof during the controversy elicited by an SBS report in June 2011, as I feel my research speaks for itself – on reflection, I perhaps erred in not correcting factual inaccuracies that were subsequently reported in the media (see Callick 2011). However, in light of recent personal attacks on my credibility as a researcher and scholar, I feel compelled to summarise the empirical evidence on which my recent suggestions were based.

1.    BCL placed substantive pressure on the Papua New Guinea government to send the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Mobile Squads – a paramilitary style force, who according to their own commanders excel in the use of terror (RPNGC Assistant Commissioner, Personal Communication, 2006) – to Bougainville in 1988, following attacks on mine property by a landowner group. They made this request in full knowledge of the Mobile Squads’ chequered human rights record. As one General Manager informed me: “We knew the riot squads were heavy handed, that was well known in PNG. That’s how they worked. If you threw a rock at them you would get ten rocks thrown back. They were very heavy handed in the way they handled disputes in the Highlands…It was a case, somebody has to come. They were the only ones that could come, and put a lid on this thing before it got out of hand” (Personal Communication, 2006). The Mobile Squads were responsible for numerous atrocities on Bougainville during 1989-1990.

2.    When Prime Minister Namaliu opted to send a peace delegation to Bougainville to resolve the impasse with landowners in December 1988, BCL’s Chairman – who was also an executive at Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia (CRA) – threatened to withdraw all CRA investments from Papua New Guinea. In a memorandum dated 6 December 1988 he recounts his reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposal: “The PM’s priority was to ‘appease’ the landowners. I expressed the view that CRA would want to review its assessment of PNG as a place to invest. In all, it was an unsatisfactory meeting”. At the time CRA was investing heavily in mineral projects at Hidden Valley in Morobe, and Mount Klare in Enga (Post-Courier, 29/11/1988; Business Review Weekly, 9/6/1989).

3.    When Mobile Squad units and Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) soldiers arrived on Bougainville during December 1988 and early 1989, BCL gave the security forces access to company assets. A BCL General Manager from the period recalls: “We did everything they asked of us to make their life more comfortable, and better able to manage through, with transport, communications, provisions, whatever, fuel. You know we gave them everything, because as a far as we saw it we were hoping that they were going to solve the situation, so we could start operating again. So we supported them every way we could” (Personal Communication, 2006). This claim was confirmed by a senior civil servant who was working in Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister’s department:  “We relied heavily on some of the civilian facilities provided by the company. They did everything, I mean we spent lots and lots of money, to provide backup support services for the operation. But the defense force was not properly equipped at all” (Personal Communication, 2006). I have found no evidence to suggest BCL were forced by the PNG government to make this contribution.

4.    BCL regularly met with military commanders from the PNGDF and senior Cabinet figures. During these meetings security force operations were discussed in detail.  For example, BCL was informed by the Minister of State that the security forces were planning to use “brutal firepower” to resolve the situation on Bougainville. This is evidenced in meeting minutes dated 8 June 1989. BCL did not alert the domestic or international community of the impeding humanitarian crisis.

5.    BCL meeting minutes evidence the fact that during 1989 the company’s Managing Director provided strategic input to PNGDF commanders and government officials on security force offensive operations.

6.    BCL was aware of the illicit tactics being employed by the government’s security forces, yet still availed company assets to the PNGDF and RPNGC. For example, the company’s charitable arm – the Bougainville Copper Foundation (BCF) – had surveyed homes lost to village burnings, which were conducted en masse by the Mobile Squads and the PNGDF during 1989. A BCF official informed me that during a security operation in March/April 1989, “forty, fifty villages, and the crops [were destroyed]. The villages were varying from five or six houses to twenty or thirty houses” (Personal Communication, 2006).

7.    There is evidence to suggest BCL’s Managing Director did raise concerns with PNGDF officers over the loss of civilian life. Nevertheless, the company continued to provide material assistance to the security forces.

8.    Allegations have been made that BCL’s Chairman supported the military blockade which was placed around Bougainville during 1990 – this blockade included the denial of humanitarian aid. In particular, the former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (1988-1992) of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, alleges that the Chairman stated lets “starve the bastards out”. Sadly the Chairman has passed away, and I have not been able to confirm the veracity of this particular allegation. However, I was told by a senior BCL executive that the company was supportive of the blockade for two reasons: “One was the ability of the militants to get more weapons to increase the level of their militancy. And the second was that there was always these threats that they were going to sell off the mine equipment” (Personal Communication, 2006).

Of course, I can only hint here at the evidence collected over several years of doctoral research. Moreover, in a blog post, it is clearly impossible to add more context, which would help readers understand some of the complex factors influencing BCL’s decisions.

Though in light of the above, I would suggest – to borrow the words of Mr Sturm – it was in fact those scholars and journalists that rejected the allegations made against BCL by landowners and activists who might be accused of being “naive”, after all accessible documentary evidence on BCL’s involvement has been available since 1990 (following a Supreme Court of Victoria court case involving BCL and their insurers – BCL records are also stored in an archive at the University of Melbourne and may be viewed upon request).

Nevertheless, it is not my intention to vilify BCL. They operated the Panguna mine for 17 years, and many scholars and journalists have written quite favourable pieces on their corporate record during this period. My specific claims relate to a small window in the company’s life, 1988-1990, where decisions were taken that implicated BCL in the hostilities, and the human rights abuses they generated.

Clearly it is up to the people of Bougainville to decide how they wish to manage their natural resources. However, democratic decision making about the future depends upon accurate knowledge of the past. In this respect, BCL can make an important contribution to democracy and reconciliation in Bougainville by, a) fully disclosing their role in the conflict; and b) making amends with those affected by their actions.

I am more than happy to engage in further probing dialogue with anyone who cares to comment; but I will not react to any further personal attacks, or ill informed judgements on the rigour of my research. I consider that issue now resolved.

*Kristian Lasslett is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Ulster and he sits on the Executive Board of the International State Crime Initiative.

Guardian – corruption, diamonds, Hazare… tigers… toxic… : ‘Rio Tinto, which is investing £292m on what it calls the Bunder project, vehemently denies that the mine has anything to do with Masood’s murder’

Shehla Masood battled corruption in India. Was that why she was killed?

The shooting of a prominent activist was ‘unfortunate’, says a minister. But her friends suspect that she knew too much to live

Shehla Masood

A family photograph of Shehla Masood, who was campaigning against plans to open a mine when she was killed.

For many of her 38 years, Shehla Masood had campaigned tirelessly against corruption. Glamorous and combative, she had embraced India‘s Right to Information Act with gusto, rattling out applications in all directions, exposing wrongdoing at the highest levels of Madhya Pradesh state where she lived, upsetting many powerful people with a great deal to lose. Judges, police and politicians from the local ruling BJP party had all come into her sights and been exposed for misusing public cash.

In recent months, she had turned her attention to mining conglomerate Rio Tinto‘s plans to extract 37 million tonnes of diamond-bearing ore from land in one of the finest strands of teak forest in the country.

Then, on 16 August, Shehla was found dead in her car outside her home in a prosperous area of Bhopal, with a single gunshot to her neck. More than a month later, the investigation has hit a brick wall. Even the offer of a £7,500 reward – an enormous sum for India – has failed to elicit a single witness to a killing that took place in broad daylight in a busy street.

It is Tuesday morning in that same respectable street in Bhopal. A large khaki tent is pitched opposite Shehla’s house. Four police officers, posted to guard her family, sprawl inside on charpoys, fast asleep. The road leads to a large slum, whose residents pass regularly in front of the house, much as they must have done on the morning she died.

It was Shehla’s father, Sultan Masood, who found her lying with her head back in the front seat of her little silver Hyundai Santro car. “I called: ‘Shehla, Shehla’, but she didn’t speak. I took some water and splashed it on her face and then her dupatta [scarf] slipped down and I noticed the black hole in her neck. I started screaming: ‘Somebody has killed my daughter, someone has shot my daughter.'”

It is almost inconceivable that no one saw the killer or heard the shot, but Shehla’s fate appears to have been a warning to others to keep silent.

For Shehla, though, silence was never an option. In the past few months, she had targeted Rio Tinto’s diamond plans. Environmentalists feared that the mine project in Chhatarpur district – inaugurated by the chief minister in 2009 – threatened the watershed of Panna Tiger Reserve and the Shyamri river.

In a letter to India’s home minister in July, she wrote: “The Rio Tinto company began exploring in this eco-sensitive zone before being granted government permission. The officials who objected have been transferred from their positions.”

The high court of Madhya Pradesh had already ordered the national and state governments to explain why mining had been permitted, according to the petition, “in gross violation of rules and regulations”.

Shehla planned to launch her own legal challenge and had started to file right-to-information applications to gather evidence.

Shehla’s younger sister, Ayesha, has returned from the US, where she is studying microbiology, and has been trying to make sense of what happened, ploughing through her computer hard drive, digging out her correspondence, looking for a clue. Sitting in the living room of the elegantly furnished, two-storey family home, the 34-year-old said: “She told a friend who met her five days before her death that she had information that would shake the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh to its core.”

Ayesha Masood fears the killing is linked to those who stood to gain from the deal with Rio Tinto. Gopal Krishna, founder of the Delhi-based ToxicsWatch Alliance, had been working with Shehla in the weeks before her death. He said she had just started making fresh right-to-information applications and planned to launch her own public-interest challenge to the mine in the high court.

Vinita Deshmukh, a journalist and activist who has followed the case closely, said: “It was more convenient and more economical perhaps to snuff out the life of Shehla. Money and power almost always overpower the laws of this country, especially when it comes to big projects that generally throw up lucrative commissions and kickbacks to officers and elected representatives.”

Madhya Pradesh’s home minister, Uma Shankar Gupta, dismissed such suggestions. It was “unfortunate” that she was killed, he said, but no one in government wanted her dead: there were plenty of more capable right-to-information activists and nothing had happened to them.

As for the Rio Tinto mine, it could not possibly be illegal, he said: “If the chief minister went over and inaugurated it, it has to be legal.”

Rio Tinto, which is investing £292m on what it calls the Bunder project, vehemently denies that the mine has anything to do with Masood’s murder.

A spokesman said: “Rio Tinto started exploring for minerals in India in 1996 after the sector was opened for foreign direct investment. In 2004, Rio Tinto made news across the world with the discovery of significant diamond deposits at the Bunder project in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. We are currently at the evaluation stage and doing detailed studies while our application for a mining lease is pending with the government of India. We have a very strict, transparent ethics policy that is uncompromising no matter where we operate.

“We learned through the media of the shocking death of Ms Masood, for which we extend our sympathy to her family and friends. We join with the community of Bhopal in condemning such acts of violence and the loss of life.

“We cannot understand why our name is bring linked with this tragedy. We never met nor had any contact with Ms Masood and are unaware of any communication she had with the ministry of environment and forest. We have had no communication with the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] so are unaware of any details about the investigation.”

The man in charge of the murder inquiry, Deputy Inspector General Hemant Priyadarshy, thinks it was a professional job. All the possible motives are being considered, he said. “We are speaking to everyone. Nobody is outside the reach of the law.”

His job would be simpler had Shehla chosen to tackle fewer establishment figures. “I fear for my life,” she said in an interview a month before her death. “But I will continue working and carry on … It is the nexus between politicians and babus [officials] which is slowly poisoning our country. The fight is between the powerful and weak and I represent the weakest and the poorest of society.”

The day she died she was due to pick up the responses to a right-to-information request on judges’ expenditure, before addressing a rally in support of national anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare’s hunger strike (she was his campaign organiser in the state) and inviting people to name and shame corrupt politicians and officials. She was winning praise from the national BJP party in Delhi through her close friendship with one of its MPs, Tarun Vijay, but that only seemed to breed jealousy and fear of her influence in the local party. Someone was spreading rumours that Shehla, a Muslim who also worked as an events organiser, was a spy for Pakistan. And then there was her acrimonious dispute with a senior police officer, whom she had accused of corruption.

Ayesha Masood sits in the living room, rattling through the list. She seems uncertain where to turn next, unsure that the police will crack the case, seeing the reward as a sign of desperation. The family demanded the local police be taken off the investigation after they initially concluded that Shehla had shot herself, despite no weapon being found at the scene. They are happier now that the CBI is in charge, but still she doubts that they will get justice. “If highly influential people are involved, India is very good at sacrificing its own citizens,” she said.

There is no doubt that Shehla made many enemies during her years of anti-corruption activism. The identity of her killer may prove elusive for some time to come.

The blacklisting of Rio Tinto – NAJ Taylor

The blacklisting of Rio Tinto

Too many invest in companies – such as Australia’s Rio Tinto – without any consideration of the ethics of doing so.

NAJ Taylor Last Modified: 12 Sep 2011 12:24

 

 

Papuans protest against Freeport and Rio Tinto’s Grasberg mine outside of Freeport’s office in Jakarta [EPA]

[This is the first of four pieces examining Rio Tinto and mining in Indonesia’s West Papua province]

Investing in conflict-affected and high-risk areas is a growing concern for responsible businesses and investors. Often times companies based in developed countries operate in lesser-developed, foreign markets, where governance standards are lax, corruption is high and business practices are poor.

These pieces focus on one specific Anglo-Australian company that operates in West Papua, one of the poorest provinces of Indonesia. The risks for the company include the potential to contribute to environmental and social damage in a foreign market. The risks for investors include financing a company that does not get its risk management right. This is the story of how the Norwegian Pension Fund blacklisted Rio Tinto.

An ancient copper mine located near Huelva in southernmost Spain changed hands in 1873. A group of opportunistic Anglo-German investors, equipped with modern techniques that favored mining aboveground, acquired it from the Spanish government. The mine’s copper had stained the surrounding water to such an extent that the indigenes named the river Rio Tinto – literally meaning “red river”.

The mine at Rio Tinto had supplied the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks, Carthaginians, and the Roman Empire. Its copper had paid for Carthage’s numerous wars on Rome and had been held by both Scipio and Hannibal. We can only assume that these investors, aware of such indelible marks on the environment and history, missed the irony, because they named their company Rio Tinto.

However, the red river has since flowed a long way from home. The company has expanded its operations through Australia, North and South America, Asia, Europe, and southern Africa – across coal, aluminum, copper, diamonds, uranium, gold, industrial minerals, and iron ore. Rio Tinto is now so large that its dual listing on the Australian and London stock exchanges commands a value of over $100bn.

What’s left behind near the Spanish town of Huelva is a 58-mile-long river flowing through one of the world’s largest deposits of pyrite, or fool’s gold. Because of the mine, the river has a pH reading similar to that of automobile battery acid and contains virtually no oxygen in its lower depths. In the late 1980s, temporary flooding dissolved a power substation, a mandibular crusher, and several hundred yards of transport belts.

More recently, NASA astrobiologists used the conditions of the river to replicate the conditions of Mars. “If you remove the green,” one of them remarked, “it looks like Mars”. The thinking goes that if something could live in such an acidic river, then there is likely to be life on Mars too.

Every Australian – through public monies invested by elected governments, or their choice of superannuation fund, insurer, and bank – is funding this red river now too. Rio Tinto is so large and so profitable that, for the average Australian, investment in it is very near unavoidable.

Blacklisted

On September 9, 2008, amid the turmoil of the global financial crisis, the Norwegian government announced that it had liquidated its entire $1bn investment in Rio Tinto for “grossly unethical conduct”. Operating the second largest fund in the world, the Norwegians’ decision focused solely on the Grasberg mine in West Papua on New Guinea, which it believed posed the “unacceptable risk” of contributing to “severe environmental damage” if it were to continue funding the Anglo-Australian mining giant.

Rio Tinto had been blacklisted.

The following day, Rio Tinto’s official statement relayed that the company was “surprised and disappointed”, given both its recognised leadership in environmental sustainability and its noncontrolling interest in the Grasberg mine. As with most claims of sustainability, the truth is otherwise.

Rio Tinto should not have been surprised by the Norwegian stance on Grasberg. Records show that there had been months – in fact, years – of dialogue with the Norwegians about Grasberg’s inadequate environmental and social performance. Rio Tinto had faced a litany of signposts indicating that multinational and Indonesian involvement in West Papua was not meeting various standards, laws, and norms: Institutions such as the World Bank, the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, the International Finance Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Commission, the United Nations Committee against Torture, the US State Department, and the Indonesian Environment Ministry, as well as many US and European politicians, independent environmental assessments, international media, Papuan leaders, civil society groups, and shareholders had brought the problems to Rio Tinto’s attention.

That an institutional investor should act on environmental, social, and corporate governance considerations is a newly evolving development within the global investment industry, and one in which many Australian institutional investors and service providers have been quick to claim leadership. However, the blacklisting of Rio Tinto by the Norwegian government was uniquely public, transparent, and forward-thinking. Yet this wholesale dumping of one of Australia’s blue-chip stocks received only syndicated coverage in the local media.

Behind the headlines of the global financial crisis is a deeper, more systemic fault line that rewards rampant capitalism. Too many invest in and operate mines such as Grasberg without any consideration of the ethics of so doing.

Part 2 to follow next week.

This is an extract of a chapter from the book, Evolutions in Sustainable Investing: Strategies, Funds and Thought Leadership, to be published by Wiley in December 2011.

Follow NAJ Taylor on Twitter: @najtaylordotcom

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/08/2011823133628702154.html