Sunday, 9 February 2014

Beware of Australian mining corporations doing international business

Update - 3 July 2015

Still awaiting the High Court's decision. 
Posted by No Mining in Lower Zambezi National Park on Thursday, 2 July 2015

My memories of the mighty Zambezi are simple.  
In 1985, following the UN Women's Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, 
I took a few days to visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  

During my stay, I walked across the bridge built by Cecil Rhodes 
In Zambia, I found a quiet corner of the Zambezi. 
I sat down and put my feet in its waters
 and transported myself back in time 
to schoolgirl social studies lessons about the Zambezi.

This morning I read of this - mining in a national park, a national park of world significance.  As I read this, I am mindful of what the Liberal and National Parties are doing in relation to intrusive activities in national parks in Australia.  Full scale mining is not yet allowed.  However, the thin edge of the wedge has begun with the Victorian government allowing prospecting in Victorian national parks

Australia has a proud record with regard to national parks.  Our history closely follows on the heels of the first national parks in the USA. But, it seems, none of this matters a fig to political parties in Australia - except to some minor players such as The Greens.  There is a continual battle to keep uranium mining out of the much-prized Kakadu.  The Mirrar people have fought valiantly to keep uranium mining at bay and the fight continues to this day.

There is the amazing story of Djok Senior Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee who could have enriched himself with his land entitlement but who gave the land to be incorporated into Kakadu to keep it safe from uranium mining. 

It appears that the fight to keep the national parks of Australia out of the clutches of miners will never be over.

All this needs to be borne in mind - particularly when Australian mining companies are doing business internationally.  Let me say it bluntly, governments need to be very wary - if not downright hostile - to Australian companies seeking to mine in their nations.  Their track record is poor - even from our biggest and brightest, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

These major corporations cannot be trusted from A to B - let alone right through to Z.  And these are Australia's major mining corporations.  They attract significant talent and investment to their businesses.  If they prove careless and untrustworthy, how much more should lesser corporations be regarded?  How much red carpet should be rolled out for them? 

When mining corporations have denuded the natural heritage of a nation following the dreams of dollars of struggling economies, are the clean-ups and the litigation and the court cases really worth it?

Further reading
Ok Tedi environmental disaster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bougainville Copper - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Denying Accountability? Australia’s International Mining Shame by Jane Andrew
Oxfam - Mining
Mining: when will the scandals stop?
El Salvador suffers Australia's maleficent miners

Lest people are tempted to accuse the writer of this post of being anti-mining. I am not.  I am currently living in my third Australian mining town.  I love each of these three towns dearly and they have been a formative part of my life.  

However, I have lived around mining companies long enough to understand their secrecy; to understand the cabal of support they attract from governments, civic and business leaders.  I know that if there is a choice between corporate interests and community interests, the corporate interest will be paramount.  

I believe in mining.  It has been part of the human condition for millenia.  Mining, in my view, is a part of the human condition and enterprise.

I believe that communities must be watchful in their own interest in regard to mining activities in their areas - particularly environmentally with regard to water and pollution of soil, air, and water.  

I believe that communities need to safeguard their health and not take the company word as the be all and end all of the story.  

I believe that communities have to demand more from their governments so that political leaders are not resorting to closed door deals, nods and winks with mining corporations.  

I believe that, in the end, human communities are more important than governments and corporations.  Their well-being must prevail.

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