MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto face global union campaign

Published by MAC on 2014-02-12
Source: Statement,, Times News of India

... and objections from environmentalists and communities. So no change there then?

The global union IndustriALL recently launch a global campaign against Rio Tinto (coinciding with the Alternative Mining Indaba. See: Africa: Communities speak out at Alternative Mining Indaba).

The company has also defended itself against accusations by two Indian environmental groups over its proposed Bunder diamond project in India.

A report was published last year which set out many of these allegations:

However, despite Rio Tinto promising to pass on this report for comments from its Indian unit, no such response has yet been received.

Meanwhile a legal challenge from Aboriginal traditional land owners in Australia, relating to its land lease for the Gove aluminium refinery has failed; but no doubt the company is in for more headaches as they close the plant.

IndustriALL Global Union to target Rio Tinto in campaign for workers' rights

4 February 2014

As the world's mining industry meets in Cape Town, IndustriALL is to rally with affiliated mining trade unions to call for an end to bad corporate behaviour at the expense of workers at Rio Tinto operations around the world.

The rally is set to take place on the last day of the 2014 African Mining Indaba, on 6 February at 10 am. Hundreds of participants are expected to march from the corner of Keizersgracht and Chapel street to the Cape Town Convention Centre, demanding an end to Rio Tinto's bad corporate behaviour.

Claiming to abide by good corporate practice, mining and metals giant Rio Tinto's conduct includes major disputes with trade unions, communities, indigenous peoples and regulatory authorities.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says that with the campaign, IndustriALL Global Union aims to build union power at Rio Tinto plants around the world, uniting workers in the struggle for decent work:

"Rio Tinto has extensive experience in causing one conflict after another with trade unions, indigenous organizations, environmental groups and other key community stakeholders. Unions and civil society are coming together in an unprecedented way to push back against Rio Tinto for the benefit of workers, the environment and communities."

Learn more about Rio Tinto's history of conflict at

For more information please contact:
Livhuwani Mammburu, NUM Spokesperson, +27 (0)838093257
Petra Brännmark, Communications Director IndustriALL Global Union, +41 79 198 69 13

IndustriALL Global Union represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world.


Down Rio Tinto, down!

6 February 2014

On Thursday, the Rio Tinto Global Union Network took to the streets of Cape Town, supported by hundreds of members from IndustriALL Global Union affiliated mining unions, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and South African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU). The demonstrators demanded an end to Rio Tinto's bad corporate behaviour at its operations around the world.

The rally culminated outside the Cape Town Convention Centre, where the world's largest congress on mining, the Mining Indaba, was on its last day. Members of mining unions, as well as members of NGO's, came together to point the spotlight on workers' struggle for decent work at Rio Tinto plants across the world.

Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, said that the race to the bottom must stop.

"As Rio Tinto is generating enormous profits from its operations, workers are struggling with unsafe, precarious work. The benefits from the mines should be shared with everyone and not only used for increasing company profits. Today's situation is un-acceptable."

The rally through Cape Town marked the end of a three-day long meeting of the IndustriALL's Rio Tinto Global Union Network and the official launch of its campaign to increase unionisation at Rio Tinto.

Thanking everyone who attended the rally for their support, Andrew Vickers, general secretary of Australian affiliate CFMEU and chair of the IndustriALL mining section, said:

"Thank you for your support to launch this campaign to stop Rio Tinto - to stop Rio Tinto disrespecting trade unions, workers, agreements, and to stop terrorising and displacing communities."

While people turned out in numbers to show their support for the mineworkers, Rio Tinto flatly refused to meet with representatives of the network to receive a memorandum of demands.

In the memorandum IndustriALL Global Union demands from Rio Tinto, the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, and the International Council on Mining and Metal to, among other things, stop interfering in the collective bargaining process and to ensure that workers at their operations have a right to refuse unsafe work.

Rio Tinto also needs to commit to engagement with workers and their trade unions, and to minimize precarious work while maximizing permanent, full-time employment at their operations.

"This is a struggle for workers everywhere. The campaign against Rio Tinto is dedicated to strengthening our workers and we will continue the fight", said Senzeni Zokwana, president of NUM and vice president of IndustriALL.

NUM marches over ill-treatment of overseas Rio Tinto miners


6 February 2014

Around 200 National Union of Mineworkers​ (NUM) members marched to the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Thursday to protest against the alleged ill-treatment of Rio Tinto miners in other countries.

The NUM's general secretary Frans Baleni said the march to the Cape Town International Convention centre, where the last day of the indaba is being held, included guests from 18 countries and civil society movements.

"We marched in solidarity with workers operating in some Rio Tinto mines, especially in Madagascar, Indonesia, Australia, Mongolia and India, where conditions are severe."

The march was organised with the IndustriALL Global Union, which said it represented 50-million workers in the mining, energy, and manufacturing sectors in 142 countries.

Baleni said they tried to hand over a memorandum of demands to Rio Tinto representatives at the indaba but were told to e-mail it to their London office.

"[We still believe] the march was very successful. It's not about numbers. It's about the fact that workers can empathise at such a distance," he said.

"We are sending a message to Rio Tinto that they are not dealing with workers just where they are, but a global federation of 50-million people."


IndustriALL claimed in its memorandum of demands to Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh that his company was one of the most aggressive anti-union companies in the sector.

It called on the company to stop interfering in collective bargaining.

It wanted the company to commit to engaging with workers and their trade unions, particularly when downscaling operations, to seek alternatives to retrenchments.

Its other demands centred around the maximisation of permanent, full-time employment and abiding to the rule of law when applying for concessions and social licences to operate.

Rio Tinto has two operations in South Africa - the copper mine, smelter and refinery Palabora Mining Company, and Richards Bay Minerals, which mines and processes titanium minerals. - Sapa

Environmental groups oppose Rio Tinto's massive Indian diamond mine

Ana Komnenic

9 February 2014

Rio Tinto is on the defensive after two Indian environmental groups claimed that the company's plans to build a massive diamond mine would lead to "large scale destruction" of forested areas, the Times of India reported.

A company spokesman in India called the accusations a "misrepresentation of facts."

Rio Tinto has not yet begun mining at the Bunder diamond project, located in the Madhya Pradesh region, 500 kilometres southeast of Delhi. It is the company's most advanced diamond project and has an estimated diamond content of 34.2 million carats.

Bunder was granted mine plan approval last year and Rio Tinto is now working on securing environmental and forestry approvals.

Opponents say the mine would destroy a large area of forested land. The company says the total forest area of the proposed mine "comprises only 0.005% of the total forest area" of the district where the mine would be located, the Times of India wrote.

The groups also say that the mine would destroy the livelihoods of the local tribal people.

Once developed, the Bunder diamond mine would put Madhya Pradesh in the top ten diamond producing regions of the world, according to the company.

Rio Tinto denies NGOs' allegations

Rageshri Ganguly

Times New of India

9 February 2014

BHOPAL: Mining giant Rio Tinto has denied allegations of two NGOs expressing their fears about large scale destruction of forests at Bunder in Bundelkhand area of Madhya Pradesh. "It's misrepresentation of facts," said Kamal Kant, director, external affairs, Bunder project.

In a statement issued on Saturday, he said, "Rio Tinto is playing a leading role in helping set new benchmark in sustainable development for the Bunder project."

He also said Rio Tinto has not yet started mining in Madhya Pradesh and neither has it engaged in illegal mining activities in contravention of the Forest Conservation Act.

About the large-scale tree felling, he said the proposed mine lease area will have 25.6 hectares of green belt which will have approximate 65,000 trees.

He said proposed Bunder lease area is spread over 954 hectares, which is part of the Buxwaha degraded protected forest. The total forest area of the proposed mine comprises only 0.005% of the total forest area of Chattarpur district. Trees will be planted on equivalent 954 hectares of land as per norms.

He said, the project will have no impact on wildlife as well. "For the last seven years, we have been spearheading studies into the wildlife habitats of Buxhawa region, identifying animal and bird species in the area and their habitats. This work has been undertaken in associated with National Forest Research Institute."

Rio Tinto strikes diamonds in Bundelkhand's Bunder

To start producing from $500-million deposit from 2019

Sudheer Pal Singh

Business Standard

8 January 2014

New Delhi - Global mining giant Rio Tinto plans to produce up to three million carats of diamonds annually from its Bunder deposit, in Madhya Pradesh's Bundelkhand region. This would be the first diamond discovery in India in more than four decades.

The overall resource find of the Bunder Project stands at 53.7 million tonnes of ore, containing 34.2 million carats in total.

When commissioned, the $500-million project, Rio Tinto's first in India, will catapult Madhya Pradesh into a select group of top-10 diamond-producing regions of the world. The company has managed to successfully pass the initial two stages of mine development - reconnaissance and prospecting - since it started work on the project in 2002.

For Rio Tinto, the road to starting its prime diamond-mining project in Madhya Pradesh runs through an area where monkeys and tigers roam. The world's second-biggest mining company expects production from the Bunder (monkey in Hindi) project to begin in 2019. Environmentalists are raising concerns over threat to a tiger corridor over 100 km away.

As part of the third and final stage, the state government had last year awarded a letter of intent (LoI) to the Anglo-Australian firm for mining in the area. However, for the LoI to be converted into a formal mining lease, the company has to secure environment and forest clearances and get a mining plan approved.

"We hope to get the conditions soon and start construction activities in 2017. The first batch of diamonds will be produced in 2019," Rio Tinto India Managing Director Nik Senapati told Business Standard.

Bunder would also be one of the only four diamond mines globally that are likely to be operational over the next decade.

Rio Tinto's diamond-mining operations account for roughly eight per cent ($4.1 billion) of its the world's biggest diamond producers through its 100 per cent control of the Argyle mine in Australia, 60 per cent of the Daivik mine in Canada and a 78 per cent interest in Zimbabwe's Morowa mine. Output from the Bunder project, located in the Chhattarpur district, will add to these operations.

"The Bunder mine is expected to produce up to three million carats of diamonds annually. The deposit has been identified as seven times richer than the Panna diamond mine and with a 20 times higher production rate," Rio Tinto Diamonds India Chief Operating Officer Tarun Malkani said.

Court rejects challenge to Rio Tinto mining lease

By Michael Coggan

Radio Australia

6 February 2014

The Federal Court has dismissed a legal challenge to a lease agreement between Aboriginal traditional land owners in the Northern Territory and mining giant Rio Tinto.

In 2011, the Federal Government approved a 42-year lease agreement over land used for the Gove alumina refinery near Nhulunbuy in East Arnhem Land.

Aboriginal leader Djiniyini Gondarra estimated the deal was worth $19 million a year to Aboriginal clan groups in the area.

He said some groups were missing out on receiving any money.

Dr Gondarra started legal action on behalf of the Dhurili nation, arguing that the lease and agreement were invalid because the Northern Land Council (NLC) had failed to properly consult and advise all relevant clans.

At one point, Dr Gondarra suggested the Dhurili nation were traditional owners of part of the leased land but that was disputed and there was no contrary evidence tendered.

In her judgement, handed down in Melbourne yesterday, Justice Susan Kenny dismissed the challenge, ruling that the then Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin had fulfilled her obligations in approving the agreement.

Rio Tinto will close the alumina refinery later this year but will continue mining operations.

Traditional owners will continue to earn royalties from the bauxite mine.

Rio Tinto closing alumina refinery in Australia, 1,100 jobs to be lost

Cecilia Jamasmie

29 November 2013

Giant miner Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO), one of the main private employers in Australia's far north, announced Friday it would halt production of alumina at its Gove refinery, which has struggled with low prices and a high exchange rate.

The move, to begin in the first quarter of 2014, would leave about 1,100 people - equivalent to about 25% of the population of nearby town Nhulunbuy- out of work.

"Our aluminum business is facing challenging market conditions and tough decisions are needed, but those decisions are so much harder when our employees and local communities are affected as they are in Nhulunbuy," CEO Sam Walsh said in the statement released to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto had previously threatened to shut down the unprofitable refinery, but agreed in February to keep it open after securing a 10-year supply of natural gas that will substitute for costly fuel oil. The deal fell through in July and not even the intervention of both the Australian and Northern Territory governments could save the plant.

"All practical scenarios were considered in an attempt to make this work however, it has not been possible to find a sustainable solution," said the company.

Rio's bauxite mine in the area, which employs just about 100 people, will continue to operate.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of Rio's decision to ditch two coal exploration licences in Queensland, Australia.

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