MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Anger over Rio Tinto donations to the University of Oxford

Published by MAC on 2021-12-27
Source: Oxfordstudent.com, Cherwell.org

Laundering a reputation.

Matilda Gettins, member of Oxford Climate Justice campaign said: “It is disgraceful, although totally unsurprising, that the University of Oxford continues to take money from Rio Tinto, one of the dirtiest mining companies around. The university is laundering the reputation of Rio Tinto, funnelling graduates into its careers, and helping the company with research; the losers are frontline communities, primarily across the Global South, who are fighting for their lives against extraction and climate breakdown.”

According to Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, “It is disgraceful, although totally unsurprising, that the University of Oxford continues to take money from Rio Tinto”.

“It is very disappointing that the university has taken money from fossil fuel giant Rio Tinto”, said Anvee Bhutani, President of Oxford SU.

This is a theme to which MAC has returned several times:

2021-06-22 Chairman of Whitehaven Coal quits chancellor role at Newcastle University

2021-03-10 Critics question mining magnate’s gift to Mount Allison University’s School of Fine Arts

2020-07-15 Mining-backed "tribal university" gets slated in India

2015-12-18 In Universities, Money Talks

2009-07-27 Argentina: Academics reject corporate miner's handouts

2005-12-07 A university's links with an aluminium producer

Oxford University received at least £45,000 from multinational mining company facing anti-mining protests in Serbia

University News

23rd December 2021

According to Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, Oxford University has received at least £45,000 in funding from the multinational mining company Rio Tinto since 2013.

The £45,000 includes two donations of £20,000 each to the Said Business School Centre for Business Taxation in 2014-15 and 2017-16 respectively, and a further £5,000 in 2019.

Rio Tinto is an Anglo-Australian multinational company and the second largest metals and mining corporation producing iron ore, copper, diamonds, gold and uranium. It is also a major coal producer.

The company has recently attracted international attention due to largescale protests against plans to construct a lithium mine in the Jadar valley, western Serbia, which was set to the Europe’s biggest lithium mines. For three weeks, thousands of protesters in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia blocked roads and bridges in opposition to Rio Tinto’s plans to launch a £1.4 billion mining operation.

The protests have resulted in a vote to suspend two key laws in Serbia’s parliament that ecologists state would have allowed Rio Tinto to start on their project.

In 2013, the Foundation Rio Tinto gave at least £25,000 to the Oxford Blatnavik School of Government, whose offers includes a course on oil, gas and mining governance. Between 2014 and 2016, Rio Tinto plc made two donations to the Saïd Business School Centre for Business Taxation, whose publications include papers such as ‘International taxation and environmental protection’.

Rio Tinto has faced accusations of corruption, environmental degradation and human rights abuses. The company is currently battling a civil lawsuit by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that accuses the company of fraud in its Mozambique coal business. This follows a £27.4 million find in 2017 from the UK’s financial watchdog for breaching disclosure and transparency rules.

The CEO, Simon Trott conceded earlier this year that the company was “not proud of its history” which included the dumping of hundred of ancient artefacts in their Marandoo mine in Western Australia, as well as the deliberate destruction of an ancient cave which was an archaeological research site evidencing 46,000 years of continual occupation. Further instances include the dumping of 1 billion tonnes of mine waste into the Kawerong-Jaba river delta from their former copper and goldmine in Panguna, Papua New Guinea.

In response to the news of funding from Rio Tinto to Oxford University, Matilda Gettins, member of Oxford Climate Justice campaign said: “It is disgraceful, although totally unsurprising, that the University of Oxford continues to take money from Rio Tinto, one of the dirtiest mining companies around. The university is laundering the reputation of Rio Tinto, funnelling graduates into its careers, and helping the company with research; the losers are frontline communities, primarily across the Global South, who are fighting for their lives against extraction and climate breakdown.”

Benny Wenda, Chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua said: “Institutions like the University of Oxford, revered around the globe as a beacon of reason and justice, cannot continue to perpetuate and gain from this pillaging of our land. When genocide is taking place, everyone has a moral responsibility to cease their participation in it.”

When asked for comment, an Oxford University Spokesperson said:

“Throughout its history, Oxford University has benefited from the generosity and foresight of philanthropic donations. The funds we raise help discover cures for debilitating disease, offer solutions to the world’s most pressing problems and assist worthy students, from diverse backgrounds, to obtain an Oxford education.

The University is aware of its position within, and responsibility to, the wider community in which we operate, and has robust and rigorous guidelines regarding the acceptance of donations and research funding.

All significant gifts and donations are reviewed by Oxford University ‘Committee to Review Donations and Research Funding’. This committee includes independent, external representatives and has a rigorous due diligence process for donations and gifts.

We have a very clear position on academic independence from donations. Our donors have no say in setting the research and teaching programmes of the posts or infrastructure they fund, nor do they have any access to the results of research, other than publicly available material.”

Anvee Bhutani, President of Oxford SU commented:

“It is very disappointing that the university has taken such a large sum of money from fossil fuel giant Rio Tinto despite climate lobbying efforts from students for years. It’s also highly ironic that a company which recently destroyed a 40,000 year old Indigenous site in Australia, for example, was found to also be partly funding scholarships to the University for Indigenous Australians.

Given Oxford’s commitment to climate efforts and the passing of the University Sustainability Strategy this year, I would really hope that in the future, the University and its constituent colleges better scrutinise their donation funding and delink from companies like Rio Tinto.”

The Chancellor’s office, Ngaire Woods’ office, and the Said Business School have all been approached for comment but have yet to respond.

Following on from a report in February 2020, that concluded that Rio Tinto had one of the least gender diverse boardrooms of the world’s biggest businesses, the Anglo-Australian company appointed Ngaire Woods, a professor at Oxford University as well as two other women to its non-executive board of directors. They included Jennifer Nason, the global chair of JPMorgan Chase; and Hinda Gharbi, the executive vice-president at the oil services firm Schlumberger.

Woods has also written and contributed to academic and business works discussing climate change including ‘Governing Climate Change: Lessons from other Governance Regimes’ (with Arunabha Ghosh) in Cameron Hepburn and Dieter Helm, The Economics and Politics of Climate Change (Oxford University Press, 2010).

These new findings bring the total Oxford received from the fossil fuel industry between 2015-2020 to at least £19 million. Oxford Climate Justice Campaign has said that it will reveal the total given in 2020-2021 in the coming months.



Oxford University received £70,000 from controversial mining company Rio Tinto

Isaac Ettinghausen

Cherwell.org

23rd December 2021

Oxford University received at least £70,000 from trans-national mining company Rio Tinto since 2013, Oxford Climate Justice Campaign have revealed.

A press release from the climate justice group asserted that in 2013 the Blavatnik School of Government (which offers a course on oil, gas, and mining governance) received at least £25,000 from the conglomerate. Between 2014 and 2019, the Anglo-Australian corporation also made three donations to the Saïd Business School’s centre for Business Taxation totaling 45,000.

Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, has faced accusations of corruption, environmental degradation, and human rights abuses. These include the demolition of two sacred Aboriginal sites in Western Australia despite opposition from their traditional owners, and the pollution of the Kawerong-Jaba river in Papua New Guinea, which has led to ongoing health problems on the island of Bougainville. The Human Rights Law Centre reported that the same mine left people on the island with poisoned water, polluted fields, and a ruined river valley. In 2017, it was fined £27.3 million for breaching the UK’s disclosure and transparency rules.

Benny Wenda, Chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua said: “Institutions like the University of Oxford, revered around the globe as a beacon of reason and justice, cannot continue to perpetuate and gain from this pillaging of our land. When genocide is taking place, everyone has a moral responsibility to cease their participation in it.” Wenda has alleged that Rio Tinto has “close relations with the military to protect their mining interests in my people’s lands – the very same military that is estimated to have killed more than 100,000 of my people.”

OCJC has previously highlighted companies “greenwashing” their reputations through University funding; in January 2021 Cherwell reported on a £100 million donation from petrochemical giant INEOS, which OCJC described as “parad[ing] an ethical donation front”.

Matilda Gettins, an OCJC member, said that “It is disgraceful, although totally unsurprising, that the University of Oxford continues to take money from Rio Tinto, one of the dirtiest mining companies around. The university is laundering the reputation of Rio Tinto, funneling graduates into its careers, and helping the company with research; the losers are frontline communities, primarily across the Global South, who are fighting for their lives against extraction and climate breakdown.”

When approached for comment, a spokesperson from the University of Oxford said: “Throughout its history, Oxford University has benefited from the generosity and foresight of philanthropic donations. The funds we raise help discover cures for debilitating disease, offer solutions to the worlds most pressing problems and assist worthy students, from diverse backgrounds, to obtain an Oxford education.

“The University is aware of its position within, and responsibility to, the wider community in which we operate, and has robust and rigorous guidelines regarding the acceptance of donations and research funding.

“All significant gifts and donations are reviewed by Oxford University ‘Committee to Review Donations and Research Funding’. This committee includes independent, external representatives and has a rigorous due diligence process for donations and gifts.

“We have a very clear position on academic independence from donations. Our donors have no say in setting the research and teaching programmes of the posts or infrastructure they fund, nor do they have any access to the results of research, other than publicly available material.”

A representative from the Blavatnik School of Government said “The Blavatnik School of Government received donations in 2013 and 2014 from Rio Tinto to fund student scholarships. We have not received any donations from Rio Tinto since 2014. Donations from a wide range of organisations help ensure that the vast majority of our students come to us on financial support.”

 

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