MAC/20: Mines and Communities

London Calling squeezes further - with "Extracting Intellects", Part Two

Published by MAC on 2006-02-23


London Calling squeezes further - with "Extracting Intellects", Part Two

by Nostromo Research

23rd February 2006

A master of the third degree

The Papua New Guinea government last month set out its stall on a new mining policy "to lure the interest of more overseas investors into Papua New Guinea's virgin (sic) mining industry", as the country's national newspaper, the Post Courier, coyly put it.

This will complement "traditional" Australian and UK investment with multi million dollar commitments from Canada, South Africa and China, said the state's mining minister.

All a bit peculiar, considering that Canada's Placer Dome has been ensconced in the country for one and a half decades. And, to suggest that Papua New Guinea is untouched thus far down the tailings pipeline, is rather like descendants of the Pilgim Fathers touting the myth of "Virginia", years after ripping-off its native American inhabitants.

Critical to implementing the new gambits is the appointment of James Wanjikas as secretary of the mining department. This follows "the merit-based system where vacant executive management positions in the public sector are advertised, the Department of Personnel Management shortlists five applicants using established criteria, and the Public Service Commission reduces the shortlist to three, based on which the National Executive Council chooses a suitable candidate for the job."

The process sounds pretty innocuous (as boring and inevitable as the promotion of a provincial copper to Chief Constable by a conclave of his Freemason peers). That is, until we examine Mr Wanjik's own particular provenance.

Before joining the PNG mining department, Wanjik worked in the office of the prime minister, the National Executive Council and the State Solicitor, while also "advising the government in economic fields of trade and investment facilitation, promotion, regulation and protection".

Among the major projects and "issues" with which he's dealt is the Lihir gold mine, managed until last year by Rio Tinto. Mr Wanjikas also holds three academic qualifications, the most important of which is his Masters in Resources Law and Policy from (as prime minister Michael Somare keenly pointed out) the "prestigious Centre for Energy Petroleum Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLC), University of Dundee, Scotland."

Rio Tinto directors must be heartily clinking their glasses at 6 St James Square, as they celebrate the ascendancy of one of their alumni to the most inflential position in a "virgin" territory, from which they've already sucked huge riches.

Will Wanjikas soon be pushing out the Rio Tinto boat again - this time headed for a new conquest of Bougainville?

My old China

Last April, Australia's "understanding of China and business opportunities in the country" received what the country's National University termed" a significant boost."

This was the launch of the Rio Tinto–ANU China Partnership which includes:.

• Establishment of the Rio Tinto Chair in Chinese Economy.
• Rio Tinto Scholarships offered at Master and PhD level for students to work in policy areas on the Chinese economy, resource economics and international trade.
• Rio Tinto Internships to provide work experience• Tailored executive training programs for Rio Tinto executives through APSEG.
• Research and briefings for Rio Tinto

Such a combine (surely the green envy of any corporate harvester) is supposedly "bringing together ANU expertise in Asia-Pacific research and leading resource group, Rio Tinto...[and] will increase Australia’s knowledge about developments in China and stimulate business and academic study on China in Australia.

As Tom Albanese, chief executive of Rio Tinto Copper and head of Exploration, imparted at time: “We are all conscious that, as business with China grows, the more we will need to understand developments in China." (Wow! - You pay your bursars and they sure chant a sophisticated tune!)

Continued Mr Albanese: "We are fortunate to have in Australia a resource like the Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government (APSEG), whose China Economy and Business Program has established an international reputation in analysis of the Chinese economy...This Partnership is, quite simply (sic), an investment in deeper understanding.”

What more can be said on the issue? Such expansive altruism - and from the mining industry's most persistent profit-taker - leaves us ("Quite Simply") speechless!

Enviro-coal

In eager response to last week's London Calling, MAC editors have pointed out that Latin America has many instances of mining companies intervening in the public educational system.

For example, UK-based Xstrata's Minera Alumbrera, through its associated "green" foundation, Los Algarrobos, supplies ecology/environmental educational content to teachers in Argentina's Catamarca province.

And, for years, Colombia's biggest coal company, El Cerrejon - a joint venture between BHPBilliton, Anglo American and Glencore - has sponsored environmental briefings for primary schools on their purloined territory.

It certainly lends a new meaning to the brand-name, adopted more than a decade ago by Rio Tinto, to sell its newly-plundered product from the rainforests of Indonesian Kalimant: Envirocoal.

Sources: PNG Winjikas appointment: Post Courier, February 14 2006; new mineral policy: Post Courier Feb 17-19 2006; China partnership means business: ANU (Australian National University] website May 2005

[London Calling is published by Nostromo Research. Don't rap on MAC's door if you feel calumnised by opinions expressed in this column: they don't necessarily represent the views of any editors of this website. You can reprint opinions expressed here with our blessings, at your own risk. But please - give full acknowledgment to Nostromo Research, London. And yes, despite the creeping illiberalism of the B.Liar regime, it's still legal (just) in the UK to call a spade a spade.]

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