MAC: Mines and Communities

Aust Has 'high' Mining Standards

Published by MAC on 2007-02-13
Source: AAP

Aust has 'high' mining standards


13th February 2007

FEDERAL Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane says Australian companies operating overseas adopt the highest standards and legislation is not required to make them conform to Australian practices.

Mr Macfarlane was addressing concerns by some non-government organisations that allege Australian companies are not adopting the same high standards when the operate outside of Australia.

"Australia sets the highest mining standards in the world and the companies that operate here are required to meet those standards both in environment and workplace health and safety,'' Mr Macfarlane said.

Mr Macfarlane is in Perth for a meeting of mining ministers and senior officials from Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations to discuss how to maintain their cooperation on mining.

"Each individual country in the APEC region sets its own standards and that is its sovereign right ... if they wish to change those standards and improve them then Australia is happy, through the APEC process or through a bilateral process, to assist those countries,'' he said.

"It is important that Australia and the APEC countries work towards the issues of mining sustainability ... those standards are enforced in Australia and we are happy to share that technology with our friends in Australia.''

Mr Macfarlane said it was unnecessary for APEC as a whole to sign up to the global mining initiative that requires companies to act on the same practices wherever they operate in the world.

"That is up to individual countries, individual countries set their own laws,'' he said.

"Part of APEC is to work with each other to make sure we improve the sustainability of the mining industry and that is what this meeting is about.''

Aid group Oxfam says Mr Macfarlane has effectively given a green light to Australian companies operating overseas to pollute rivers and oceans.

Oxfam, which campaigns against illegal dumping in impoverished countries, says Mr Macfarlane is turning a blind eye to what companies do in developing nations.

Mr Macfarlane said at an APEC mining conference yesterday that Australia expected all APEC countries to set their own guidelines for companies that operated within their borders.

"Australia respects the sovereign rights of every member country of APEC to set its own rules,'' he said.

Nations taking part in the Perth meetings include some of the world's biggest mineral producers, including Australia, Canada, Peru, Chile and the US. Oxfam Australia said Mr Macfarlane's comments were disingenuous at best.

"The federal government is well aware that the environmental protection laws of countries such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and The Philippines where Australian miners operate are much less regulated than at home,'' Oxfam Australia executive director Andrew Hewitt said in a statement.

"The Australian sense of fair-go appears not to extend to some of our poorest neighbours.

"Lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by the unsafe practices of Australian mining companies who dump toxic waste into rivers and oceans just because the local law allows it.''

Mr Hewitt said Oxfam believed Australian companies involved in mining operations could contribute to local development and poverty alleviation.

"But to do so they must take a firm stand against practices that cause environmental degradation, rob people of livelihoods and drive poverty.''

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