MAC: Mines and Communities

China Update

Published by MAC on 2006-04-08

China Update

8th April 2006

China and Australia have agreed a deal to allow Australian mining companies to sell uranium to China, despite serious and considered opposition from within Australia - particularly over the inadequacy of any safeguards. It is those giants of Anglo-Australian mining, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, who stand to gain most. Not surprisingly they claim to be very contented. Ian Head of Rio Tinto, says China is "absolutely" a good business partner, and it appears obvious that -if this agreement lasts -it will further tie these companies into deals with China. However, despite perhaps more muted opposition to the agreement as a whole, there are ominous warnings that opposition to opening new uranium mines will be more vociferous.

Not all the news is dominated by uranium though, as a recent BBC article once again emphasises the huge loss of life that accompanies coal mining in China. (In a recent incident this includes the loss of life of women miners, despite a law that says women cannot work in Chinese coal mines.) However, there is still a link to the uranium story, given that concerns over the health of Chinese workers dealing with the material was one of the real concerns raised. Judging by how the country is dealing with its coal miners, this seems a very real risk.

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