Rio Tinto updatePublished by MAC on 2007-08-22
Rio Tinto update
22nd August 2007
When it bought into Robert Friedland's Ivanhoe Mines last year, Rio Tinto had its eyes on one of the world's biggest copper-gold deposits, Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia. The company was prepared to ride condemnation for investing in Burma, claiming it would demand that Ivanhoe withdraw from the country. In fact, Ivanhoe Mines - and therefore indirectly Rio Tinto - continue to benefit from production at the Monywa mine, as does the infamous Burmese military regime.
As we pointed out at the time [htttp://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press1264.htm] this "play" bore a striking resemblance to Rio Tinto's 1995 investment in Freeport's notorious Grasberg mine, where it also purchased a significant equity in the operating company in order to access copper and gold ore.
Now, citizens of Mongolia have demonstrated against a recent visit to Mongolia's capital by Rio Tinto chief executive, Tom Albanese, claiming that this was cynically designed to speed up the undemocratic process of selling off the country's mineral wealth. Some protestors claim that this would lead to "civil war"
If it was any comfort for Albanese, a couple of days earlier he learned that a US federal review has been granted of the case registered against Rio Tinto by Bougainville landowners, and which had earlier cleared the Us Court of Appeal. The litigants assert that the company was complicity in grave human rights abuses during that beleagured territory's own recent resource conflict.
Protests Greet Rio Tinto Boss
Written by B.Bulgamaa
22nd August 2007
TOM Albanese, director of Rio Tinto, the leading mining company which jointly implements the Oyu Tolgoi project with the Canadian company, Ivanhoe Inc., was in Mongolia between August 19 and 21. He held meetings with the President of Mongolia, the Speaker, and the Prime Minister, and also talked to members of a working group set up by Parliament to review the provisions of the draft investment agreement on the Oyu Tolgoi project.
His visit assumes special significance as the draft agreement has not yet been ratified by Parliament and it seems unlikely it will be discussed in the present session. Worried about the delay, Albanese had sent a letter to President Enkhbayar and Parliament in July saying, "The delay in the draft agreement's discussion might cause aggravation to both sides."
Albanese and his team called on Prime Minister N.Enkhbold on August 20. In a statement following the meeting, the Prime Minister's office said, "The Government has done a good job to create a helpful environment for mining investors and has also finalized a draft law. Lists of strategic and significant deposits have been prepared by Parliament. The Government has submitted the draft agreement for Oyu Tolgoi to Parliament and it is now for Parliament and its committees to decide when or how it will be discussed. The Government feels that the draft as it stands at present protects the interests of both sides. The Prime Minister would like work on the project to start as soon as possible. There have been divergent reactions to the 68 percent windfall profits tax. I hope Mongolian politicians would review the law."
On his part, Albanese said that they are closely following developments. Their only desire is that both sides should benefit from the project. "Rio Tinto is the leading mining company in the world, but we are in no way trying to impose our opinion. We humbly await the Mongolian decision, but hope it will be taken in the right spirit, and taken wisely. We are ready to start work as soon as the draft is approved, to set up the copper smelting plant."
Two civil movements, Resolute Reform and Green Party, held protests against the visit of Albanese and his meetings with the country's leaders and Parliament members. They felt that the real purpose of the visit and the meetings was to put pressure on all to speed up the ratification of the stability agreement.
The Rio Tinto team arrived at Government House on August 20 at 2 and was there for two hours for the meetings. Protesters raised slogans on both occasions. O.Bumba-Yalagch, a leader of the Green Party, shouted in English that the draft does not serve Mongolian interests and as soon as a new draft which is fair to Mongolia is prepared the people will support it.
The protesters carried banners saying, "Don't lead the country into a civil war", and "Don't try to harm Mongolians by pressing for needless projects".
Rio Tinto Wins Review of Ruling on Papua New Guinea Claims
By Karen Gullo, (Bloomberg)
20th August 2007
Rio Tinto Group, the world's third-largest mining company, will get a new U.S. federal appeals court review of whether it must face claims of human-rights violations at a mine in Papua New Guinea.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco today set aside a decision by a panel of three of its judges to reinstate a 2000 lawsuit by landowners claiming a company copper mine on Bougainville Island, once one of the world's largest, contributed to the deaths of thousands of people. A panel of 11 judges will now hear the case.
Rio Tinto's Panguna mine was shut in 1989 after armed attacks. Plaintiffs claim the London-based company and the Papua New Guinea government formed a joint venture to operate the mine, and are responsible for deaths related to civilian resistance to its operation.
The U.S. court granted Rio Tinto's request for a review by 11 of its judges in an ``en banc'' proceeding, without giving a reason. A year ago, the smaller panel said 12 landowners, who seek to represent thousands of civilians, could proceed with claims of war crimes, racial discrimination and environmental damages against Rio Tinto.
The suit, filed under a law allowing non-citizens to sue in the U.S. for international law violations, seeks damages for alleged human rights abuses and chemical dumping. Rio Tinto has denied the allegations.
BHP Billiton Ltd. is the world's biggest mining company. Ango-American Plc is the second biggest. * [see editorial note]
Rio Tinto stock rose 96 pence, or 3.2 percent, to 3,078 pence ($61.05) in London.
The case is Alexis Holyweek Sarei v Rio Tinto PLC, 02-56256, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, San Francisco.
To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org .
* Editorial note: By value of sales Anglo American is the world's second biggest mining company, but Rio Tinto is the first, by market capitalisation