MAC: Mines and Communities

Protests Greet Rio Tinto Boss

Published by MAC on 2007-08-22

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".

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