MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto Lecture Sinks!

Published by MAC on 2001-11-21

Rio Tinto Lecture Sinks!

21st November 2001

Things went a little pear-shaped, on November 20th, for the final talk in the lecture series on "Biodiversity", organised by David Hill of the University of Bristol, England. The series was hosted by "@Bristol", presented by several groups, including BBC Wildlife magazine and sponsored by Rio Tinto. First, the World Development Movement (WDM) Bristol wrote to the celebrity chairperson of the meeting, well known broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, asking him to pull out because of the unpleasant ethical and environmental record sponsors. He agreed - and pulled out.

Next, as the attendees arrived, they were handed flyers produced by
Bristol Nestle Resistance pointing out @Bristol's record of sponsorship by Nestle and the new deal with Rio Tinto. Many attendees expressed outrage at the involvement of Rio Tinto, a company whose ethical and environmental record makes sorry reading.

One activist chatted to David Hill, and asked him: "why Rio Tinto?" At first, he tried the tired old line of 'better to have them inside pissing out, than outside pissing in' - the same type of argument used by Rio Tinto for their involvement with the apartheid regime and by companies doing business in Burma. Once these arguments had been shot down he resorted to some truth: "We need the money."

Eventually the lecture got going. The new chair and @Bristol's Chief Executive, Doctor John Dovey, apologised for the absence of Mr. Dimbleby, saying he could not attend due to 'the international situation'. A member of WDM Bristol expressed surprise that they are now classed as an "international situation". Just as the Doctor thanked the sponsors, the fire alarm went off. All the attendees filed outside and the activists (from a variety of groups) who'd been packing up to go, took advantage of the situation to unfurl banners and hand out more flyers.

Finally the lecture got going. Inside there was lively debate on corporate responsibility and the destruction of the planet, though not from the panel which consisted of Tom Burke (formerly with Rio Tito and now with the Nature Conservancy) a self-confessed anti-green, a farmer in favour of shooting wildlife and the former head of Yorkshire Water, amongst other people.

From: Bristol Nestle Resistance, November 21 2001

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