MAC: Mines and Communities

London Calling Names

Published by MAC on 2007-12-07

London Calling Names

7th December 2007

Grabbing wealth by stealth: the largely un-recognised wiles, guile and ruthlessness of Xstrata


Mining speculators (both the mental and physical varieties) get dizzy over prospects that BHPBilliton may take over its closest rival, Rio Tinto (with the Chinese now possibly poised for a counter-bid). Meanwhile, the world's fifth biggest mining company continues on the acquisition trial, relatively unnoticed or unhindered.

Biding its time - as it did when, with consummate artistry and probably the assistance of hedge funds, it acquired nickel miner Falconbridge last year - the UK-Swiss firm has just offered just under Aus$ 1 billion for an Australian coal company. It also recently ran off with major nickel miner, Jubilee, for US$3 billion. And it's had its eye on Anglo American for some time: the more this other London mining outfit goes for copper and nickel, then the more Xstrata will gag to get it.

But the plum in its pudding - at least for the present- is the Tampakan deposit in the Philippines. According to Xstrata at a London seminar last week, this "... represents the largest development project in Xstrata Copper's portfolio" - which probably goes for the company as a whole.

Most criticised project

During the nineties, Tampakan was the most criticised mining project in the Philippines. Arguably, opposition by some communities in Mindanao to its potentially devastating impact was a major reason why Western Mining Corporation (WMC) withdrew from the country in 2000. WMC was finally swallowed up by BHPBilliton in 2005, although Xstrata had already made an unsuccessful grab for the Australian company.

According to Philippine organisation (and MAC editorial board member) Kalikasan-PNE: "Next year we are planning to start a national campaign regarding the Xstrata project. There is a local and regional campaign going on now in the area headed by La Bugal Blaan Tribal Association, Gabriella (women's organisation) SocsargendAGENDA (a regional alliance) and AGDMI (an NGO). We are hoping we can replicate the strong campaign being done by the people of Rapurapu on Lafayette though this project is much much, much bigger and Xstrata as one of the biggest mining monsters plundering the planet now."

But concerns shouldn't rest with the fact that Xstrata, along with Philippine associate company, may shortly threaten huge excavation of an archipelago whose geo-physical fragility is a compelling argument itself for a halt to all major open-cast mining.

Xstrata is already the world's biggest exporter of thermal coal and as such, bears a heavy toll in contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Isn't it time we paid more heed to this ruthless band? Even some who've heard the name can't pronounce or spell it accurately.

Perhaps it's time to dub the company "Extract-It-All" ?

Easier to say - and pretty close to its true intentions.

Sources: “Company Announcement: Xstrata Copper Confirms A World Class Mineral Resource At The Tampakan Copper-Gold Project In The Philippines”, Christy van der Merwe, Mining Weekly: 5 December 2007; “Tampakan takes number one spot for Xstrata”,Rebecca Lawson, Mining News, 6 December 2007; “Sky the limit for Xstrata”, Kate Haycock, Mining News, 6 December 2007; “Xstrata makes A$960m bid for Australian miner”, Christy van der Merwe, Mining Weekly: 5 December 2007; Western Mining's statement on withdrawal from Tampakan in 2000:

London Calling is published by Nostromo Research, London. Commentary does not necessarily represent the views of Mines and Communities. Reproduction is welcomed, provided full acknowledgment is given to sources and to Nostromo Research, London.

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