MAC: Mines and Communities

London Calling on Rio Tinto's chastity

Published by MAC on 2008-10-07

"Make me chaste, lord - but not yet." So said St Augustine, before he finally forsook his sinful ways.

Tom Albanese, CEO of Rio Tinto, might himself have taken a leaf from the old saint's book.

"Saving the environment, dropping carbon, is almost a luxury of affluence."

That's what "over easy" Albanese offered up in a recent interview with Australian Broadcasting (ABC). Pretty rich - considering he is one of the most affluent (certainly highest-paid) aficionados of the mining industry.

Almost in the same breath, the company's head of its copper business claims that Rio is "interested in getting involved with the global climate change initiatives."

However, that statement also looks pretty soggy, since it was made in the context of the company "looking to expand current uranium operations."

And we all know - or should - that nuclear power racks up a high bill in global greenhouse gas emissions from plant construction, transportation and, not least, from uranium mining itself.

But, whatever the ambivalence (or lack of valence) in Rio Tinto's attitude to the world's most pressing socio-environmental challenge, one thing's certain. It's not letting the current calamity of capital deter it from "bottom fishing" for opportunities among juniors.

Doubtless Saint Augustine would not have approved. Among his many sage utterances was this proto-socialist invocation to sustainable living:

"Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need. The remainder is needed by others."

From ABC, Radio Australia

2nd October 2008

The head of one of the world's biggest mining companies is doubtful that a global agreement can be reached on climate change.

Australian mining company Rio Tinto is among the big businesses insisting on global agreement, before Australian industry is fully exposed to an emissions trading scheme.

The miner's chief executive Tom Albanese says it's important that moves are made towards an international agreement. But he says the chances of a global solution are slim. "There are too many competing forces, and I think it's important to recognise that saving the environment, dropping carbon is almost a luxury of affluence if we see difficult economic conditions priorities to begin to change and that will put more challenges on coming up with a solution."

Rio Tinto's head of copper says the miner is looking at opportunities to buy juniors struggling to raise funds.

The Australian

2nd October 2008

Bret Clayton, chief executive of copper at Rio Tinto, said the company was speaking with some of the juniors it is interested in. We are scouring opportunities and looking at several.

There are a lot of exciting opportunities out there that we are looking at, he said at a Global Capital conference in London yesterday.

Mr Clayton added that some areas of interest were uranium and nickel. "We are looking to expand current (uranium) operations that we have," he said, citing the company's interest in getting involved with the global climate change initiatives.

Rio's copper chief also said that nickel was a good business to invest in, adding that Rio Tinto was interested in developing that part of the company's assets. At the conference, Mr Clayton also said that Chinese demand for commodities, and copper in particular, will not disappear but will moderate in the near term.

"Our basic fundamental view of markets hasn't changed although we will see moderation in OECD countries and in China," he said. In the long term, he said production disruptions will continue especially as underground copper mining is forecast to double. Mr Clayton said that as open pit mines are transformed to being underground mines there will be problems, adding that Rio Tinto itself has had "teething problems" doing this.

Global demand for copper is forecast to remain high, doubling in the next 15 years with strong growth for commodities overall in China anticipated in that period, Mr Clayton said. Rio forecasts copper stocks to remain roughly the same as current levels until 2010 but maybe slightly higher.

[London Calling is published by Nostromo Research, London. Views expressed are not necessarily held by any editors of this web site. Reproduction is welcome, provided full acknowledgment is given to sources.]

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