MAC/20: Mines and Communities

ERA won't sign Jabiluka contract

Published by MAC on 2003-04-28


ERA won't sign Jabiluka contract

First it said it would but now it says it won't! At the April 17th Rio Tinto AGM in London, chair Robert Wilson confirmed there would be no mining of the huge Jabiluka uranium deposit in Australia, unless the Mirrar Aboriginal custodians wanted it - which they don't. But at the ERA AGM a week later, the company refused to back its promise with a legally binding contract.


ERA won't sign Jabiluka contract

AAP, Sydney Morning Herald

28 April 2003

Uranium giant Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) says it will not be drawn into signing a new contract enforcing Aboriginal authority over its controversial Jabiluka mine.

ERA today faced calls from environmental groups for a legally binding document enforcing its promise to cease Jabiluka operations until the site's traditional owner, the Mirrar Gundjehmi clan, gives its consent.

Rio Tinto Ltd-controlled ERA has put on hold its Jabiluka operations, located in Northern Territory's Kakadu National Park, until the company reaches agreement from the Mirrar people.

It now mines one million tonnes of uranium ore each year from the adjoining Ranger site.

Spokesmen for both Friends of the Earth and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), speaking at ERA's annual general meeting in Sydney today, called for a legally binding instrument covering Aboriginal consent for Jabiluka.

The spokesmen also called for ERA to give a timetable for its rehabilitation of Jabiluka land.

ERA was "committed to in language but not committed to in process" its promise to honour Jabiluka agreements with the Mirrar people, Friends of the Earth's Bruce Thompson said.

ACF spokesman Dave Sweeney read a statement from Mirrar senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula, calling for the legal commitment and rehabilitation.

"We want Rio Tinto and ERA to put that promise in writing," Ms Margarula's statement said.

"We want Rio Tinto and ERA to put the uranium they took from Jabiluka and put it back down the hole - we want them to do this during this dry season (Autumn-Winter)."

ERA chairman and Rio Tinto Australia managing director Brian Horwood told the AGM the future of Jabiluka depended on the outcome of ongoing discussions with the Mirrar people.

"They (discussions) will determine the future of that Jabiluka site," Mr Horwood said.

"I'm not going to stand here and give timetables."

ERA chief executive Bob Cleary later told AAP the Jabiluka site was purchased through a legally binding document which included consent from Aboriginal people.

Now, he said, the site's owners had "changed 180 degrees".


Rio vows to seek approval

By Maria Hawthorne and AAP, Herald Sun

19 April 2003

GLOBAL mining group Rio Tinto plc has confirmed it won't proceed with the Jabiluka uranium mine without the consent of the region's traditional land owners.

Rio Tinto chairman Sir Robert Wilson said his promise about Jabiluka to the Mirrar people would not be forgotten when he retired in October.

"This commitment doesn't disappear with my retirement," he told the annual meeting in London on Thursday which was regularly interrupted by rowdy shareholders angry at a 22 per cent rise in directors' fees.

At one point they blasted independent director Sir Richard Sykes who sought to have them banned from future annual meetings.

Sir Richard, who is chairman of Rio Tinto's remuneration committee, came under fire on several fronts.

The small shareholders:

ATTACKED the board and management for alleged lack of contingency funding to cover potential lawsuits, and;

RAISED concerns about safety issues involving projects in the US and Papua New Guinea.

Sir Robert sought to restore calm by making the Jabiluka commitment.

"The question of putting a clear commitment into legal form is, I understand, under discussion," he said.

The Jabiluka mine is under development by Rio Tinto's 68 per cent subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia which also operates the nearby Ranger uranium mine.

The Rio Tinto board also denied it was ignoring potential court cases involving environmental damage and health problems caused by its past activities in areas ranging from the northern England city of Hull to Bougainville and PNG.

"There are a number of court cases around at any one time but the opinion of the board is that they don't represent a significant risk," finance director Guy Elliott said.

On the 22 per cent pay issue, Sir Robert defended the rise which will lift non-executive directors' fees from pound stg. 46,000 a year to pound stg. 56,000 ($A119,050 to $A144,925).

He said the increases were necessary given increasing potential for board members to be sued in the post-Enron business environment.

"The burden and demands and potential liability has risen sharply and this company has had to address the question of whether fees need to be raised appropriately," he said.


Rio Tinto confirms promise on Jabiluka

MSN Channel Nine News

18 April 2003

Global mining group Rio Tinto plc has confirmed it won't proceed with the Jabiluka uranium mine in Australia's Northern Territory without the consent of the region's traditional land owners.

Rio Tinto chairman Sir Robert Wilson his promise about Jabiluka to the Mirrar people would not be forgotten when he retires in October.

"This commitment doesn't disappear with my retirement," he told the company's annual shareholder meeting in London.

"The question of putting a clear commitment into legal form is, I understand, under discussion."

The Jabiluka mine is under development by Rio Tinto's 68 per cent subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia Ltd which also operates the nearby Ranger uranium mine.

The Rio Tinto board also denied it was ignoring potential court cases involving environmental damage and human health problems caused by its past activities in places ranging from the North England city of Hull to Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

"There are a number of court cases around at any one time but the opinion of the board is that they don't represent a significant risk," finance director Guy Elliott said.

At the meeting, shareholders also queried a 22 per cent pay rise to non-executive directors.

Sir Robert defended the rise in pay for non-executive directors from STG46,000-a-year to STG56,000 ($A119,050 to $A144,925) as necessary given increasing potential for board members to be sued in the post-Enron business environment.

"The burden and demands and potential liability has risen sharply and this company has had to address the question of whether fees need to be raised appropriately," he said.

"What you're seeing here you will see reflected in other companies in years to come."

Sir Robert said the metals industry was likely to lead a global economic recovery but there was no indication when this would occur.

Strong demand out of China had pushed up iron ore prices during 2002, and was likely to drive any recovery, but a volatile foreign exchange market added further uncertainty to the near-term outlook.

"As far as the outlook is concerned, forecasts are obviously clouded by the uncertain economic and political consequences of the war in Iraq," Sir Robert said.

"Even leaving aside the war, it is difficult to see what might cause significant improvement in the main economies of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) in the near term."

Rio Tinto's key assets, such as copper, aluminium and coal, were "depressingly flat" in 2002, with iron ore and gold the only exceptions.

But despite these lacklustre markets, the company had delivered its second best earnings performance, Sir Robert said.

Rio Tinto reported a net profit of $US651 million in 2002 after $US879 million in writedowns.

This compared to a $US1.079 billion net profit in 2001 which included a $US583 million writedown.

Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info