The National newspaper has reported Professor Ross Garnaut has joined the Board of junior mining company, Highlands Pacific.
Garnaut was the adviser on climate change to the Australian Government of John Howard, but despite his role as an environmental advisor in Australia he is very much involved in the mining business in PNG – including the high polluters.
Garnaut is Chair of the Board of the PNG Sustainable Development Programme (PNGSDP) – which is the entity that holds Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) shares on behalf of the State of PNG and invests the dividends (currently around a billion dollars) in Singapore. PNGSDP’s role is to bring the interest onshore to provide development funding for projects in Western Province and the rest of PNG – although many people are asking what development, as there is very little to show for the last eleven years of funding (which leads some to quip the money is brought onshore just to pay large salaries to expatriate consultants and board members….).
Garnaut is also the Chairman of the Board of OTML, which is still polluting the Fly River, and is now on the Board of a company, Highlands Pacific, that owns 8.7% in the Ramu Nickel mine and is party to their dumping of 5 million tonnes of toxic mine waste into the Bismark sea, 400m off shore and at a depth of 150m.
This means not only is Garnaut at the helm of what has been one of the worlds biggest environmental mining disasters (Ok Tedi) he is now on the Board of a company that scientists and environmentalists fear could be responsible for another world class mining disaster – Ramu Nickel.
Garnaut was also Chair of Lihir Gold for 10 years during which time the sea dumping of mine waste off Lihir Island resulted in 60 square miles of smothered sea floor – a role for which Garnaut is claimed to have been paid $300,000 per year.
As Chairman of the Board of PNGSDP Garnaut will be taking a slice of the $600,000 per year that is split between the seven directors.
At OTML, where he is also Chairman of the Board and has been a director for at least the last 11 years, he will also be earning director’s fees.
Some of this wealth is used by Garnaut to fiercely defend his reputation, as Greg Hoy, a reporter on the 7:30 Report on the ABC in Australia found when he reported on Lihir and exposed the environmental damage in September 2010.
Garnaut complained to the ABC and within 24 hours there was an apology up on the ABC website and the the program transcript and the evidence from the report supporting the statements was removed. The ABC conducted an initial inquiry which upheld Garnaut’s complaint (see here on the ABC website) but it seems a later review by the ABC Complaints Review Executive did NOT uphold the complaint (see here on the ABC website).
Read how the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the ABC program and Garnaut’s response – Garnaut defends dumping mine waste in river.
Garnaut also threatened an Australian NGO with a defamation case at the same time for their role in the ABC story and because they had reproduced the ABC transcript on their website. Garnaut’s ‘litigation counsel’, lawyer Stuart Gibson, even tried to contact this blog demanding that stories linking Garnaut to the environmental damage at Lihir be removed.
“Ross threatens to sue, and proceeds with legal action, against anyone who says anything remotely negative about him. He will not have the media questioning his career, his motivations, or his wealth” says a well-placed corporate commentator.
Garnaut’s response to the ABC program that highlighted his connection to the environmental impacts of the Lihir mine can be read on his own website.