Radio New Zealand
A global union representing mineworkers is taking its campaign against the mining company Rio Tinto to Bougainville by trying to alert people there to what it calls the bad behaviour of the international firm.
Rio Tinto has not ruled out returning to mine on Bougainville through its controlling stake in Bougainville Copper.
Adam Lee of IndustriALL Global Union, which represents 50 million workers around the world, says Rio Tinto has an atrocious record on safety and the environment which the union highlighted in its report “The Ugly Truth about Rio Tinto” last year.
Mr Lee spoke to Sally Round.
ADAM LEE: The information first and foremost, that we received, is from our members in the mines and the smelters working for Rio Tinto. And what we hear again and again from our affiliates around the world, is that this company is incredibly aggressive, it’s anti-union, it’s anti-worker. It doesn’t respect workers, it doesn’t respect their collective agreements or their unions. We hear that this is a company that doesn’t have any respect for worker safety. There’s an atrocious record of death at work sites around the world that continues.
SALLY ROUND: A recent survey of Bougainville communities, showed there was opposition to the reopening of the mine. So perhaps they don’t need your help.
AL: We are actually coming at this as sort of an outside observer, let’s say or an outside provider of information. As we’ve stated publicly, we’re not advocating that the people of Bougainville or PNG support reopening or don’t support reopening. Our concern is just that the discussions we have seen in the media, have mostly not focused on how Rio Tinto continues to behave around the world. And that’s the kind of information, that we are trying to make sure that the people of PNG and the people of Bougainville are aware of. Because we feel like for them to make an informed decision, it’s critical that they don’t only hear the propaganda. We feel like they need to hear about what these companies are actually doing around the world to this day. If they do want to welcome this company back in, that’s there decision. But they should do that from a point of having good information.
SR: The situation has changed in Bougainville recently, with new mining laws, giving ownership of resources to landowners for the first time. What has Rio Tinto’s record been like, in terms of dealing with indigenous communities?
AL: This has come up a number of times in recent attempts by Rio Tinto, to develop new mines. One example that’s really current is in Arizona USA. A development called resolution copper. Where Native American groups across the country are pretty united in opposing the development of a huge copper mine, in an area that a number of Native American tribes consider sacred and have long considered sacred, and the US government has recognised as protected areas for many years. That Rio Tinto has pursued changes in the legislative process to enable it to get the permits required to mine in the area. Without have to go through some of the environmental reviews and without allowing the community, including indigenous communities, to really have a strong voice in the process. So that’s a rather shocking case from 2015. You know, it’s really running rough shod over indigenous people in the USA, to short circuit the regulatory process and develop a mine in a location that’s considered sacred.