Corporate giants that have filled our atmosphere with carbon, and which make colossal profits from fuelling catastrophic climate change, are gathering in Melbourne at the end of October. An activist coalition is planning mass civil disobedience to disrupt and, if we can, shut down this gathering: the International Mining and Resources Conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, from 28 to 31 October. Companies working on Adani’s Carmichael mine will rub shoulders with fossil fuel profiteers and some of the most vicious mining companies on the planet, such as Rio Tinto and Fortitude.
Capital, Karl Marx once observed, comes into the world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt”. Mining capital is some of the bloodiest and dirtiest around, dependent on environmental and human destruction to maximise profits – as a quick look at the attendance list at IMARC demonstrates.
Adani Corporation was a featured speaker at IMARC in 2017. CEO Gautam Adani is pictured here last month with Matt Canavan, Australia’s resources minister. Canavan will be speaking at this year’s conference, which features companies working for Adani including Calibre (rail), Komatsu (trucks) and WSP (management consulting).
BHP is Australia’s biggest coal company. The Carbon Disclosure Project lists 100 companies that are the source of 70 percent of global emissions over the past 30 years. The two Australian companies on that list – BHP and Rio Tinto – will both be at IMARC. Fellow top 100 carbon profiteers Anglo-American and Glencore will also be at IMARC, along with Yancoal, the local subsidiary of Yanzhou Group, one of the four state-owned enterprises that, combined, take out number one spot in top 100. Yancoal’s presence makes the collection of corporate climate criminals at IMARC a truly international one.
Hugh Morgan will chair a major session at IMARC this year. He has been one of the most famous ruling class warriors in Australia since the 1980s. In a 1984 speech, he claimed that “our orebodies, and the equipment we use to mine them, are part of the divine order”, while Aboriginal land rights laws were “a symbolic step back to the world of paganism, superstition, fear and darkness”. In 1986 he helped found the union-busting HR Nicholls Society, which played a role in key anti-union battles from the Pilbara in 1986 to the waterfront in 1998 and beyond.
In 1990 Morgan, like his father before him, was appointed chief executive of Western Mining Corporation. WMC developed the Olympic Dam mine on the world’s largest uranium deposit at Roxby Downs, South Australia – overriding the wishes of Kokatha and Arabunna Aboriginal people. In 2007, he told the Adelaide Advertiser: “There should be an internationally-owned and run nuclear waste facility in Australia”. A decade later, after helping to found climate change denial group the Saltbush Club, Morgan declared: “This climate alarm movement has got so far because of backing by Western millennials who have been indoctrinated during their education”.
OceanaGold is an Australian-Canadian mining company with headquarters in Collins Street, Melbourne. OceanaGold sued the government of El Salvador for US$315 million – equivalent to the country’s annual education budget – when the company was banned from developing a mine due to the threat of massive water pollution. The company’s case was eventually thrown out by the World Bank in 2016. In the Philippines, at OceanaGold’s Dipidio mine, the company has been doing what it wanted to do in El Salvador. As a result, wells and creeks have dried up, and the region’s agriculture has been decimated. The mine’s devastating effect on water supplies sparked protests. Two anti-mine activists were murdered in 2012, but protests continue and in July closed the mine for a period.
An executive from OceanaGold will speak at IMARC this year.
Newcrest Mining is Australia’s largest gold mining company, the sixth largest in the world. Newcrest’s Toguraci mine in Indonesia has proceeded despite the objections, and the dead bodies, of protesting traditional landowners. Protesters were killed in 2004 and 2013, after Newcrest paid one of Indonesia’s most notorious security forces to protect the mine. Newcrest’s Lihir gold mine in PNG has been marked by bitter disputes with landowners over water and waste dumping. The company’s new mine in PNG at Wafi-Golpu also dumps huge amounts of mining waste into the ocean. In Ecuador, Newcrest has joined the rush to open mines under the new right wing government, often against the opposition of local communities protecting their water and land. In Australia, Newcrest was fined $450,000 last year after safety violations led to the death of a worker at the Cadia mine, near Orange in New South Wales. The company made a profit of $578 million last year, an increase of 178 percent.
Several Newcrest executives are speaking at IMARC 2019.
Resolute Mining is a Perth-based gold mining company operating in Mali, West Africa. Locals in the group of villages called Fourou had long complained about discrimination in hiring at Resolute’s Syama gold mine. In November 2012, protests escalated and locals built a barricade from tree branches on the road to the mine. “Our goal wasn’t warfare”, Moussa Kone, a protester and a father of nine, said. “If that was our goal, we wouldn’t have taken our families.” The men refused to leave the barricade and spent two nights sleeping outdoors. Women who came to deliver breakfast stayed to protest, waving ladles and kitchen utensils. By Sunday, at least 100 protesters had joined the barricade. Authorities sent the police in, and there was a bloody crackdown.
Resolute Mining executive Brett Ascot will be a keynote speaker at IMARC this year.
Rio Tinto’s blood-soaked, destructive history is infamous. Several of the company’s executives will be at IMARC 2019. Rio Tinto claims it has changed its spots since 1937, when company chairman Sir Auckland Geddes gave shareholders in London the following glowing report of Franco’s fascist regime in Spain: “Since the mining region was occupied by general Franco’s forces, there have been no further labour problems ... Miners found guilty of troublemaking are court-martialled and shot”.
Nowadays the company promotes its “corporate social responsibility”. But Rio’s decades-long, highly profitable investment in coal puts it at number 24 on the Carbon Disclosure Project’s list of the top 100 sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the past 30 years. Having reaped a mighty profit from warming the Earth – while taking a hard and often brutal line against miners’ unions – Rio sold its last coal assets for around $4 billion last year. It claims to have clean hands, but Rio is still counting the profits of climate change.
Rio Tinto’s Panguna copper mine in Bougainville led to widespread environmental devastation. After rebel landowners shut the mine in 1989, military forces backed by the Australian government and Rio launched a brutal civil war, resulting in about 20,000 people dead. Having written off the value of this asset, the company now presents itself as having a social conscience for giving its now worthless Bougainville mine to the PNG and Bougainville governments. There is a massive environmental legacy, which Rio has no intention of cleaning up. There is a lot of manoeuvring to reopen the mine, despite the opposition of many locals. And Rio Tinto still operates the Ranger uranium mine, within Kakadu National Park. It has ignored the wishes of the Mirrar Aboriginal people to cease operations and to hand over control of the nearby Jabiluka uranium mining lease so it can be folded into Kakadu.
Rio Tinto is one of the most powerful companies on the planet. But it’s not all-powerful.
The Jabiluka mine was stopped after a major public campaign by the Mirrar people and their supporters in the late 1990s. The campaign included significant civil disobedience, including mass arrests at the mine site and blockades of the Melbourne offices of North Limited, the mine’s owner (since bought out by Rio Tinto).
Activists are planning to rekindle the spirit of that successful campaign at the blockade of IMARC in October. With our bodies and our voices, we aim to shut these criminals down.