Beneath the stones, the beach

Poor Billionaires

When one of the only 800 Billionaires on the planet, Professor Clive Palmer, starts invoking the spirit of the average working Australian in his fight against a mining industry tax, you know these people (miners) are from another planet. When another mining industry spokesperson tells us he would stay home watching television if a 40% tax was levied on profits then I definitely know this industry is clueless.

What was the PAYG tax rate for the average working Australian again?

Let’s not forget the contribution of mining companies to the sustenance of the Australian economy: Creating jobs, certainly; making a large contribution to Government revenue, no question; building infrastructure, well if it’s a train line in the middle-of-nowhere or a road up an otherwise inaccessible mountain in the middle-of-nowhere, no argument.

Let’s look at a couple of things the mining companies would rather the average worker didn’t consider. When only 14% of Rio Tinto’s shareholders are Australian, how can we Australians be too concerned about the impact on Rio-Tinto’s shares? In 2006, the Norwegian Government’s pension fund divested US $870 million dollars worth of stock in Rio Tinto specifically because of its contribution to the wholesale environmental destruction of the Grasberg mine region. In spite of this fact, miners like Rio Tinto would have us all believe that they are making a huge contribution to the world.
If we examine just some of the consequences of mining company operations in this small region, might we reconsider?

This company, under various guises, has been the cause of the environmental and social destruction of Bougainville – thanks to Bougainville Copper Limited; the slow and torturous environmental destruction of the Kakadu wetlands through the efforts of Energy Resources Australia; and the environmental and social destruction of West Papua through the development of the Grasberg gold and copper mine.

BHP Billiton’s operation of the OK-Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea has resulted in massive environmental damage to thousands of square kilometres of the Western province, and the destruction of the Fly River and the surrounding lands. The impact of this operation has grave consequences for the Great Barrier Reef and for the fishing industry of the Torres Straits.

The South Australian Miner, Santos, has an as-yet-unmet responsibility to the 50,000 people of Sidoarjo in West Java, who have been displaced by the environmental disaster that was created by their mining operation in 2006. This was a drilling operation gone-wrong, and six years later the hot, toxic, mud has not stopped flowing, and the people have not been compensated.

Ironically, in 2007, Santos won the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s Environment award for ‘research on the interaction between whales and seismic activity’. Now they just need to shift their research focus to interaction between drilling operations and seismic activity.