Mining magnates Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer have their
fingerprints all over the Australian government submission to the second UN Rio
Earth Summit happening on June 20-22 in Brazil.
This meeting of world leaders is supposed to be "a chance to
move away from business-as-usual" and create sustainable solutions
to the world's most serious environmental problems - many of them caused by
unsustainable mining practices. But you'll never guess what the Australian government's
answer to these problems is: more mining of course!
In an open letter to Foreign Minister Bob Carr, Friends of
the Earth Australia, Quit Coal and AidWATCH have criticised the Australian
government strategy at Rio+20 and asked for an explanation of why Australia is
pushing 'sustainable mining', market expansion, and private financing as principles
to be adopted in the Summit's agreement.
Associate Professor James Goodman, Friends of the Earth Australia spokesperson,
says "Australia's position undermines efforts toward genuine
sustainability based on social rights, common ownership and stewardship over
the earth's resources."
The group is particularly shocked by the promotion of 'sustainable mining'
in the Australian submission to Rio+20.
"Sustainable mining is an oxymoron," says Dr Brett Hennig of Quit Coal. "Coal
being pulled out of the ground today came from forests that existed 300 million
years ago: that's about as unsustainable as you get. This is just another blatant
example of the mining sector determining government policy and trying to
greenwash what is an essentially unsustainable activity."
Communities across Australia are struggling to deal with the
social and environmental costs of the 'mining boom'. Australian state and
federal governments are enabling the encroachment of coal seam gas and Liquefied
Natural Gas (LNG) across the nation, major port expansions in Queensland and
NSW, uranium expansion and the imposition of a nuclear waste repository on
indigenous land at Muckaty station outside Alice Springs.
Financing for sustainable develop is also on the table at Rio+20. The Australian
submission includes a preference for spending aid to 'leverage private finance'
- the AusAID program is an example of fundamental problems associated with this
kind of approach. Under the new
$127 million Australian Mining for Development
Initiative, AusAID is helping large multinational mining companies,
including BHP Billiton, Newmont and Rio Tinto, to improve their sustainability
Liz Barrett, spokesperson from AidWatch says, "The
capture of aid funding for the mining industry clearly contradicts the
environmental objectives of the Australian aid program. And if Australia is
successful in establishing this approach at Rio, it will mean pledges from
developing countries will go to corporate hands rather than communities on the
On Thursday June 21st simultaneous protests will
be happening in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra to make sure Bob Carr gets the
message: no matter what the mining companies say, you can't greenwash mining practises
and their environmentally detrimental effects.
Dr Brett Hennig on behalf of Quit Coal 0432 918 150
Associate Professors James Goodman (James.Goodman@uts.edu.au) and
Ariel Salleh on behalf of Friends of the Earth Australia
Liz Barrett on behalf of AidWatch firstname.lastname@example.org