Mines and Communities announces
Joint UK-US Winners for Mining's "Prize of Shame"
Results announced at inaugural 'Dirty Digger Awards'
(the alternative to the Mining Journal Awards for Outstanding Achievement)
Wednesday 3 December 2003
(London) The winners of the 2003 Dirty Digger Awards have been decided. The awards are being made to coincide with the Mining Journal's 'Outstanding Achievement' Awards, to be presented at the Mines and Money Congress on 3rd December 2003.
Jim-Bob Moffet and Robert Wilson are the joint winners of the main "Death Roll Award" (which mirrors the Mines and Money "lifetime achievement" award - itself likely to go to Wilson). The two are respective heads of the US company Freeport and the UK-based company Rio Tinto, during the period when the two companies took the world's richest mineral deposit at Grasberg from under the feet the indigenous people of West Papua, Indonesia. They were run-away, unpopular winners (to the point where there were no other nominations from activists and community representatives). Not only is the company complicit in numerous human rights violations, and large-scale environmental destruction, but as recently as 22 November two more workers have died at the mine (this time of asphyxiation by sulphur fumes in an underground tunnel used to transport ore to a nearby mill). This follows the death of at least nine workers in a pit wall collapse in October.
John Rumbiak, a native Papuan human rights activist noted of the mine: "In the three decades that Freeport has operated in Papua, the company has single-handedly succeeded in establishing its own fiefdom. With the assistance of the Indonesian armed forces, paid by Freeport to safeguard its operations, the company decides who can enter the area surrounding its mine and who cannot ... The [Indonesian Human Rights] Commission noted that [human rights] violations "are directly connected to [the Indonesian army] acting as protection for the mining business of PT Freeport Indonesia."
However, the United Kingdom & United States did not grab all the brickbats. Flying the flag for the aggressive Canadian junior mining companies is Robert 'Toxic Bob' Friedland, who scooped the un-coveted "Award For Mining's Biggest Renegade". Fighting off some stiff competition from all across the world, the judges had to find for Toxic Bob, primarily thanks to his close association with the appalling Burmese SLORC dictatorship at the Monywa Copper mine. (For more information see "London Calling!" of November 30, 2003 and the November 11, 2003 Forbes Magazine article.).
Other Dirty Digger winners include:
- Tanzania, which fought off strong competition to win the "Omai 'Clobber The Communities!' Award" for doing its best to attract foreign mining investment while battles between small-scale miners and communities continue with foreign companies (not least Barrick Gold which is putting up the money for the equivalent Mines & Money Award).
- Russia's Norilsk won the "Dastardly Deal of the Year Award" for its acquisition of Stillwater, as it allowed Norilsk - a company still shrouded in secrecy - to confirm its position as the world's biggest palladium producer. Norilsk also operates the world's single most polluting mine and smelter complex. Its continued destruction of community health is both unrivalled and
- In a very competitive field, the "Grasberg Award For Unacceptable Resource Appropriation" goes to the Canadian junior TVI (Toronto Ventures Inc.). The judges were particularly horrified by its sustained policy of intimidation, isolation, and divide and rule applied to the local Subanon peoples resisting the proposed gold mine.
- The UK's very own Rio Tinto won the "Goni Lozada Award For Unsustainable Development" (which is fitting considering its close relations with the Bolivian ex-president after whom the award is named). The judges were shocked that Rio Tinto, given its track record, was nominated for the Mines and Money equivalent award for "Sustainable Development".
- The "Emperor's New Clothes Award" is given jointly to Newmont, Rio Tinto and Placer Dome, as the major users and advocates of, Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD) in the Asia-Pacific. Despite woeful past experience elsewhere, the lack of scientific data, the numerous warnings of marine biologists and recent practical failures in the technology, these companies continue to pour millions of tonnes of toxic mine wastes into the ocean.
- Finally the "Machiavelli Award For Corporate Deception" goes to Australia's very own BHPBilliton. The judges felt it would be a shame to leave the 'Big Australian' off the gong list, and thankfully their chair, Don Argus - re-dubbed "Don't Answer" for his failure to respond to questions about the company's intentions at its Gag Island nickel prospect at recent company AGMs - shot them into the lead for this shameful brickbat.
Sadly none of the winners is likely to be available for comment, as they will all be enjoying a black-tie dinner held in their honour at the Excel Conference centre in London docklands. However, campaigners will be available for further comment and interviews.
PHOTOS AVAILABLE: The Dirty Digger 'gong' (jpeg or hard copy); various photos of the Grasberg Disaster (jpeg).
PHOTO OP: Presentation of awards, 03/12/03, Excel Exhibition Centre.