Norwegian government breaks with Rio Tinto, other ‘unethical’ corporations

This video is called Aljazeera on Britain’s dropping of BAE Systems fraud inquiry.

From British daily The Guardian:

Investment: Norway offloads £500m of Rio Tinto shares over ‘unethical’ mine stake

· Fund acts over ‘severe environmental damage’
· Mining company defends ‘world-leading record’

* Terry Macalister

* Wednesday September 10 2008

Rio Tinto, one of Britain’s most blue-chip corporate names, has been thrown out of a sovereign wealth fund’s investment portfolio for potentially subjecting it to “grossly unethical conduct” through its involvement in the world’s biggest gold mine.

Norway’s finance minister, Kirsten Halvorsen, said yesterday that it was selling off the £500m stake held in Rio Tinto by its Government Pension Fund-Global, commonly known as the “oil fund”.

Halvorsen said the problems with Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest iron ore miner, concerned a joint venture with Freeport McMoRan, a company excluded by the fund in 2006, at a mining operation in the Indonesian province of Papua.

“Exclusion of a company from the fund reflects our unwillingness to run an unacceptable risk of contributing to grossly unethical conduct,” she said. “The council on ethics has concluded that Rio Tinto is directly involved, through its participation in the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, in the severe environmental damage caused by that mining operation.

“There are no indications to the effect that the company’s practices will be changed in future, or that measures will be taken to significantly reduce damage to nature and the environment,” she added in a formal statement posted on the ministry’s website.

The Grasberg complex is the biggest gold mine in the world, and the third biggest for copper. Environmental groups and local people are concerned with the environmental damage caused by dumping millions of tonnes of ore waste, or tailings, into the local river system and the harm that could be done by the stored overburden. Last year, a study published by War on Want claimed that local people had suffered serious human rights and environmental abuses.

Rio Tinto, which is the target of a £70bn hostile bid by its rival miner BHP Billiton, expressed frustration at the Norwegian move. …

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said she welcomed Norway’s decision to exclude Rio Tinto and hoped other funds would follow its lead. “The Norwegian government has again put its money where its mouth is to ensure a real ethical investment policy. Now other pension funds should follow Norway’s example.”

Other British companies deemed too “unethical” by the Norwegians include the arms manufacturer BAE Systems and the support services group Serco, which was removed from the fund last year because of its involvement in the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston.

A host of US companies have also been deemed off limits by the Norwegian fund, including Asda‘s parent group, Wal-Mart, the technology group Honeywell and the defence company Lockheed Martin.

The Norwegian ministry of finance also said it had considered but rejected a recommendation from the oil fund’s council of ethics to exclude the biotech seed firm Monsanto. The government chose to keep its Monsanto shares and was working with that company to bring about a “significant reduction in the use of child labour” in cotton seed production in India.

“The ministry of finance has therefore decided not to exclude Monsanto Co from the portfolio,” it said.

Halvorsen accepted that it was difficult to give precise figures on the reduction in child labour but estimates put it at 90% in one Indian state and 70% in another.

Child labour should be abolished; not just reduced. Also, child labour is not the only problem with Monsanto.

“The Norwegian people’s savings are making a difference for children,” she said. No one at Monsanto was available for comment.

The Government Pension Fund-Global invests oil and gas revenues in foreign stocks and bonds to save for when the hydrocarbons run out.


The bulk of companies excluded from Norway’s investment programme on ethical grounds are US firms that produce military hardware. Britain’s leading arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, is also there, alongside Thales of France and Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed. The Norwegians started their ethical “sweep” in 2005 and have extended it to include mining groups such as Rio Tinto, Vedanta and DRD Gold. One of the highest-profile exclusions was US retailer and Asda-owner Wal-Mart, for allegedly breaching human rights.

See also here.

The fight against the dumping of toxic waste off the coast of Madang in Papua New Guinea suffered a setback when a court injunction against the Ramu nickel mine, which is building a pipe to dump its waste into the ocean, was reversed. A long list of incidents have occurred involving threats and attempted bribery of those involved in the court case: here.

When Cocaine and Monsanto’s Roundup Collide, War on Drugs Becomes a Genetically-Modified War on Science: here.

Roundup Birth Defects: Regulators Knew World’s Best-Selling Herbicide Causes Problems, New Report Finds: here.

What Wall Street darling Monsanto’s fall from grace reveals about the GMO seed industry: here.

Mike Ludwig, Truthout: “After nearly five years of legal and regulatory battles, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has fully deregulated Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa that is genetically modified (GM) to be resistant to Roundup herbicide. The decision squashed a proposed compromise between the biotech industry and its opponents that would have placed geographic restrictions on Roundup Ready alfalfa to prevent organic and traditional alfalfa from being contaminated by herbicide sprays and transgenes spread by cross-pollination and other factors”: here.

Monsanto pesticide found to infect plants with AIDS-like disease: here.

14 thoughts on “Norwegian government breaks with Rio Tinto, other ‘unethical’ corporations

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  2. I would like to give you a direct link to a GeoEye Foundation Case Study released today on Mining and Human Rights issues raised in West Papua, and a second link to a Case Study I provided on Zimbabwe earlier in the year.

    If you are interested in on the developments in this technology and a closer appreciation of the situation for the Amungme tribe in this region then please do not hesitate to contact myself or Mr Jonathan Mazower of Survival International.

    Yours sincerely,

    Dr Chris Lavers

    ‘High-Resolution Satellite Observation of Remote Mining Areas Addresses Human Rights and Environmental Protection Issues’ GeoEye Foundation Website Highlighted Case Study of Grasberg Mine, West Papua.
    ‘Porta Farm’ GeoEye Foundation Website Highlighted Case Study of Porta Farm Land Clearances in Zimbabwe, August 2009.


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  4. Mining workers rally for safety

    INDONESIA: Hundreds of employees of US mining giant Freeport have demanded guarantees of safety at the world’s largest gold mine in eastern Indonesia after the death of two colleagues.

    Banner-waving workers massed outside the company offices on Saturday and refused to be transported to the mine.

    It was the second day of protests following the death of two employees.


  5. Indonesia: Freeport mine workers return to work

    Over 10,000 striking workers at the US-owned Freeport-McMoran Grasberg mine in the Indonesian province of West Irian Jaya (West Papua) returned to work on Wednesday, ending a nine-day strike over a pay dispute. Workers walked off the job on July 4 to demand that wages be increased to $3 an hour. The average pay for Freeport mine workers around the world is $15 an hour.

    The union called off the strike when management agreed to the pay increase and CEO Armando Mahler said he would meet representatives of the Freeport Indonesia’s Labor Union to resolve issues over mistreatment by some managers. No meeting date has been set.

    Production at Grasberg, one of the world’s largest open-cut gold and copper mines, had come to a standstill, forcing the global price of copper to a two-month high. Freeport claimed the strike had cost over $23 million a day. In the first quarter of this year the mine made a $1.5 billion profit.


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