After the goldrush
Well, I dreamed I saw the knights in armour coming
Sayin’ something about a queen
There were peasants singing and drummers drummin’
And the archer split the tree
There was a fanfare blowing to the sun that was floating on the breeze
Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s
Rio Tinto’s recent destruction of the Juukan Gorge indigenous rock shelters in Western Australia’s Pilbara region attracted extensive media attention, which resulted in a federal parliament senate inquiry under its Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia. Meanwhile, following several impromptu resignations two of its socially autistic senior executives were rewarded with golden parachutes and an order of chivalry for Jean-Sébastien Jacques beckons. The recidivist and amoral corporate culture and reckless behaviour came as no surprise to many of the beleaguered residents on Bougainville Island in the South Pacific. Despite the turgid sesquipedalian hogwash covering corporate social responsibility and zero harm, it is quite evident there was no skerrick of remorse from Her Majesty’s Merchant Adventurer. The rapacious buccaneer has repeatedly disregarded numerous warnings over its despoliation of the planet’s finite resources throughout Australia, Canada, Papua New Guinea, West Papua, Mongolia, Namibia, Madagascar and destroyed many pristine rivers and other natural waterways across the globe.
Rio Tinto under its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited developed the Panguna copper and gold mine in central Bougainville. During preliminary field studies, the corporate brigand under Sir Frank Espie and several other buccaneering executives was somewhat unwavering on securing the Pakia township despite vehement protests from the local community.
Its immediate environs provided many endearing features and topographical benefits for the corporate behemoth, which included a pleasant aspect, gently sloping land and temperate evenings with only a short drive to the prospective mine site. Initial negotiations appeared somewhat reminiscent of the comments from Al Haig, a former American Secretary of State during the US acquisition of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago……You just give me the word and I’ll turn that fucking little island into a parking lot.
The Anglo-American brigand operated the mine for almost two decades until 1989 when production suddenly ceased following extreme frustration and dissatisfaction amongst landowners and the local community. Guerilla tactics initially involved sabotage of the Loloho power station and escalated into a prolonged barbaric civil war, which was depicted in the traumatic novel by Lloyd Jones and subsequent movie entitled Mister Pip. Almost five decades later Rio Tinto divested its interests in the derelict site but failed to rehabilitate and restore the landscape and many of its deep unpleasant physical and psychological scars remain.
The Jaba-Kawerong valley downstream from the abandoned mine is home to approximately 15,000 people and most residents are exposed to pollution from contaminated tailings. Many dwellings are covered in dust and adjacent rivers are poisoned with copper and other trace transition elements. Following heavy downpours, the toxic sludge accumulates along numerous streams and creeks, which generates extensive flooding.
Local residents suffer from serious health issues including respiratory diseases, dermatitis and other skin disorders. Complicated pregnancies with birth defects are quite common in the region and infants are often unhealthy, malnourished and inevitably become quite sick. Many of the impoverished families are forced to walk for several hours in a desperate search for potable water.
Attempts to resolve the problem via manual labour with rudimentary implements proved impractical and communities were forced to seek justice with the Australian government via the Human Rights Law Centre. Its comprehensive report demands Rio Tinto provide substantial funding for an independent assessment and rectification of significant public health, safety and environmental risks with additional support for long term rehabilitation of the abandoned mine and its affected environs.
Much like the civil war it will degenerate into an extremely tough and prolonged battle because the Australian government, irrespective of its incumbent administration, is merely a political wing of an enormously influential corporate tyrant whose dominant shareholder is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The British monarchy provides the corporate brigand with an enormous amount of power across Australia’s commercial and industrial landscape. Indeed, many Bougainvilleans will find the theatre of law has very little to do with the discovery of truth and realisation of justice, which is often incongruous with judgement and the only parole is usually death or dementia.
A young Australian Labor Party MP and subsequent prime minister visited the site during its infancy and proclaimed Rio Tinto’s control over Australian mineral resources was almost unbelievable. It exercised absolute power over the corporate and political life of the nation via the invisible empire of the monarchy.
Rio Tinto was originally founded back in 1873 via the vast profits from its Honk Kong based Jardine Matheson opium trafficking empire under direct sponsorship from the British Crown. The predatory conglomerate supplements its relentless use of propaganda with repulsive indoctrination techniques from the notorious Tavistock Institute, a sinister psychological warfare unit of the monarchy.
It has also established intensely powerful and productive relationships with numerous neoliberal organisations and extreme right wing think tanks, which include the Mont Perelin Society, Tasman Institute, Centre for Independent Studies, HR Nicholls Society and the Australian Academy of Science.
Rio Tinto has been provided with a malevolent freedom to harm, which was well researched in a comprehensive publication from the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia back in 1998 and its daunting network is summarised in Figure 1 below:
During initial development of the Panguna mine, substantial contracts covering early earthworks, defoliation, telecommunications and many other preliminary construction activities were awarded to Bechtel Corporation under the leadership of George Shultz. The didactic mercenary was influential in shaping the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan’s administration, which included an alliance with Margaret Thatcher, the illegitimate daughter of Satan, who once proclaimed…There is no such thing as society.
This involved promotion of Milton Friedman’s shareholder theory from the Chicago school of economics with its sophisms of trickle-down economics and a rising tide lifts all boats. Maybe the arrival of the black-hulled royal yacht HMY Brittania as it slipped slowly into Kieta harbour through the narrow main channel abeam of Pok Pok Island back in March 1971 was merely a reincarnation the enigmatic Marie Celeste.
In Australia, Central Queensland University currently offers a lucrative annual scholarship via its Sir Frank Espie/Rio Tinto Leadership Award and the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) Education Endowment Fund. It includes mentoring with financial support and a field trip, which offers extensive networking opportunities to demonstrate leadership within AusIMM and throughout the international resources sector.
In the early 1980s following extensive restructuring of the Australian financial system, Sir Frank Espie’s son, a former Monash University science graduate, conspired with a group of acquisitive and avaricious investment bankers. The director of the Menzies Research Centre established a dynamic and responsible boutique resource investment organisation, which eventually became Pacific Road Capital. It takes its name from the exclusive thoroughfare overlooking Pittwater Sound, Palm Beach and Whale Beach on Sydney’s Pittwater peninsula.
Despite some crass overdevelopment through too much cash and no panache it fails to match the eyesore and many of the deep permanent scars from the rapacious plundering of Panguna mine on Bougainville Island. The investment company embraces shareholder theory and seeks superior, sustainable returns for its investors as a steward of nature in an attempt to build businesses that reflect and align with environment, social and governance criteria in an ontogenetic ecosystem.
Palm Beach SLSC and the infamous Cabbage Tree Club are notorious bastions of white male privilege, power and control and it appears the apple does not fall that far from the tree. At the turn of the millennium two of its inebriated and distinguished patrons were engaged in a session of bacchanalia and debauchery reminiscent of the three-toed Bullingdon club. It culminated in the burning and desecration of an indigenous trophy in the club grounds during a philistine alcohol-fuelled barbecue. More recently almost a dozen of its junior members were involved in uncouth and disrespectful behaviour following celebrations after the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix in October 2016.
Following its ravenous escapades many of Rio Tinto’s socially autistic senior executives are rewarded with an order of chivalry and the hierarchical status is typically inversely proportional to the emotional intelligence of the recipient. Several former directors include Sir Roderick Howard Carnegie AC, Sir Martin Wakefield Jacomb and Sir John Ralph who was a former chairman of the Queens Trust, a tax exempt foundation financed directly from Her Majesty’s personal income. It was infiltrated by many leading Australian oligarchs and influential members of the Queen’s Privy Council and dedicated to furthering the development of young Australians in the pursuit of excellence.
Sir John Ralph is also a parishioner at St Peter’s Catholic church in Toorak, an exclusive Melbourne suburb some 4000 kilometres from the abandoned Panguna mine on Bougainville Island. The octogenarian was recently appointed to head the parish renewal and development committee, which involved the creation of a resplendent retirement village adjacent to its local sandstone church. The project cost approximately $10 million and required approvals from Stonnington Council. It experienced some minor delays following several complaints from adjacent residents that were eventually resolved via the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The average price of a standard retirement unit within the complex is approximately $2 million although it includes several $4 million penthouse suites.
In Queensland’s coal mining industry there are currently over 200 confirmed cases of mine dust lung diseases. However, the problem almost enigmatically evaporates amongst Coal and Allied’s mining operations in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, which Rio Tinto recently sold to Yancoal Australia Limited and an old medical aphorism resonates…….Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
In our hurry to conquer nature and death we have made a new religion of science although it still only advances with each funeral. Irrespective of the commodity, power and control becomes obsessive or even addictive. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, which is probably nature’s method of restoring faith in democracy. However, the measure of a person is what they do with power….
I caught you knockin’ on my cellar door
I love you baby, can I have some more?
I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun