Maximising value and minimising harm by Australian mining companies

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 25 Oct 2011

People living in resource-rich, poor countries will be better able to share in the economic wealth brought by the operations of Australian mining companies, following today’s launch of Australia’s Mining for Development Initiative.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched the $127.3 million Initiative, which includes the establishment of an International Mining for Development Centre and a Community and Social Development Program which supports organisations that foster social and environmental responsibility in mining in developing countries.

Oxfam Executive Director Andrew Hewett said that with an estimated 300 Australian companies active in the countries of Africa alone, today’s announcement was welcome and timely.

“Mining is a challenging industry. The speed and scale of development, scarcity of resources and high commodity prices have caused an appetite for risk, and increased business in emerging economies and weak governance zones,” Mr Hewett said. “In this context, the risk of human rights violations and adverse impacts on women is increased.

“We need to ensure mining-affected communities have an opportunity to participate in decisions that will impact on their day-to-day lives. The Initiative announced today will help them to achieve this.”

Mr Hewett said the establishment of an International Mining for Development Centre, co-hosted by the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute, would help ensure that the social impacts of mining would be at the heart of the initiatives announced today.

“Australia has long prided itself as a global mining giant, but this initiative goes beyond just super-profits,” Mr Hewett said. “It will help companies put people before profits, by supporting not only improved technical expertise, but also a greater understanding of the social impacts of mining.”

Mr Hewett welcomed the package’s support for communities to better understand the social and gender impacts of mining, and government agencies to manage revenue flows for essential services.

“Mining companies can stimulate economic growth and bring prosperity, but without a commitment to human rights and sustainability they can also cause people to lose their land and way of life, while irreparably damaging the environment,” Mr Hewett said.

The government will give continued financial support to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international initiative that sets a global standard for managing revenues from natural resources, requiring companies to publish what they pay to governments, and for governments to publish exactly what they receive.

“The government’s continued support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) will promote revenue transparency and help ensure mining revenues contribute to essential community services like health and education.” Mr Hewett said. “However, the government needs to go further and implement the EITI in Australia.”

He said the recent Independent Review into Aid Effectiveness highlighted the importance of sustainable economic development in poverty reduction.

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