AID/WATCH in coordination with the Minerals Policy Institute yesterday released a letter calling on the government to stop using Australian aid funds to support the expansion of Australian mining interests overseas. Money from the aid program is being used to fund Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs for mining companies who are members of the Australian Africa Mining Industry Group.
‘It is not the place of the Australian aid program to fund the corporate social responsibility programs of Australian mining companies that have a moral, if not legal, obligation to behave in a responsible manner,’ said AID/WATCH co-director Liz Barrett.
A pilot project has been established that provides funds through the Development Assistance Program allocating $30,000 of funding for Australian mining companies to run CSR programs and promote sustainability. At least one of the companies receiving funding, Paladin, have been implicated in a range of labour and environmental abuses at their operations in Africa, and also accused of corruption.
‘To say that this funding encourages corporate and social responsibility and sustainability in the mining industry is a complete joke,’ said Ms Barrett.
‘Companies that have been implicated in corruption and abuses are able to continue with these practices unheeded, receiving funds from the Australian aid program and the perceived credibility that Australian aid funding brings. This is little more than a corporate whitewashing exercise funded through the aid program,’ she continued.
International NGOs have signed on to the letter which also expresses concern about the partnership between AusAID and AAMIG to promote sustainability initiatives, given the chairman of the AAMIG, Bill Turner, has also previously been implicated in human rights abuses.
Turner was the CEO of Anvil Mining when Anvil was implicated in grave human rights abuses in the Congo, including the massacre of over 100 civilians, torture and looting after providing material assistance to the Congolese army.
‘AID/WATCH believes that AAMIG totally lacks any credibility as an organisation promoting ethical corporate behaviour while Bill Turner continues to be the chair, and questions why AusAID have decided to partner with them in these pilot projects,’ said Ms Barrett.
Charles Roache, executive director of the Mineral Policy institute added, ‘rather than fund the corporate social responsibility of Australian mining companies, all aid funding should be directed to local communities and independent civil society organisations’.