“Anything but coal!” Rio Tinto shirks Bulga locals over mine expansion

6 May 2016

Rio Tinto’s Chairman and outgoing CEO side-stepped questions from three Bulga residents on the impact of the controversial Mt Thorley Warkworth coal mine expansion at their annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday.

Judith, Rob and Annemaree heading in to the AGM

Judith, Rob and Annemaree heading in to the AGM

The three “Bulgarians” – Annemaree and Rob McLaughlin and Judith Leslie – were able to attend the AGM in Brisbane thanks to an incredible response to our crowdfunding campaign, which reached its primary target in less than 24 hours. This enabled Judith, Annemaree and Rob to directly confront the board over the proposed Mt Thorley Warkworth mine expansion, covering:

  • Rio Tinto’s failure to take the advice of established experts regarding the impossibility of transferring the Warkworth Sands Woodland habitat that their coal mine expansion would destroy;
  • The ethics of their continued push to expand operations no matter what the impacts on Bulga residents may be;
  • The failure of their community relations in the case of Bulga and the lack of “mutual benefit” for them and the community;
  • The uneconomic nature of the mine and its expansion; and
  • Rio Tinto’s dodgy jobs claims.

Despite their clear questions, all they got was evasion, a couple of red herrings and even a spiel that was scarily reminiscent of Tony Abbott’s “coal is good for humanity” nonsense. Check out the video below for some of the questions asked and the squirming non-answers given by Chairman Jan Du Plessis and CEO Sam Walsh.

We at least got an admission that Rio Tinto don’t agree with the Minerals Council of Australia’s attacks on carbon pricing and renewable energy and they support a price on carbon, yet they are happy to remain members of the MCA.

The Bulgarians’ actions at the AGM garnered some great media coverage, including in ABC’s PM programme which you can listen to here:

It all helps to build momentum for the local campaign to contest the Mt Thorley Warkworth coal mine, which is going to a court challenge, set to be heard in June.

Market Forces, Annemaree, Rob, Judith and the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association would like to thank everyone who helped make the AGM an important moment in the campaign to save Bulga.

While the questions went unanswered, the Board and CEO had nowhere to hide. In fact, you can see and hear the pressure Du Plessis was feeling as he pleaded for questions on “anything but coal.” If only those questions didn’t have to be asked…