How Bad Can it Be?
Australia boasts of exceptional geological diversity. From squelching deserts to sprawling mountain ranges to flatlands, this 2.97 million square mile country is a leading producer of natural resources such as lead, lithium, and iron ore. Of course, the extraction of such resources has an impact on the landscape, which can mean the destruction of natural formations such as forests, streams, and caves. Given the potential for multimillion-dollar profits, the rearranging of the landscape cannot possibly be that bad? Or can it?
Bulldozing a Culture
Australia – In 2020, Rio Tinto, an international mineral exploration and extraction company with operations in 35 countries, took it upon itself to destroy the Juukan Gorge caves in the western part of Australia. While this may have appeared to be a simple alteration of the landscape for the “greater good” of profit, these were not just any caves. In fact, they were 46,000-year-old spiritual cave sites significant to an Indigenous group inhabiting the area.
Despite 60 percent of shareholders voting against the destruction, Rio Tinto company executives moved forward in “expanding” the iron ore mine site. Three executives left the company in December of 2020 following public outrage. Despite the dissension, one executive was paid $3.8 million in bonuses, but the money was later paid back due to strife surrounding the incident.
According to Australian law, the shareholder vote was considered advisory but if 25 percent of the board rejected a plan regarding exploration or expansion the entire board could face re-election. This means the entire board can be terminated. Further, although remediation efforts have taken place, we know that there is no such thing as “putting back” a landscape after it has been destroyed.
Rio Tinto is just another example of “Systematic Land Theft” for the purposes of short-term corporate greed. The affluent company executives never faced any penalties. Those who were “disciplined” by being terminated or forced into “resignation” were still compensated with expensive end-of-the-year bonuses. When will greed be eliminated as a leading factor in corporate actions? Importantly, where is the accountability? This is not just land that is wiped away, it is a part of history.
Hanna Ziady, “Rio Tinto Shareholders Rebel Over Destruction of Sacred Indigenous Caves,” CNN Business (May 6, 2021)
Jillian Hishaw, is a MacArthur Award recipient, Attorney and Author of “Systematic Land Theft,” “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid” and Founder of Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.) an international non-profit that provides legal and technical services to small farmers located in rural communities in the U.S., Africa, India and Caribbean nations. Hishaw has helped numerous farmers save their land from foreclosure over the past 20 years of her profession. To learn more about Hishaw’s experience and to purchase her products and services please visit the products page. Hishaw offers various service packages that can fit any budget.
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