Rio Tinto AGM: Workers of the world unite!

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Report on the Rio Tinto AGM, London, 16 April 2015

by Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network

There is a full webcast of the AGM at http://edge.media-server.com/m/p/q5xxmtf6.

This year’s Rio Tinto AGM was another three hour marathon, preceded by a lively demonstration outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, where the event was held. Our friends at global mining union IndustriALL had brought Rio Tinto workers from around the world to the AGM – all with complaints about the way the company treats them. They were joined by representatives of other communities affected by the company’s activities. Supporters of LMN founding group Partizans (People against Rio Tinto and its subsidiaries) and other LMN groups also raised a number of issues.

Proceedings inside began with a propaganda video about how wonderful Rio Tinto is. The company is learning and improving. It keeps its promises.

Chairman Jan du Plessis then explained that safety is the company’s prime consideration (presumably along with making a profit…) which is why we must listen to the emergency evacuation instructions for the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. We did so. The Chairman went on that Rio Tinto brings prosperity and pays loads of tax. Rio Tinto is open about its tax affairs so as to help undermine the drag of corruption. It pays its fair share of taxes, he said.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sam Walsh then told us that it was a real pleasure to be here, but he said it in a voice so dreary that it suggested that actually it wasn’t. Perhaps his tone was designed to send us to sleep. Rio Tinto provides jobs and livelihoods and values and cherishes its relationships, he said. It listens and is transparent. It is a unique world class business.

Sam Walsh then talked about two fatalities last year and two in the first few months of this. He said all of them were unacceptable. Safety performance is improving but he would not call it a success until all employees arrive home safely after work every day. [This was to be discussed in greater detail later on, when colleagues from Madagascar and London questioned the company’s record.]

He then boasted about the 57 autonomous trucks in operation – all of which, of course, help to reduce the need for human workers.

He boasted of the land exchange at Resolution Copper [a matter which would be raised later by colleagues from Arizona].

And he thanked the company’s 60,000 employees for their hard work.

Immediately afterwards, Director John Varley spoke about executive remuneration – suggesting that, however thankful the company is to its workforce, it is a lot more grateful to its management.

And then the Chairman opened the meeting to questions.

Kemal Ozkan of IndustriALL global union was the first speaker in the question and answer session, and when he was called on to speak all the representatives of IndustriALL-affiliated unions stood up with him.

Kemal said that Rio Tinto has achieved special status for the mineworkers of the world. He said it has been picked out for its anti-worker arrogance as well as damage to communities and environment. He complained of policies aimed at reducing workers’ rights, undermining the right to collective bargaining and outsourcing of work to third party contractors. He drew attention to the report which IndustriALL had just published about the way the company actually works – available at http://www.industriall-union.org/sites/default/files/uploads/documents/Rio_Tinto_Campaign/pre-agm_handout_hires21.pdf. He said that Rio Tinto could set a new industry standard. IndustriALL works together with companies to ensure minimum standards, but when an IndustriALL delegation had recently travelled to Zurich to meet with Rio Tinto, the company had given an enormous display of arrogance. A couple of days later the union had received a letter threatening to sue it over its calls to the company to clean up its act. Kemal asked when Rio Tinto would move beyond simply reporting good practice and make it a reality? Did it intend a genuine dialogue with unions based on mutual respect? (For Kemal’s whole statement, see http://www.industriall-union.org/sites/default/files/uploads/documents/Rio_Tinto_Campaign/rio_tinto_agm_statement_final.pdf.)

Chairman Jan du Plessis answered that Rio Tinto treats its people worldwide with the greatest of respect and that IndustriALL had chosen to campaign against the company that probably sets the highest standards in the industry.

CEO Sam Walsh thanked Kemal for his question and thanked all the representatives of IndustriALL for being at the AGM, prompting one shareholder to shout, “Don’t be patronising!”

Sam Walsh said that discussions with the union had broken down because the company could not engage with it. He did not understand why IndustriALL thought Rio Tinto’s diamonds were ‘dirty. He said that the union’s campaign against Signet jewellery company was a ‘secondary boycott’ against a part of the company’s operations which is doing a good job. He accused the union of trying to boycott Rio Tinto’s customers. [This was at best a misunderstanding of IndustriALL’s campaign, which was not a boycott but a call to Signet to put pressure on its diamond supplier, Rio Tinto, to improve its behaviour across all its operations – it did not single out the company’s diamond operations for particular criticism.]

Sam Walsh said that Rio Tinto’s ‘direct engagement’ with its workers is a response to the fact that people want to hear from the company and know what is going on in the business. Workers want to hear directly from the CEO and others in the company. He said it is important that Rio Tinto does communicate, involve and engage its employees. The company has a range of agreements and operating methods with its employees, including through unions. It offers good conditions and terms of employment, focused on safety. Rio Tinto does not always get it right, and with 60,000 employees that is difficult.

With regard to outsourcing, Sam Walsh said that the company outsources specific tasks because of the particular expertise that a supplier or contractor provides. This may be something that the company needs periodically rather than regularly, for instance to respond to a market upturn. This is not anti-union, he said, but a recognition of the fact that in the business there are core functions that Rio Tinto needs to provide and others it needs to supply with outside expertise.

Keelia Fitzpatrick from Share Action said that Rio Tinto had improved its tax reporting in recent years. She said that in an interview last year the Chairman had called for international tax reform. He had called some corporate practices abusive. Keelia said that she was concerned that Rio Tinto’s tax arrangements in Singapore may fall under this heading. [The Australian Tax Office is investigating Rio Tinto’s tax affairs in Singapore.] Rio Tinto is selling Australian copper and iron ore from Singapore rather than from Australia. The company paid 41 million dollars tax in Singapore. The Annual Report does not state the level of profit connected with this. She said she hoped Rio Tinto would commit to honest and transparent co-operation with the investigation into its Singapore tax arrangements. Would the company commit to greater transparency, including listing the numbers of its employees in each jurisdiction?

Jan du Plessis said that Rio Tinto had begun publishing the taxes it pays five years ago. Many companies in the sector were very critical of them for doing so. He said that Rio Tinto thinks transparency is the right way to go. Many multinationals employ abusive tax practices. Rio Tinto does not. The company’s Singapore operation has nothing to do with tax planning. The company employs 300 people there as a commercial centre close to customers. Rio Tinto has nothing to hide about what it does there. The company has a highly effective corporate tax rate. In Australia for the last seven years it has been either the biggest or second biggest corporate tax payer. It is proud of this and will continue to be transparent.

Shareholder Alan Smith asked how long the current auditors, PWC, have served for. Jan du Plessis said it was more than 20 years. Alan Smith said that this was awful and asked if different auditors could be proposed next year. Ann Godbehere, Rio Tinto’s board member with responsibility for this matter, said that although PWC has audited Rio Tinto’s accounts for many years, the personnel involved ‘rotate’ so that fresh eyes look at the accounts every year. Many pairs of eyes are involved. Many global firms have the same auditors over similar periods. Rio Tinto is satisfied by the quality of the service it receives and the fees it pays. New rules in the UK will force companies to change long-term auditors and the latest year to ‘rotate’ is 2021. Rio Tinto will probably ‘rotate’ by 2020. There is much change in the company at present, and so it is not the best time to change the audit firm. Under new EU regulations, Rio Tinto will have to publish what fees PWC gets in addition to audit fees. This year’s fee was a decline from last year. Non-audit fees were less than 20% of the total. EU regulations say non-audit fees must be less than 70%.

There was a question on profits from aluminium. Sam Walsh gave an answer that was so long and so drearily delivered that I lost track of it….

Jean-Claude Pinette of the Innu Land Rights Protection Office in Quebec said that the Innu own the land where Rio Tinto operates in Quebec. Innu people were part of the team looking for the mine’s train driver who died last year and are deeply sorry for the family. He introduced the Innu Chiefs present, who each spoke briefly in the Innu language. Jean-Claude read a declaration saying that Rio Tinto’s mining operations in Quebec are affecting Innu land and culture. The company shows no respect for aboriginal rights. It is ignoring the Innu people’s constitutional rights. The Innu have not given their consent to mining and have been offered no compensation. That is why they have now begun legal proceedings against the company. Rio Tinto is facing a $900 million dollar law suit. Jean-Claude said that the Innu were the first owners of their beautiful land. When would Rio Tinto negotiate with them and sign an agreement like the one it signed with Aboriginal Peoples in Australia? When will Rio Tinto respect them as the company says it does? Rio Tinto takes all the resources without sharing the benefits with the Innu, the owners of the land. Rio Tinto treats them as a problem. When will the company pay the rent for use of the land?

Jan du Plessis thanked him for his contribution. He said that Rio Tinto has a worldwide reputation for always treating local and aboriginal people with respect. (There were outraged guffaws at this from several shareholders.) Du Plessis said that in Australia Rio Tinto is the most respected company for relations with aboriginal people; and similarly in the Northwest Territories of Canada. He said that the question of legal rights of aboriginal groups is uncertain in Canada. Rio Tinto will fully comply with its legal obligations once legislators agree on what the system should be. He said that as the matter is currently in the courts there was not much more that he could say.

Anne-Marie Williams, an individual proxy-holder, asked how Rio Tinto was addressing the business risks of climate change. She said that it is good that it is using cleaner sources of energy, reducing its greenhouse gas intensity and its absolute emissions. But what are its new targets? It is continuing to invest in coal extraction. This releases fugitive methane as well as causing problems when burned. Does the company plan to reduce its exposure to coal?

Jan du Plessis replied that 65% of the company’s energy mix comes from renewables. The company recognises that the climate is changing and that man-made emissions are principally responsible. That is why Rio Tinto has worked to reduce its carbon footprint. In addition to environmental considerations, the less energy it consumes, the more money it saves. He said that coal is a fossil fuel responsible for a lot of global warming, but that the world will be dependent on fossil fuels for a very long time, until we have developed sustainable energy from other sources. Coal, oil and gas will be very important for a long time. Rio Tinto has a coal business under pressure from a low coal price but the company continues to be committed to coal. The world needs to find credible alternatives before the company starts closing coal, oil and gas operations.

Roger Murray, an individual shareholder, said he was concerned about the future of Rio Tinto’s uranium portfolio in Namibia and Australia. Why had the company’s uranium operations been moved from the energy division to the diamonds division?

Sam Walsh said that the company’s energy group, including coal and uranium, was having a tough time. It was breaking even and the company had reduced its costs by $800 million but the company needed to take the overheads structure out of that business and spread it across the company. The move to the diamonds division was quite arbitrary, he said, and simply because of the geographical proximity of diamond and uranium operations in Australia and Southern Africa. The uranium market continues to be tough post Fukushima. New nuclear stations are being built in China, one in the UK, another in the Middle East. In Japan there are court cases over whether nuclear stations can come back on stream or not. In addition to Namibia and Australia, Rio Tinto has a potential project in Canada.

Roger Featherstone, Director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, spoke about Oak Flat, a sacred and ecologically priceless area of public land in the south-western United States. He had raised this matter at the two previous AGMs and at the last one Sam Walsh had said that he would contact Roger if he visited the area. Sam Walsh did visit a few weeks ago without contacting Roger. The company has finally succeeded in engineering an Oak Flat land exchange law in the US Congress. Destruction of this piece of land was tantamount to destruction of Apache religion. Roger accused the company of resorting to the “worst of dirty and insulting tricks, by applying the land exchange to a defence bill with sixteen hours to go before the vote came up.” He asked whether this was the way the board wants the company to operate. He said that the company says that it seeks to operate in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to attain Indigenous Peoples’ Free Prior Informed Consent before mining, but that it had done the opposite at Oak Flat. It had worked behind the scenes to scupper the US Forest Service’s attempt to declare Oak Flat a site of cultural and historic interest. The company was also working to influence people among the Apache community. He asked why the company felt that it had the right to destroy someone else’s religion? (Roger’s full remarks can be found at http://www.azminingreform.org/content/statement-roger-featherstone-rio-tinto-agm-4-16-15.)

Jan du Plessis replied that when Resolution Copper is up and running it will provide 25% of US copper and create over 3000 jobs. A lot of work needs to be done before the mine has the right to operate. Rio Tinto continues to be committed to working with local communities on the social and environmental consequences of mining, but a large proportion of local people are supportive of the project.

Sam Walsh said he did undertake to visit Resolution at the last AGM and he had now done so. He had an open meeting with community representatives from a broad range of groups. There were 70 or 100 people in the room. Rio Tinto continues to be transparent in what it is doing. The land exchange was part of the process. Beyond this the company needs to obtain a whole raft of approvals and it could take six to eight years for those approvals or rejections to come forward. The project is important in providing 25% of US copper needs potentially. He said that everyone uses copper. Copper projects are getting harder and harder. They are getting deeper. The Resolution shaft is 2km deep, the deepest in North America, but is high grade.

Sam Walsh said that in addition to visiting the operation and meeting local community members, he had a public meeting in Phoenix with another 200 people. He used that meeting to show what Rio Tinto intends to do. Some people decided not to attend. There were representatives of the San Carlos and White Mountain Apaches and Gila River. They are trying to improve the well-being of their communities, where there is 70 to 75% unemployment. This project will require 3000 workers. It will put some $60 billion dollars into the economy. It is important. Sam Walsh drove through the region, visiting the townships of Superior and Miami and seeing an area in need of reinvigoration. Resolution has the potential of being the largest foreign direct investment into the US. Hence the approach Congress took. Rio Tinto needs to continue to prove out the project and determine whether it is viable and attractive.

Sam Walsh said that, as for the sacred nature of Oak Flat, there is an open debate. Some people believe that it is a sacred site. Others say it is not sacred to them. In their view it has little history as a sacred site. Sam Walsh said he is not an expert and has to rely on people on the ground. Rio Tinto understands the concern and has to go on working with people in the area.

Roger Featherstone asked whether this disagreement gave Rio Tinto a right to destroy someone’s religion. Those Apaches for whom Oak Flat is sacred say that this project will destroy their religion.

Sam Walsh said he had met Apaches who say it is not sacred.

Andy Whitmore, an individual shareholder, said: “Last year, I asked a question about our 68% owned subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA). I welcome your acknowledgement at Rio Tinto’s 2014 AGM in Melbourne, after last year’s question, that both Rio Tinto shareholders and those of ERA have a common interest in the rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine in the Kakadu World Heritage area. ERA’s financial constraints in relation to meeting rehabilitation obligations have been well publicised. Therefore, will you today provide a guarantee to shareholders that Rio Tinto will ensure that the full rehabilitation at Ranger will be adequately funded and that the landscape and people of Kakadu National Park will not be left with a radioactive legacy, nor our company left with a continuing controversy?”

Jan du Plessis replied that he had spoken to the people doing some of the work being done. He said it is hard work to rehabilitate land in a place which gets as hot as this. The Kakadu National Park is staggeringly beautiful. Rio Tinto appreciates the need to take care of that site and make sure it is properly rehabilitated. The board takes the view that the Ranger Three Deeps project should provide the cash required to rehabilitate the land. Should the board of ERA announce a rights issue, Rio Tinto will put further cash into the company so it can meet its obligations.

Ron Thomas, President of the United Steel Workers union (USW) local from Labrador City, Canada, representing 1400 members, said that the video displayed at the beginning of the AGM showed a company very different from the company he works for. USW has been requesting meetings with the management at Rio Tinto subsidiary IOC for years and got nowhere until just now, when the management got wind of the fact that Ron was coming to the AGM. He was given a paper saying that 150 workers would be laid off. The collective agreement is being ignored. Workers are treated with disrespect. There are 2,300 grievances at arbitration. IOC’s record is the worst that the arbitrators have ever seen. Contractors are coming in who are not skilled and would not be hired by IOC directly because of their lack of skills, but the company is paying them four times as much as its own employees. Ron said that the workers are not the enemy. They want to work with Rio Tinto and help save costs.

Sam Walsh replied that IOC was under stress. Old producers like IOC have high costs. Tough decisions have to be made. IOC has to convert the ore body through concentration into pellets and that adds costs in addition to high transportation costs. He said he was not aware of the 2,300 grievances and needed to investigate that and understand what is going on. He understood that the management had asked the union to look at their current agreement. Management was trying hard to keep the business afloat and keep jobs. Nearby operators had moved into liquidation to avoid their obligations, including obligations to Rio Tinto. Sam Walsh said he fully understood the workers’ predicament and how difficult it is in Labrador City and he would investigate the grievances. He said he did not believe Ron’s numbers were right on contractors. He would look into it but it would surprise him if IOC were paying contractors four times what employees were paid. IOC does work with the union and it has been hard delivering tough messages. The agreement put in place should stand but when you are trying to keep a business afloat it is tough. The President of IOC has moved to Labrador City so he can be physically on the ground and take action to keep the business afloat. The office in Montreal was shut. Competitors have taken a different stance but that is what the company is trying to avoid.

Lisa Nathan, an individualproxy-holder, said that she was concerned about lobbying activities and the funding of third party organisations lobbying on climate change. The company had recognised that individual jurisdictions have to set strict rules in the absence of an international agreement. But she noted that research by IndustriALL has shown that the company’s Political Action Committee (PAC) in the US was funding organisations lobbying against strong action, and that research by PSI had found that, in Europe, Rio Tinto belonged to the trade association Cefic, and Rio Tinto Alcan to the trade association Eurometaux, whose lobbying positions seem to contradict the company’s positive public statements. Both have also lobbied against strong regional (EU) climate policy, which goes against the company’s own position. She asked the board to clarify whether the company supports the lobbying position of these two trade associations, and if not, whether the board would be willing to make a public statement distancing the company from them or withdraw its membership. Would Rio Tinto publicly contradict the position of these lobbying organisations or withdraw its membership?

Jan du Plessis replied that Rio Tinto does not fund any political activities. It is part of trade associations though it does not necessarily agree with all their views.

Sam Walsh said that the PAC is permitted by US law and is a form of fundraising by employees. The money raised is relatively modest, $30,000 to $60,000 a year, and is controlled by trustees made up of employees. Management does not control the destination of the funds. There are also charitable funds that employees are engaged in and management does not get involved in those either. Rio Tinto does not make political donations and that is a relief as there are many groups looking for funds. With relation to trade organisations, he was not familiar with their climate change approach. The company would investigate to understand exactly what is the issue. Rio Tinto does take climate change very seriously. It has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions and their intensity since 1998.

Bongani Monyani from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa, said that shareholders would be voting on an increment to executives but not on pay for workers. Workers are also shareholders. Shareholders should accept greater shareholding by workers. He said that Rio Tinto is selling the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) in South Africa. It had tried before and the transaction had collapsed. Workers need to know who are the potential buyers and what will be the benefit to workers and the community of this sale.

Bongani said that only two fatalities had been mentioned as happening this year. But there were two fatalities in the anthracite colliery. A worker died underground and the company said it was from natural causes, but after an investigation it was said it was not natural causes, and people need to know.

Jan du Plessis replied that Rio Tinto has good relations with workers and needed to pay well for the work they do. A man had died a few weeks ago at ZAC and the autopsy was unclear about the cause of death, so the company is getting a second opinion. He assured Bongani that fatalities are taken very seriously.

Andrew Hickman of London Mining Network called out, “What about the seven deaths at Grasberg this year and the 39 others in recent years?”

Jan du Plessis said he would come back to that.

Sam Walsh said that a lot of work had been done to improve ZAC, one of the assets Rio Tinto picked up in the Riversdale transaction. If there are people who value assets more than Rio Tinto does, the company will consider proposals. No decision has been made about the sale of ZAC. It depends on the synergies that others see. There is a symbiotic relationship with Richards Bay Minerals, as ZAC supplies anthracite to Richard’s Bay.

Andrew Hickman said that although seven deaths were listed in the annual report over the last year, there had been a total of 39 deaths just at Grasberg, and those were not included in the figures given at the AGM. He asked whether this was good enough, in this one mine.

Jan du Plessis replied that Grasberg was controlled by Freeport. He said that Grasberg’s safety record was appalling, that Rio Tinto’s board is shocked by it and finds it unacceptable. Rio Tinto is working as hard as it can and as closely as it can with Freeport to improve the safety record.

Mamy Rakotondrainibe of the Collective for the Defence of Malagasy Land thanked the Chairman and CEO for showing they were aware of the fatal accident at the QMM mine in Madagascar in January. She asked if the company could share the result of its investigation. How is it possible that such dangerous work was being done during the night? How is it possible that it took 17 hours to find the worker inside the tailings pond? What measures were being taken by QMM Rio Tinto concerning the safety of workers and procedures for emergency?

Jan du Plessis said that Rio Tinto was shocked at what happened there. When they have a fatality, Sam Walsh sends an immediate message to Jan and the Chair of the Sustainability Committee. At the Sustainability Committee meeting they always devote an enormous amount of time to undertsanding why a fatality has happened. They take these things very seriously.

Sam Walsh said that there had been a landslip in the bank of the tailings pond, because of the way that the bank had been built and the unique nature of the pond. This had never happened before and was totally unexpected. 30,000 tonnes of material shifted. This resulted in a huge excavator disappearing some distance into the pond, totally covered by water. Why was the equipment operating at night? It is a 24 hour operation and the work being done was required to make sure the company could continue depositing tailings in this pond. Why was the worker not wearing the life jacket which is a requirement for doing work near water? He said they do not yet know why. This was not first time and there is a need to update procedures and supervision of this kind of work. It took 17 hours to find the worker because the pond had to be drained to get to the excavator and then to the employee. It was extremely tragic. Rio Tinto has made a significant improvement in its injury rate and QMM has an excellent track record of low instances of injuries but this clearly did not help this time. Rio Tinto does have a process to make sure that procedures are really implemented.

John Farmer, an individual shareholder, complained about the clash of the Rio Tinto AGM with that of BP, pointing out that this had happened many times. Would the company undertake to avoid such a clash in future?

Jan du Plessis said that he sympathised but that it was difficult to avoid clashes.

John Farmer retorted that there are 250 working days in the year and that if managers of FTSE companies cannot manage a diary, what else could they not manage?

Mike Franks, an individual shareholder, said that Rio Tinto had been subject to adverse comment in an Amnesty International report about its activities in Myanmar (Burma). He said that it appeared that Rio Tinto was implicated in possible evasion of sanctions through the setting up of a trust, as well as in human rights abuses. Since its inception, the Monywa mine had been built on forced evictions and other violations. Could the Chairman explain how this fits with the company’s public stance about being environmentally responsible and transparent in all its dealings? Will the company quickly settle the forthcoming court cases on this matter?

Jan du Plessis replied that these events took place before Rio Tinto owned Ivanhoe, the company running Monywa. When Rio Tinto took control of Ivanhoe (now renamed Turquoise Hill) Rio Tinto insisted on the disposal of Monywa as it could not stomach such an asset.

Roger Moody, shareholder and mining researcher, made a point of order. He said that under the agreement signed between Tom Albanese of Rio Tinto and Robert Friedland, the owner of Ivanhoe, in 2006/7, Ivanhoe agreed to disinvest from Burma until a democratic regime had been installed. In return for this, a succession of investments would be offered by Rio Tinto in Ivanhoe while Ivanhoe was still operating in Burma. Many of the abuses alleged by Amnesty International continued while Rio Tinto was involved. Who set up and ran the trust which was supposed to manage the Monywa Mine? The allegations in the Amnesty International report implicate Rio Tinto in breach of sanctions and human rights abuses. Rio Tinto could publish details of the transactions that took place between Ivanhoe and Rio Tinto between 2006 and 2009/10. The UK Government is taking this very seriously and shareholders are entitled to this information.

Jan du Plessis said that he was out of his depth. He said that the company in Myanmar was not controlled by Rio Tinto, so Rio Tinto had no ability to influence its affairs.

Sam Walsh said that his understanding was that at the time Rio Tinto moved to acquire control of Ivanhoe, the condition was that divestment should take place. He said he had no knowledge of the agreement. The board could look into this.

Jan du Plessis added that Roger had reached the limit of their knowledge in the matter.

Roger said that Rio Tinto needed to drag up the exact terms of the agreement. Tom Albanese had admitted that what Rio Tinto was after was control of Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, controlled by Ivanhoe. Years before, the Chairman of Rio Tinto had said that the company would never invest in Burma while the military regime was in place. Rio Tinto would not increase its investment in Ivanhoe beyond a certain point until Ivanhoe had quit Burma – but Rio Tinto had increased its share in Ivanhoe to over 30% while Ivanhoe was still involved at Monywa.

Richard Greening, representing the Local Authorities Pension Fund Forum, involving local authority pension funds together owning around 3% of shares of Rio Tinto, congratulated the company on its tax transparency. He asked the board to reconsider its approach to the replacement of its auditors, which he said was urgent. He asked the company to redouble its efforts to solve the problems mentioned at the AGM from around the world. In difficult market conditions, he said, local management can often take decisions which are not good for workers and local communities. Lawsuits are not good – the company should make efforts to resolve problems before such lawsuits began. On climate change, he said that it is clear that to restrict global average temperature rises to two degrees and avoid catastrophic climate change we cannot continue to extract fossil fuels, and coal is especially risky. As we have to continue to use fossil fuels to an extent, the use of gas is far more sustainable than coal. How is the company proposing to address the risks being run by thermal coal?

Jan du Plessis replied that there was no doubt that gas is cleaner than coal. Everyone would love to live in a world where clean energy is running everything. He said we should focus on how we use energy, not just on the source of energy: on energy efficiency, as well as developing better sources of renewable energy.

The meeting was then brought to an end after around three hours, without time to raise several other points which Partizans supporters wished to raise on Bougainville, the health impacts of uranium mining and the particular problems connected with the Oyu Tolgoi mine.

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