London Calling examines dirty deals between China and Burma
Rio Tinto has announced that it has now acquired an almost 30% stake in Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines – making it by far the company’s biggest backer.
To date, Rio Tinto has invested over 1.7 billion dollars in Ivanhoe, in order to promote “development” of one of the world’s biggest copper-gold mines, at Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia.
The project has provoked strong opposition from some Mongolian NGOs. However, it’s still not widely recognised that, as a key condition of forging its joint venture with Ivanhoe in 2007, the UK company insisted the Canadians withdraw from its Monywa copper project in Burma, then operated with the assistance, and to the advantage of, the country’s bloody ruling junta. There was little question that the London-based Rio Tinto board would be sorely embarrassed by any suggestion of its underwriting such a destructive and illegal enterprise, in one of the world’s most oppressive states.
As Mines and Communities revealed a year ago, Ivanhoe, and indirectly Rio Tinto, continue to benefit from profits made by this mine, despite sanctions imposed by the United States. A purportedly independent third party trust was set up under the 2007 agreement between Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe, envisaging a quick sale of the 50% equity held by the latter in its Burmese enterprise. Until recently, neither of the two companies has said whether that sale has yet taken place – and if so, to whom. However, an Ivanhoe spokesman last week told Mizzima News that it had not yet taken place. If true, this in itself serves as a censure of Rio Tinto’s failure to extricate itself from complicity with the regime.