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Even Australia might fight for its uranium companies Paladin and Rio Tinto

exclamation-What have interested Australian companies, or the Australian government, done to address these concerns?…….

 what should we make of Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley’s alarming indication that there might be a role for the ADF in protecting “Australian interests” in Africa?

flag-AustraliaMultinational miners: magnanimous or malevolent? Kellie Tranter – lawyer and Humna Rights Activist, FEBRUARY 1, 2013 BY    “……..Malawi “…….Minister Carr praised the work of Australian mining company Paladin, referring to its strong corporate social responsibility.  Paladin operates Malawi’s biggest uranium mine, the Kayelekera.

In June 2008, The Bench Marks Foundation released a report ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and the Mining Sector in Southern Africa’ which suggested that when Paladin struck its deal with the Malawi government to mine uranium, it was agreed that it would get a 100% capital write off, a reduction in corporate tax from 30% to 27.5% and a scrapping of the 10% resource rent tax.  Paladin was also to be exempt from the standard 17.5% import VAT or duty and a royalty rate reduced from 5% to 1.5% in the first three years and 3% thereafter.

Now Malawi’s opposition party, the People’s Transformation Movement (PETRA), have given the Malawi Government a 14 day ultimatum to explain why the Kayelekera deal cannot be renegotiated.  However, there are reports that the agreement with the previous government (of late President Mutharika, a former World Bank economist) includes a clause that the government will not take any action that will seriously change the financial aspects of the project for the period of 10 years. Residents are also concerned that the Malawi Government retains only a 15% equity in Paladin (Africa) Limited (PAL) a subsidiary of Paladin and has given “breathing space” on taxes for 10 years.

A 2009 US embassy cable reports Paladin (Africa) Managing Director Neville Huxham telling the Ambassador that ‘Paladin plans to ramp up to full production by the end of 2009.  At full production the mine will produce 3.3 million pounds of uranium yellow-cake per year.  At USD 40 to 70 dollars per pound this translates to at least USD 132 million per year.  With Malawi’s exports in 2007…equal to USD 693 million, this represents an increase of roughly 20 per cent in total value.  Paladin expects to break even on its USD 200 million investment in three years.  The Government of Malawi stands to generate nearly USD4 million per year in royalties alone, plus corporate taxes and revenue from its 15 per cent stake in Paladin..’

No doubt the Malawi Economic Justice Network has compared this cable with Paladin Africa’s General Manager, Greg Walker’s comment late last year that “the project [Kayelekera Mine in Koronga] has never made money”.

Robert Chasowa, student activist and critic of the late Malawian president Mutharika, raised serious allegations in a newsletter including reference to Paladin Africa banking money into the late President Mutharika’s Australian bank account.  Chasowa was later murdered.

In 2011 it was reported that Malawians made contact with Australia’s Petitions Committee Secretariat calling on the House to require Paladin to open its books.  They were told to take the matter up with the Australian Federal Police.

All allegations of bribery in this case, and in a more recent case, have been denied by Paladin.

PETRA also included in their ultimatum a review of the health and environmental risks posed by the operations at the mine.  They want to know which health facility workers are being taken to for treatment when they are exposed to radiation and confirmation that the treatment is adequate.  They also want to know what measures have been put in place to stop pollution seeping into Lake Malawi. Others have referred to the serious issues raised in ‘Yellowcake Rising’, the documentary by Assistant Professor Marty Otanez of the University of Colorado, Denver, about the mine……


Minister Carr revealed that 26 Australian companies operate in Namibia including Rio Tinto and Paladin. Namibia provides around seven percent of the world’s uranium oxide production and in 2009 was the fourth largest uranium producer in the world. Yet according to the United Nations Development Programme ‘..the poorest 10 percent of households command just one percent of the country’s total income whereas the wealthiest 10 percent control more than half.’….. revelations in a June 2009 US embassy cable that there is a general paucity of environmental regulation governing uranium mining in Namibia, that there is no overall radiological or environmental baseline data for the Erongo region, that the government has failed to put in place regulations to govern the health and environmental effects of uranium mining and that if the supply of water and energy is not expanded in line with the rapid pace of the uranium boom, the mines and average Namibians may find themselves battling for the same scarce resources.

t is little wonder that last year the Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radiation and EARTHLIFE Namibia raised concerns about uranium concentrates found in underground water sources and sediments in areas where Rossing and the Langer Heinrich mines are found.  Concerns included radioactive tailings of the mines not being covered, dust particles from the tailings accumulating on bushes and slopes, and preliminary monitoring showing high readings of Radon gas, a heavy gaseous radioactive chemical which causes lung cancer.

In 2009 Uranium workers in Namibia expressed fear for their health and lifestyle due to the environmental impact of uranium mining to the authors of the report ‘Uranium mining in Namibia – the mystery behind low-level radiation’ published by the Namibian research Institute LaRRI.

What have interested Australian companies, or the Australian government, done to address these concerns?…….

what should we make of Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley’s alarming indicationthat there might be a role for the ADF in protecting “Australian interests” in Africa?

To the extent that the miners’ commercial interests or Australia’s ‘national interests’ may in reality be inconsistent with our international humanitarian, environmental and anti-corruption obligations, it’s pretty obvious which are likely to prevail.

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February 5, 2013 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics international

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