A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 June 13, 1991


“We don’t grow healthy crops any more, our traditional customs and values have been disrupted and we have become mere spectators as our earth is being dug-up, taken away and sold for millions...” Perpetua Serero, 1988, on RTZ’s Bougainville copper mine in Papua New Guinea.

Waste Not Review. Just published in Great Britain Plunder” documents the operations of Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ), one of the world’s most powerful mining corporations. Plunder is the operative word to define RTZ’s joint venture mines in over forty countries. This book will take you on a tour of RTZ’s corporate crimes against aboriginal, indigenous and native peoples whose lands and cultures have been, and are continuing to be, plundered by vast mining operations for copper, talc, uranium, molybdenum, bauxite, borates, zircon, diamonds, vermiculite, iron ore, gold, lead, zinc, etc. The book recounts the measures taken by various countries to protect the rights of RTZ to plunder and also of the brave resistance movement uniting against these operations. It hardly stretches one’s imagination to contemplate the fate of native peoples when pitted against the enormous appetites of powerful mining corporations such as RTZ. An outrageous assault has been carried out against people who have lived in harmony with their environment for thousands of years. They are truly Nature’s University. Tragically, what RTZ and the governments that support them have learned is that the looting of these minerals yields far greater value than what any “primitive” society can offer “us”. However, at a time when more and more people are talking about a “sustainable future” these are the people from whom we have so much to learn. After reading Plunder more people will become aware of the utter urgency to enact bans on the throwing-away of metals, plundered from lands far away, where people have been catapulted into an environmental and genocidal abyss. To throw away metals allows the plundering to continue. Metals must be banned from entering landfills or incinerators. All metals can be recycled ad-infinitum if the metal is not contaminated with radioactivity or toxics. Landfills can be mined for metals. Community recycling programs, whether curbside or voluntary, must be asked to accept all metals. These are some of the efforts people can utilize to be in solidarity with native peoples. Every time you see a piece of metal thrown away think of the price that these native peoples have paid and continue to pay for our wasteful and exploitive societies. Our communities must begin to have public “resource” bins (still known as garbage bins) that have separate compartments for metals, glass, paper, plastic, compostibles, and the landfill bin. Some suggestions to call the landfill bin are: “Avoidables”, “Education for Alternatives”, “No Friend to Mother Nature”, “More Money for the Profiteers”, “Did we really need this”, or, “This bin should change production methods.” This important and well-written 183-page book is packed with facts, references and a 10-page index on RTZ’s mining operations that are too extensive to cover in this review. (EC)

Some excerpts from PLUNDER. RTZ owns 49% of CRA (Cozinc Rio Tinto of Australia) which is Australia’s most important mining company and the largest company within the RTZ group. “CRA is more responsible than any other of its units for the desecration of indigenous land and culture.”

New Zealand: Tiwai Point aluminum smelter, owned by NZ Aluminium Smelters Ltd., which consists of Comalco NZ (owned 67% by CRA) and Sumitomo of Japan (20.6%). “Comalco came to New Zealand for cheap power to smelt alumina which derives mainly from the Weipa bauxite fields.” Bechtel designed the hydro-power station. By 1967 there were an unprecedented 264,906 signatures to a petition to stop the raising of the Lake by the hydro-power station. Maoris at Tiwai Point have recently complained of “severe air pollution” from the smelter, and declared that “no living plant life [is to be found] in the area.”

Australia: Rum Jungle, in Australia’s Northern Territory, was mined for just over a decade, supplying yellowcake (uranium) to the British and American atomic weapons programs. In 1963, the mine was closed altogether as a uranium producer, although copper mining continued until 1965. By 1975, it was known that 2,300 tons of manganese, 1,308 tons of copper, 200 tons of zinc and 450 curies of radium had been released into the Finnis River, with around one quarter of the radium having found its way “probably to the sea”. About 100 square kilometers of the Finnis River flood plain have been affected by contaminants (heavy metals, uranium, radium, sulfur). In the ten kilometers of the Finnis River downstream from the mine, fish and other aquatic fauna have been almost eliminated with the effect of reducing aquatic life over the next 15 kilometers downstream.

Papua New Guinea: The Bougainville Copper Mine On line since 1975. Prior to the construction of the mine, no environmental impact studies were carried out. What the people of Bougainville see is one of the worst human-made environmental catastrophes of modern times. “Rio Tinto Zinc has more to answer for in this tiny corner of the globe than any other.” Quotes from others cited Bougainville as “Disastrous” “Dreadful and unbelievable.” The tailings contaminated the valley with copper, zinc, cadmium, mercury, molybdenum, sulphur, and arsenic. The environmental impact from the tailings have been catastrophic: the Jaba river has been raised by up to 30 metres and a marine delta covering 8,000 hectares has formed in the Empress Augusta Bay. Scientists concluded that “All aquatic life in the Jaba Valley has been killed.” Panguna lies at the heart of the land of the Nasioi people. “Mothers put babies on survey pegs to stop the pegs being hammered in...” Local resistance to CRA’s operations continued over the years, with reports of atrocities on the island against those determined to close the mine down. In February 1990 CRA evacuated all its Australian personnel, which effectively resulted in the abandonment of the mines.

Namibia: The Rossing Uranium Mine.

The world’s largest open-pit uranium producer (and, until the opening of Key Lake in Saskatchewan, the largest of any kind), operating since 1976, Rossing has become synonymous with neocolonialism, the perpetuation of apartheid, flagrant disregard of international law, and the symbiotic relationship between civil and military nuclear fuel supplies. RTZ is the manager of the Rossing mine; and for RTZ Rossing has been a source of unrivalled profit and power within the world uranium industry; but also a huge political thorn in its side - the most controversial single mining project anywhere on the globe.


CRA is constructing one of Asia’s major new coal mines upstream of Dayak settlements in East Kalimantan (formerly Borneo), while both CRA and RTZ have been accused of engineering the removal of indigenous miners and their families, further inland. One of the Group’s most important future mines -a wet-dredge mineral sands project in south-eastern Madagascar -looks likely to affect profoundly the coastal areas used by the Anatanosy, one of the island’s largest tribal communities. Elliot Lake in northern Ontario, Canada, has one of the world’s largest copper complexes, north America’s primary tin mine, and a singularly important source of uranium. The Elliot Lake mines have impacted the Serpent River band of native Canadians who live downstream of the mines with poisoned lakes and fish and high levels of chronic disease.

RTZ Subsidiaries in the U.S. & Canada are: (*RTZ 100% owned) *Flambeau Mining; *Kennecott Corp.; *Bingham Canyon Mine; *US Borax & Chemical Corp.; and *Commonwealth Aluminum Corp. RTZ subsidiaries in Canada are: *QIT Fer et Titane; Rio Algom (51%); Highland Valley Copper (34%); BP Canada Inc. (57%); Brinco (25%). “PLUNDER” is available for $12 from Waste Not (covers postage) Published in 1991 by PARTiZANS/CAFCA*. Text by Roger Moody.

*People Against RTZ and its Subsidiaries and Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa PARTiZANS, 218 Liverpool Road, London N1 1LE, England. Tel: 011-44-71-609-1852. CAFCA, PO Box 2258, Christchurch, N.Z. Tel: 634-663-988.

WASTE NOT # 152 A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US45; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.