Today, Kelly Tranter published an article, “Multinational miners: magnanimous or malevolent?“, in which she asks readers to consider the human rights record of Australian companies operating in African countries. This comes following recommendations made by Human Rights Watch report to guide companies in preventing human rights abuses, corruption and environmental degradation.
In the article, Tranter invites the Australian government and people to scrutinise
the nature and locations of Australian companies’ operations […] to ensure that they are not complicit in corrupt conduct, environmental despoliation or human rights abuses.
She then explores the operations of Australian companies in Malawi, Cameroon and Namibia.
She covers the terms set out in the Mining Development Agreement between Paladin and the Malawian government, the recent calls made by the People’s Transformation Movement to renegotiate the contract, disbelief among civil society that the company has not made a profit, allegations of corruption and bribery, and concerns about environmental degradation. We have blogged about all these issues under the category “Paladin Kayelekera“.
Interestingly, she points out a link between Paladin and the Polytechnic student activist, Robert Chasowa, who was murdered in 2011. He was a vocal critic of the former, late president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika. In a newsletter, Chasowa asks why Mutharika receives USD 100,000 each month in a personal account in Australia from Paladin.
Furthermore, she notes that efforts by Malawians to force Paladin to open its books through Australia’s Petitions Committee Secretariat were stumped when they were told to approach the Australian Federal Police instead. Although, as Tranter highlights, Australia has not been effective in enforcing foreign bribery offences to date and the Australian police require further training and resources.
She concludes rather pessimistically – or realistically – that
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.
Nonetheless, it is encouraging to note that the activities of mining companies are being monitored both in the places where they operate and in the places where they are registered.
Tranter is a lawyer and an activist who stood as an Independent candidate for the New South Wales Parliament in Australia, according to her website.
Other Australians have also recently written about Paladin (Managing Director is John Borshoff) and other Australian mining companies that are present in Malawi:
- Firms use tax money for aid projects, Rory Callinan, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 2013
- Borshoff, a cut above, Peter Ker, The Age, 3 November 2012
- Borshoff collects some cash as Paladin shares head south, Christopher Webb, The Age, 17 November 2012