Rio Tinto is Moving Towns, Literally

A small town in rural New South Wales faces relocation after a bid by mining company Rio Tinto to extend the Mount Thorley-Warkworth mine.

The proposed move should be given “serious consideration” according to a New South Wales government review. What exactly can be taken seriously about the prospect of an entire town being shunted to the side to fulfil the desires and fill the wallets of companies routinely involved in poisoning just about every surface they touch is a mystery. It seems patently absurd.

The toll of Rio Tinto’s operations in the area is already disturbingly high.

The mine runs all night and throughout the day, disrupting the sleep patterns of residents. Ancient dunes to the west of the mine, the last known such landform of their kind on the planet, have been progressively destroyed. Now only 13% of the original 465 hectares remain. Endangered native fauna living in this environment is at high risk of being wiped out entirely.

This is despite the permit issued to the corporation, which stipulates that it’s activities must never destroy historic and precious landforms. It seems the focus is on the timeframe allowed for operations, which extends to 2021, rather than any legitimate ethical or environmental concerns. It seems that Rio Tinto’s regard for this contract mirrors its regard for the land it is pillaging, now wanting operations in the area to continue until at least 2032.

The New South Wales government stands to gain an extra $680 million in royalty payments from the additional coal that the mine would produce. It’s little wonder then that the decision seems likely to go ahead.

The relocation idea has not been canvassed with residents during the five years of debate over whether the mine extension is a viable option. Disconnect between governments, corporations and the people their decision affect is unfortunately the norm, but when the scale of the decision involves uprooting the contents of an entire postcode, it almost beggars belief that the populace hasn’t been informed.

It’s likely that many residents will be forced to make do with smaller properties and inadequate recompense, due to the size and sparsity of their existing homes.

A spokesman from Rio Tinto, in statements made to Guardian Australia, said that “We have followed due process at all times”.

This glib comment seems to indicate that due process to the mining giant literally equates to doing “whatever the fuck we want to.”


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