The letter signed by a number of international organisations draws attention to the use of funds through the Development Assistance Program (DAP) subsidising the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Australian mining companies. DAP funds are usually available only on a not-for-profit basis to individuals, community groups and NGOs. Recently DAP funding was extended to also members of the Australian Africa Mining Industry Group (AAMIG), according to the AAMIG website “with the specific intent of building partnerships between the Australian Government and Australian mining companies active in African countries”.
10 grants of $30,000 have been awarded to 7 AAMIG members to assist with provision of CSR programs in Africa. The seven companies who have receivied funding include Paladin who have been implicated in a number of labour rights and environmental abuses as well as corruption.
The current chair of the AAMIG is Bill Turner, former CEO of Anvil Mining. Turner would have a lot of experience on the social license to operate seeing as his company was implicated in horrific human rights abuses in the Congo. AID/WATCH recently wrote an article detailing how, whilst still CEO, Anvil provided material assistance to the Congolese army to put down a local insurrection that resulted in the massacre of over 100 people as well as torture and illegal detentions. So far Anvil have evaded prosecution.
AID/WATCH does not believe aid money should be used to fund the CSR initiatives of wealthy Australian mining companies and we have questioned why funds under the DAP have been extended to AAMIG members. The AAMIG website was previously clear that participation in the DAP provided credibility to their organisations which would help both build ‘brand Australia’ and their chances of being picked as a contractor of choice in Africa.
AID/WATCH believes that funds provided under DAP is little more than a corporate whitewashing excercise funded through the aid program.
The AAMIG website also previously mentioned this was a pilot project and that a working group existed between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), AusAID and AAMIG. AusAID have been holding discussions this year on how to create and extend partnerships between Civil Society Organisations, mining companies and governments as part of the Australian Mining for Development Initiative, and there is a real danger that this pilot could be extended.
AID/WATCH wrote letters to both the DFAT that administers the DAP program, and AusAID seeking futher clarification around the nature of the relationship between all parties and details of the individual programs, as well as calling for an end to aid funds being used to subsidise CSR programs. We did not receive a reply, although the AAMIG website has been subsequently altered, with whole paragraphs and even pages removed that reference the working group, corporate justications for participation in the project and pubic private partnerships.
Many of our concerns around the subsidisation of CSR initiatives through the aid program, as well more general critiques of AusAID’s total and uncritical support for mining as a means of development overseas are shared by a number of organisations both in Australia and overseas. Many of these organisations have spent years working alongside communities that have been negatively affected by mining operations.
Today we send this letter to the government and call upon them to stop using aid funds to support the CSR initiatives of Australian mining companies, to stop the use of aid funds promoting Australian mining interests more broadly and instead concentrate on direct support for local civil society organisations and their communities.
Read the letter here.