NIT Editorial

Crocodile tears: a false, insincere display of emotion such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief.

There is no example more fitting of this false, insincere display of emotion than Rio Tinto and their investors this past year.

Rio Tinto and many of their investors have been crying crocodile tears since the mining conglomerate deliberately destroyed one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, all in the name of profit.

The Rio Tinto board, management and investors have expressed mock outrage and demanded heads roll in order to show the world that they have high standards and genuinely care about the plight of Pilbara Traditional Owners, from whose lands they derive 80 per cent of their total revenue.

It was telling, however, that when Rio Tinto reported a 20 per cent rise in underlying profits to $12.4 billion in 2020 and announced a massive $5 billion in dividends plus a special $1.5 billion dividend, that Rio Tinto investors were more than happy to gleefully stuff those dividends deep into their pockets without a thought as to whether Traditional Owners were getting their fair share.

There is now talk amongst some investors that the remuneration packages of certain Rio Tinto executives should be voted down at the annual general meeting in London this Friday. Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Does it occur to any of the investors that they are party to Rio Tinto’s selfish, toxic culture and destructive behaviours when they willingly accepted Rio Tinto’s $6.5 billion payout?

Did they think about the origins of their precious dividends, derived from Traditional Owners’ lands and cultural heritage that dates back at least 42,000 years?

This is especially relevant when many Traditional Owners whose lands are mined are still living in abject poverty, with incarceration rates remaining unacceptably high.

While investors stuffed their pockets with dollars, many Traditional Owners in the Pilbara were – and still are – struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table.

This misery is multiplied when Rio Tinto has made billions of dollars in profits from the sale of iron ore, some of which is then paid in dividends to investors — in some instances from mines that Rio Tinto outright refuse to pay royalties on, simply because they’re not legally obliged to do so, and therefore deliberately choose not to. Just like when they deliberately blew up Juukan Gorge.

There is a clear pattern here of callous disrespect and disregard for the Traditional Land Owners on whose lands they make massive profits.

The prime example is on Eastern Guruma Country. Rio Tinto operates six mines on the Traditional Lands of the Eastern Guruma people but deliberately choose to pay royalties on only three of them.

Rio Tinto have outright refused to engage with Eastern Guruma people about negotiating and paying royalties on all six mines. They are obviously happy with the status quo where they make billions in profit and Traditional Owners get very little in return as they continue to struggle and live on the fringes of society.

All the while Rio Tinto executives and investors continue to stuff their pockets and congratulate themselves on a job well done.

Crocodile tears: “They weep crocodile tears for the poor and disadvantaged, but are basically happy with things as they are.”

Please Rio Tinto management and investors: Stop the charade and be honest with Traditional Owners.

Tell them that while you sympathise with them, you are more concerned about maximising profit and are not prepared to fully and fairly share with them the bountiful profits you make from their lands.

No more crocodile tears.