Temasek under Goodyear ? – Debunking the CEO’s glorious track record – Part II

16 Feb

BHP Billiton’s Environmental and Human Rights Record under Goodyear

BHP Billition, under Goodyear’s 4 and a half year of leadership, was plagued with controversies.

In 2003, BHP Billiton was questioned by shareholders at the Melbourne AGM meeting over the companies’ lobbying efforts at trying to pressurise the Indonesian government to overturn Gag Island West Papua protected status so that the company can conduct mining operations. The chairman, Don Argus feigned ignorance while ‘Chip Goodyear refused [to declare that they would refrain from mining in the region] to do so, indicating that the company is considering mining in the area before processes for formally acknowledging its world heritage value are completed’.

The company was embroiled in an indigenous and human rights scandal in 2004. According to The Mineral Policy Institute, Friends of the Earth Australia and United States NGO PressurePoint, the corporation and its consortiums were forcing Wayuu Indigenous community of Tamaquitos and the Afro Colombian communities in Colombia to move for their mining expansion, while at the same time, depriving them of any monetary compensation.

It acquired all the surrounding land, controlled the main road, henceforth denied the Tamaquitos community ‘access to public transportation, education, health services, or traditional food sources from hunting’.  While the community has requested negotiations for compensation to be relocated to agricultural areas, ‘BHP Billiton refuses to negotiate with the community and instead has stepped up its campaign of intimidation and harrassment, including visits by security forces and denial of any indigenous heritage or land rights’.

In addition, ‘… On April 16, several members of the community of Sarahita were dragged from their homes in an operation supervised by mine officials. The company bulldozed their houses to make way for the expansion of the mine, with no compensation. This follows a pattern of violent displacements and intimidation to facilitate the expansion, the most significant being the 700 person Afro Colombian community of Tabaco in August 2001. Company officials arrived with 500 police and 200 soldiers with no warning on August 9, 2001 and violently displaced the community. Residents were not even allowed to remove their personal belongings before their homes were bulldozed…’

Such blatant violations occurred despite the company having signed the Global Compact on Human Rights, Labour, and the Environment. The first two principles state that ‘Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights within their sphere of influence, and make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.’

The heat continues unabated in 2005 when The Mineral Policy Institute and concerned shareholders questioned the company’s ‘questionable environmental and social conduct across four continents’ in Philippines, Colombia, Sydney Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and worldwide (uranium mining).

The issue in Indonesia and Colombia has been previously mentioned (see above).

In Philippines, the company was accused of illegal nickel mining in Pujada Bay. As many as 800 local residents petitioned against the move while the licenses for their mining activities in the area overlapped with protected areas and endangered species habitiat in violation of requirements in the Philippines Mining Act. Two out of three local level governments in the region have opposed the mining operations.

In Sydney, the company refused to create a 1 km safety zone from the rivers in its mining operations in the Southern Coalfields of NSW. The river is a ‘conduit for drinking water in Sydney’.

The Ok Tedi Mine incident in Papua New Guinea is another area of concern given the local community was not consulted upon BHP Billiton’s exit in 2001. In a nutshell, the Ok Tedi mine operations started in 1984 became an ‘environmental social and financial disaster’ by the time the company decided to abandon its operations. The copper mine, operated by Ok Tedi Mining was majority owned by BHP Billiton (52%). In 1993, the Australian Conservation Foundation (“ACF”) published a detailed report highlighting the environmental and social impacts caused by the disposal of the mine’s waste rock into the Ok Tedi river. Two Victorian Supreme Court actions were also issued against BHP and OTML (1994 and 2000) concerning the environmental impacts caused by the mine’s waste rock disposal methods. Despite the reports, the company went ahead with its disposal method.

The damage is astronomical for a small country like Papua New Guinea:

‘… On a conservative estimate the direct disposal of waste rock and tailings into the river has caused just under 500 square kilometres of forest die back. This is expected to increase to at least 1,350 square kilometres as a wave of mud and silt fill and move down the river for tens of years to come. In addition, fish numbers in the Ok Tedi River have fallen by an alarming 90%. Copper levels in the river are up to 30 times their natural level as a result of the mine and would be toxic except for the neutralising effect of the currently alkaline water…’

BHP Billiton deaths in Australia

Three BHP Billiton workers died in two separate incidents in 2004. The first accident occurred at the company’s iron plant in Port Hedland while the second death was at the company’s Nelson Point plant.

Following the deaths, the unions have called for an independent inquiry into the safety system of the company.

Goodyear admitted in an interview that the darkest hour for him with the company ‘would have been May 2004. We had three fatalities at iron ore (operations) in a relatively short period of time at the end of a difficult year’.

Hollywood Against BHP Billiton

Even Hollywood has an axe to grind against the company under Goodyear’s watch. In 2007 of March, famous actors such as Martin Sheen and Pierce Brosnan led a protest against the company’s controversial $US5 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

The proposal was to build a plant off the coast of Malibu, which if approved, would cause massive environmental damage to the residents and the surrounding ecology. This was substantiated by a US Coast Guard, the California State Lands Commission and the US Maritime Administration. 3000 page report. Apparently, the company had spent $US1.8 million ($2.3 million) lobbying the Californian government to get the nod for this project.

How much is Goodyear Getting?

Notwithstanding the dubious track record of Goodyear as CEO and financial officer of BHP Billiton (others not mentioned here – you can do your own research), it would also be wise to estimate how much he will be getting upon succeeding as the CEO of Temasek.

According to Workers Online:

Chip Goodyear (BHP Billiton) since 2003 took $2,896,337; by 2005, $6,400,000. An increase over two years of 221%.

An Australian Financial Review – Salary Review article (reproduced by Crikey) also listed him as the top corporate earner in the country: a total of $22.74 million remuneration over a 3 year period of (what I would assume is between 2004 – 2007).

As a CEO for the company, he was also part of the Business Council of Australia, which was responsible for lobbying a pro- big business Howard government to adopt individual contract (also known as Work Choices or Australian Workplace Agreements or AWA). The council ‘urges wage restraint in public forums [while, concurrently], its members are stacking up private fortunes’. Work Choices was also unpopular amongst workers for it substantially erodes their rights and interests.

Goodyear’s vocal opposition against the then Labor Opposition to Howard’s Work Choices was even derided by a former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating. After all, Goodyear, ‘has spearheaded business criticism of Labor’s pledge to scrap AWAs – to speak out on social equity’. Keating blasted the man on ABC radio,

“We don’t need Americans here telling us about social equity … There is no sense of social equity in the United States…”

The implications of having Goodyear in Temasek? Good years ahead?

As this blog has mentioned in a previous post, ‘The sale of Temasek’s power plants does matter ‘, Temasek’s sale of its power plants posed significant serious implications.

Following on the heels of these sales, the news of Goodyear as the new CEO of Temasek cannot be business as usual. Besides expressing concern on GLC’s profit and loss under his stewardship, there must also be concerns regarding his track record on workers’ rights, human rights and the environment.

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2 Responses to “Temasek under Goodyear ? – Debunking the CEO’s glorious track record – Part II”

  1. MadHatter February 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm #

    Hmmm…sounds like this Goodyear chap will fit right in to our local no-disclose, no-negotiate, no-accountability framework

  2. John Harding August 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm #

    Temasek fired Goodyear after questions were raised regarding his identity on http://www.johnharding.com.

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