Church groups in Rio Tinto protest
Rio Tinto has been awarded a gold medal for being the worst company linked to the London Olympics at London’s Trafalgar Square last week. Three people pretending to be corporate representatives from Rio Tinto, BP, and Dow received medals for being the most inappropriate corporate sponsors of the Games, before having small quantities of green custard poured over their heads.
The Greenwash Gold Ceremony was the culmination of a three month campaign in which members of the public were invited to vote online for they thought was the worst corporate sponsor. It was organised by the London Mining Network, the Bhopal Medical Appeal and the UK Tar Sands Network, all of which are supported by Church groups.
The awards were compered by Meredith Alexander, the ex ‘Olympics ethics csar’ who resigned over controversies surrounding Olympic sponsors. “Rio Tinto, BP and Dow Chemical have bought themselves a global opportunity to present a friendly face” she said “but Greenwash Gold has told the other side of the story- the toxic legacy that each of these companies have left behind”. She pointed out that London 2012 is meant to be the greenest games ever.
The metal for the 2012 London Olympics medals is being provided by Rio Tinto, a massive British mining company. Metal for the medals has come from the company’s Kennecott Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, USA, and its Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia. Groups in Utah are protesting about air pollution from the Bingham Canyon operations. The Mongolian Oyu Tolgoi mine uses enormous quantities of water in a desert region, and campaigners there accuse the company of poor planning and failure to share information with the public. But these are not the only concerns about Rio Tinto. The company’s Ranger Uranium Mine in Australia routinely spills radioactive water into the surrounding area and is opposed by Aboriginal communities. Rio Tinto is associated with human rights abuses around its now-closed Kelian Gold Mine in Indonesia and the Grasberg copper and gold mine in West Papua. In Bougainville, in the Pacific, it hopes to reopen a copper mine which caused such catastrophic pollution that it sparked a war. Rio Tinto also has a history of poor labour relations.
BP was awarded the Greenwash silver medal. It extracts fossil fuels, including tar sands, in very destructive industrial projects. Extracting oil from tar sands also destroys swathes of forest and uses huge amounts of fresh water. And despite the Deepwater Horizon disaster having permanently destroyed large portions of the Gulf Coast, BP is proudly restarting its deepwater drilling. It is also exploring the Arctic, where the volatile conditions make a Gulf-like spill both more likely to happen and much harder to control – and such a disaster would cause unprecedented damage to the fragile ecoystem. BP recently closed down its solar division, giving up on this essential renewable technology, because it wasn’t profitable enough.
The Dow Chemical Company received the bronze medal. The Bhopal Medical Appeal´s concern with Dow is its connection to the 1984 Bhopal Gas disaster and the ongoing medical catastrophe, and the separate issue of toxic pollution that sees, to this day, thousands of people drinking water heavily contaminated with highly dangerous chemicals. The Bhopal Gas Disaster began on the night of the 2/3 December 1984 when a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, released 27 tonnes of lethal gases, killing around 25,000 people and maiming over half a million others. The Dow Chemical Company merged with Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), in 2001, but claims that it has no responsibility for the ongoing consequences of UCC’s business in Bhopal. Dow maintains that UCC remains a separate business, but Dow owns 100% of UCC´s shares, elects its board and UCC´s current CEO is a senior Dow official.
For a video of the Olympics Greenwash Gold awards presentation see: