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Palmer claims CITIC has not put $500 million into a mine rehabilitation fund as previously agreed

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In 2008, Clive Palmer pledged to donate $100 million for Aboriginal health and medical programs in the Pilbara when his company Mineralogy’s joint venture Sino Iron Ore project with Chinese steelmaker CITIC Pacific was still in the planning stage.

It was hailed as one of the biggest philanthropic pledges in Australian history at the time.

In February 2018, the charity quietly dropped mention of Aboriginal health and welfare from its objectives, widening it to ‘unemployed and disadvantaged’ Australians, as well as donating to not-for-profits and sporting clubs.

Past financial statements revealed since 2012 the charity had less than $110 in the bank, up until 2017-18 when it received a $117,000 donation.

The 2017-18 statement showed more than $15,700 of that donation went to promotional products, while $2572 was spent on postage.

Mr Palmer’s pledge was to be paid for using royalties from CITIC, which operates the Sino mine 100 kilometres south-west of Karratha. It was also loosely enshrined in WA legislation that ratified a mining agreement between the companies and government.

Mr Palmer has faced criticism from the WA government for his lack of action on the pledge, in the face of reports he spent between $50 million and $80 million on his failed 2019 election campaign.

In May, Mr Palmer said he would only deliver on his promise once CITIC Pacific delivered on its obligations at Sino.

Mineralogy won a long court battle over royalty payments for the project in 2017 but the two companies are embroiled in two more stoushes over mine rehabilitation and CITIC’s plan to expand Sino’s waste storage facilities.

Money for the pledge was meant to come from the Sino iron ore project in WA's Pilbara region.
Money for the pledge was meant to come from the Sino iron ore project in WA’s Pilbara region. 

CITIC has claimed Mineralogy was refusing to help seek state approval for the additional land, which was putting the project at risk. Mr Palmer has claimed CITIC has not put $500 million into a mine rehabilitation fund as previously agreed.

In the lead-up to the May 18 federal election, the WA government lashed Mr Palmer after media reports of the paltry sums of money in the charity’s account emerged.

WA’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister and Treasurer Ben Wyatt told The Guardian Australia 15 days before the election Mr Palmer had proven himself to be “no friend of West Australians and certainly no friend of Aboriginal West Australians”.

Mr Wyatt urged voters to consider Mr Palmer’s record while at the ballot box and said the government would investigate how it could compel him to come good on his promise.

The philanthropic pledge in the Sino legislation is not iron-clad, only stating the WA government “acknowledged” Mineralogy was “intending” to start a $100 million fund.

Since the election, Mr Wyatt’s rhetoric had been more subdued.

When asked a direct question whether the government could compel Mr Palmer to cough up the money Mr Wyatt said the government expected him to honour the commitment he publicly made.

“Anyone who promises to deliver for Aboriginal groups has the moral imperative to deliver on those promises, if not they can expect the general public to judge them harshly,” he said.

Mr Palmer and Mineralogy did not respond to requests for comment.

Originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald.

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