Episode #9: What did we learn from the Rio Tinto disaster?


When the news broke in May that Rio Tinto had blown up an ancient Aboriginal site to mine for premium iron ore, the world reacted in horror and disbelief.

Five months on, the CEO and 2 senior executives have been sacked. But what have we learned, and what are the prospects for change? The kind of change that guarantees such a tragedy will never happen again.

To find out, I talked to Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), which coordinated an activist investor campaign against Rio Tinto. Some are calling this a landmark case, a turning point for stakeholder capitalism.

It’s definitely a success story for investor activism. But it also exposes the cosy relationships among mining, law and politics that allowed this disaster to happen. It is a cautionary tale for everyone because the fact that it even happened beggars belief, and leaves one - as Burchell Hayes from the PKKP says “without words to describe the feeling”.

Don’t miss this deeply thought-provoking episode.

Thanks to ABC Radio for permission to use an extract from the June 5 interview with Burchell Hayes.