Fortescue Metals boss Andrew Forrest has taken his campaign against the big iron ore miners up a notch today with an article for News Ltd asking Australians to “Write, email or ring your local Parliamentary Member”.
At the heart of Forrest’s argument is that Australians own Australia’s resources and that when miners sign up for the right to mine iron ore – and other resources – they agree to do so in the best interests of Australia.
The fact is we only get to dig up our natural resources once and, as stated in black and white legislation, miners have an obligation to seek the best possible price for the owners of the resource — the Australian people.
He’s arguing that in expanding supply the big miners aren’t doing that. He repeats the oft-cited costs to the Australian economy of $300 million in tax receipts and $800 million in national income. He also says that because the price has fallen so far in the past six months, “tens of thousands” of workers have lost their jobs.
Forrest says that Australia is being “harmed by decisions made in the boardrooms of the world’s biggest miners”, as these companies pursue policies where they are, in the words of BHP iron ore CEO Jimmy Wilson, “oversupplying at the moment and we’ll oversupply in the medium term”.
Forrest also takes aim at Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh and comments last month that the company was “unapologetic” about the impact of expansion on prices.
It’s a claim Walsh addressed directly at last week’s Rio Tinto AGM, saying:
I can suggest to you Rio Tinto’s well-flagged investments over many years, and the fact our market share today of 20 per cent, is the same as it was a decade ago.
This invalidates suggestions that we are responsible for a perceived market dislocation.
Over the last eight years we have invested US$28 billion in our Pilbara iron ore operations.
I can assure you our investments in high quality assets delivering high value tonnes are in your interests as shareholders, and they are in Western Australia’s and Australia’s interests too.
Forrest obviously doesn’t agree and he wants you to write to your local member.
You can read his full missive here.