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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
The business of caring
HARDtalk
The boss of one of the world's biggest mining companies has denied that big business is the enemy of the environment.

Robert Wilson, chairman of the multi-national mining company, Rio Tinto, said that everyone must work together to protect the planet.


He told BBC's HARDtalk programme: "If we really want to achieve progress in sustainable development, we need to have a culture of co-operation and collaboration between the various parties - between governments and industry.

"There needs to be a way in which we can work together in a spirit of co-operation towards agreed goals."

Controversy

Mr Wilson made his comments on the second day of the week-long World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

Delegates from over 170 countries are in South Africa to look at ways of tackling global poverty and promoting environmentally-friendly economic growth.

Mining conglomerate, Rio Tinto, has 61 mining operations across 20 countries and in January announced that profits had jumped by 10% to $1.66bn.

It is also at the centre of one of Australia's most controversial environmental rows over its purchase of a dormant uranium mine at the Kakadu National park in North Western Australia.

The park is one of Australia's most popular tourist attractions and home to the Mirrar Aboriginal people, as well as thousands of rare and endangered animal species.

Ruling

Environmentalists want Rio Tinto to close the uranium mine as a way of proving its green credentials.

Mr Wilson stressed that the mine would not be developed without the agreement of the local community.

Kakadu uranium mine
Kakadu uranium mine
He said that Rio Tinto had learned from previous mistakes and were looking to develop projects in a way that took into account environmental concerns and the needs of local people.

He said: "One of the changes which is now occurring in the way that our industry is approaching projects is that when we start a mine we're already beginning to plan for its closure."

He said that once the mine had closed, they wanted to ensure the local community had "sustainable livelihoods that will go on beyond the mine life."

Policy

Mr Wilson is a member of the official UK delegation to the summit in Johannesburg.

Two other representatives of big business are also included, Bill Alexander, chief executive of Thames Water and Chris Fay, non-executive director of the mining company, Anglo-American.


It seems to me to be wholly sensible that business should be part of the conference

Sir Robert Wilson
Critics have claimed that representatives of big business have no place to be at the conference.

But Mr Wilson hit back at the critics and claimed that his presence at the summit was essential to achieve real results.

He said: "You can't have sustainable development without development and you can't have development without the participation of business and industry.

"It seems to me to be wholly sensible that business should be part of the conference along with other parts of society."

He added: "My prime responsibility is to manage Rio Tinto, and to manage that business for its shareholders and its owners.

"But I believe that it is quite consistent to do that in a way which is compatible with the primary objectives of the Johannesburg summit."

The interview can be watched in full on Tuesday 27 on BBC World and BBC News 24 at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in BST) 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT) 0330, repeated 0830, 1130, 1530, 1830, 2330



HARDtalk with Tim Sebastian is broadcast Mon - Friday on BBC World and BBC News 24
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