GetUp member stories: Paul’s shareholder activism at the Venture Minerals EGM
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In March this year I travelled to the Tarkine wilderness in North West Tasmania with GetUp members from across the country. As a Park Ranger I’m familiar with some of Australia’s most precious wild places. The Tarkine was breathtaking, the ancient rainforests are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I felt really inspired to assist the campaign to save the Tarkine from the impacts of mining. I wanted the wonderful experience of being in the Tarkine to be able to be felt by future generations for years to come.
Paul Robb, second from right, with GetUp members (from left) Georgie, Rose and Tony, visiting the Tarkine earlier this year.
We were there because of contentious proposals to mine the area. One company, Venture Minerals wants to build three mines in the Tarkine.
Two of the mines are for iron ore and would only operate for 2 years, the other is for tin and would operate for around 8 years. The mines are being proposed in areas that:
- Have been recommend to be on the National Heritage List by the Australian Heritage Council.
- Were in the area previously covered by the National Heritage Listing, which expired late last year.
- Have been declared as having World Heritage values and recommend to be declared a World Heritage Area by Dr. Peter Hitchcock who was engaged to verify the values of the area as part of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Forests.
Two of the mines occur with the Meredith Range Regional Reserve, an area that was protected on the 27th of December 2000 by the Howard Government as part of the Regional Forest Agreement; and two of the mines occur within rainforest.
Last week I was privileged to be asked to represent GetUp by proxy at the Venture Minerals company AGM. I was there to help ensure that Venture’s shareholders are aware of why the mines they are proposing are not the right way forward for the company and would have a massive environmental impact.
The AGM was an interesting experience for me for a few reasons, including not used to being in a room full of expensive suits.I was a bit nervous as I stepped out of the lift on the 11th floor to be met by security guards who were stationed on the doors into the AGM, even though it was a small gathering in a small room.
The Chair of the Board was talking about mining the Tarkine as I entered and sat down, not knowing anyone in the room.
The Wilderness Society held a protest out the front of the venue and the coordinator of the Tarkine Coalition campaign, Scott Jordan, had just flown in from Tasmania for the AGM and asked a few questions of the Board. He asked whether shareholders had been fully informed of the proposed locations of the mines and the associated risks given the areas to be mined had previously received National Heritage listing and met World Heritage listing criteria. The Board said they were aware of all the risks including the expected public protest action. This fired up one old shareholder who told the Board to ignore the comments from Scott.
I asked the Board when had they informed shareholders of such risks and when was their Bankable Feasibility due to be released. The CEO said the Bankable feasibility study was completed recently. The night prior to the AGM I hadn’t seen it mentioned on their website- only a pre-feasibility study. The Chairman was not too keen to allow any more questions as it was obvious that tension was rising in the room between a shareholders. Sighs and sniggers were becoming increasingly louder.
It was a relatively short meeting and all the agenda items were passed with me holding up my proxy voting card, voting against all motions as directed by the shareholder I was representing, being GetUp. The Board members stared at me while I asked questions and voted against their motions. I couldn’t help but wonder whether they had ever been to the Tarkine or had any idea of the fate they were imposing on such an amazingly beautiful part of our country.
After the meeting the Chairman came over to shake my hand and thanked me for attending.