Activists opposing climate change have called for a protest from October 29 to 31, to blockade the 6th annual International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC). IMARC is being held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Buildings.
IMARC’s website boasts that over 400 mining companies will be attending, and that it will be four days of “learning, deal-making and unparalleled networking.” Their keynote speakers include representatives from some of the world’s worst polluters, such as BHP and Rio Tinto. The event lists “decision makers, mining leaders, policy makers, investors, commodity buyers” among its 7000 guests.
IMARC advertises the access that mining companies will have to investors. The website even includes a breakdown of the financial assets that the investors attending have access to.
These investors, as owners of capital, ensure that the rest of us have no say over how we extract resources or use fossil fuels. Private investors determine where investment is made – whether into renewables or fossil fuels. They make these decisions purely to maximise profit.
At the conference, investors will be meeting with politicians and representatives from all through the industry’s supply chain. Their focus will be on how to make money together – at our expense.
Part of the reason the world has made no progress on addressing climate change is because the control of investment is in the hands of these capitalist decision makers. This conference is a place for them and their representatives to make deals that will profoundly affect our lives.
In order to combat climate change, we need to restructure energy production and transport. But you cannot control what you don’t own.
To transition to renewable energy, we need public, democratic control over the major mining and resource extraction companies, over investment capital, and over the energy industry. All of these things need to be brought into public hands.
We will need a plan of production to manage a transition to renewables, and to ensure jobs and communities are protected.
All recent history shows that, for all their talk, capitalists cannot be trusted with the transition to renewable energy and sustainable practises. Instead, workers need to be in charge. It is in the interests of workers in the mining, resource and energy industries to push for a democratic plan to preserve both jobs and the environment.
While the people attending IMARC would claim that they are job creators, in reality they champion an unplanned market system which cannot guarantee jobs.
On a capitalist market basis, there is no guarantee of a future for communities dependent on mining jobs. The recent downturns in Queensland and Western Australia are testament to this, as is the increasing role of automation in mining.
A democratic plan is needed to provide adequate training and green jobs for fossil fuel workers. Only such a plan can ensure that fossil fuel-reliant communities are included in the change to renewable technologies.
Similarly, only a democratic plan can ensure that mining is accountable to everyone it impacts. This industry has a history of racist campaigns to free up land from Indigenous communities. Even when they are forced to come to terms with Indigenous communities, their strategy is to divide those communities, paying off a layer of people with what they call “F— Off money” to access the land.
Because mining companies are privately owned, they are unaccountable for the social and environmental damage they cause. We have almost no control over their actions.
One of IMARC’s sessions is called “Social license to operate & sustainable mining practises”, indicating that sustainable practises are, in the eyes of a for-profit industry, just a way to obtain a ‘social license’ to make more profits.
The IMARC blockade on October 29-31 is a step towards a mass community campaign to oppose the capitalist destruction of the planet. Trade unions should be front and centre of this movement, both for the sake of jobs and the sake of the lives of working people throughout the world.
Ordinary working people have the most to lose from climate change. Workers also hold the power to change society in their hands. Without us, nothing runs. The worker’s movement has the potential to change the world, and fight for both high-quality jobs and the environment we live in.
By David Elliott