Bougainville v Rio Tinto

Topics: Ethics, Business ethics, Rio Tinto Group Pages: 6 (1386 words) Published: April 24, 2014
Rachel Doyle
PHI 3013-02
February 28th, 2013

Bougainville v Rio Tinto
The Bougainville Copper Ltd was the lifeblood of Bougainville's economy. Providing the island with numerous jobs, as well as 20% of its profits to the government of Papua New Guinea, it seemed to be a benefit to the overall economy. But to the citizens of Bougainville, the BCL was a poison, slowly killing off the environment of Bougainville, and the human dignity of the island's natives.

Due to the BCL's strip-mining practices, the effects upon the environment were devastating. Ugly, open craters marring the land, the sludge and dangerous chemicals from the practice seeping into the Jaba River and poisoning it. This lead to numerous birth defects, and even to the extinction of the flying fox bat species on the island ("Bougainville Copper"). On top of this, the natives of Bougainville were kept in "slave like conditions" ("ABC News"), receiving only 0.5-1.25% of the profits of the company as a whole. They were also subjugated to Apartheid, separated from white workers and forced to stay in their own workspace.

Though the company was eventually shut down, the tyranny that the natives of Bougainville experienced at the hands of the BCL was not forgotten. Under the Alien Tort Statute, an old law from 1789, the citizens of Bougainville filed a lawsuit in the United States against Rio Tito, the majority shareholder for the BCL. Recently re-opened, the verdict is still unavailable. But it is a trial that will certainly make a case for the need for widespread business ethics practices.

The case of Bougainville v Rio Tito is certainly one that will, perhaps, sway most of the business practices of the Western World, depending upon its verdict. The practices of the Rio Tito corporation via the BCL is nothing short of shocking. Even with the far more prejudiced practices in place 40-50 years ago, the simple fact of the matter is that Rio Tito continued unethical practices well up to 1989, until the BCL was shut down by revolutionary activities. While the damage done may not be repaired without copious amounts of work and financial backing, Rio Tito should be exposed for their unethical practices, including: the dehumanization of their workers; their lack of care for the environment and the people it affects; and their use of threatening statements and their influence with the government to effectively kill over 10,000 civilians ("Reuters").

Many MNCs seem to be subconsciously influenced by the works of their ancestors. Perhaps it is because of the overwhelming belief among CEOs that ethical beliefs should be passed down from generation to generation and worked into everyday life, but the traces of historical companies and countries can be seen echoed in some of the less than ethical business practices followed by these more modern corporations. Specifically, the ideas of imperialism seems to pervade the ideology of many companies with how they treat the local communities of their operations. The general takeover, economically and politically, of the BCL on Bougainville, almost seems to mirror the philosophy of Colonial Imperialism (Henderson).

The elements of Imperialism extend into the realm of racism and dehumanization. Imperialism, much like many of today's Western MNCs, see people as means to an end. The value of a person is not weighed alongside the profit gained from their labor. And when you add that to the systematic oppression of indigenous people in the form of poor wages, as well as forced Apartheid ("Bougainville Copper "), a MNC begins to treat them with even less worth. But their slave like living conditions stripped away the citizens' human dignity, violating numerous modern business ethics practices. It lead to a breeding of discontent, anger, and resentment towards the company that treated them so poorly. Coupled with other factors, the results were explosive.

Another major ethical problem of Rio Tito's was the lack of...


Cited: "Bougainville Copper." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc, 07 Nov 2012. Web. 27 Feb 2013.
 "Rio Tinto accused over Bougainville 'genocide '." ABC News. Reuters, 26 Oct 2011. Web. 27 Feb 2013.
"UPDATE 4-U.S. court revives human rights case vs Rio Tinto." Reuters. Reuters, 25 Oct 2011. Web. 27 Feb 2013. .
Henderson, . "Imperialism." History Haven. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb 2013. .
"Alien Tort Statute." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc, 10 Feb 2013. Wed 27 Feb 2013.
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