Question No. 326
Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 6 December 2010:
With reference to uranium mining in Africa by Australian companies:
(1) Have any discussions been held between the department and the Australia Africa Mining Industry Group (AAMIG) in the past six months; if so, can an outline of the discussions be provided, including the issues discussed, and the attendees present.
(2) Is the department doing any exploratory or other work regarding the AAMIG suggestions to the current parliamentary inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade that the ‘most direct and obvious manner in which Australian mining and service companies can facilitate the re engagement with Africa is via a public private partnership in delivering social development assistance that ensure the relatively limited available government aid funding is applied to maximum social, financial, political and strategic advantage'.
(3) Has the department or any related agency been requested for, or offered any, advice on this issue; if so, by whom and what was that advice.
(4) Who is the contact point in the department for social development assistance in Africa by mining and other companies, and wider African mining issues.
(5) Did departmental or agency personnel attended the mining Africa DownUnder Conference held in Perth from 1 September to 3 September 2010; if so, in what capacity did they attend.
(6) What meetings and briefings were attended or provided at this time with mining companies and or representatives of African nations.
(7) What, if any, initiatives is the department considering in relation to providing financial and wider capacity support to civil society and community organisations affected by or monitoring the activities of Australian companies active in the uranium sector in Africa.
(8) What review and monitoring mechanisms does the department use to ascertain that the economic, employment and social benefits claimed by Australian companies active in the African uranium sector help facilitate real community benefit and gender, environmental and social sustainability outcomes.
(9) Does the department maintain a public register of Australian companies active in the uranium sector in Africa, or any companies and consultants providing material or logistical support to such companies; if so, where is this register located and can a copy be provided; if not, why not.
Senator Conroy - the following answer has been provided by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the honourable Senator's question:
(1) Yes meetings did occur but on each occasion they related to mining operations in Africa in General. They were not focussed on uranium mining.
The discussions focused on the Australian Government's engagement with Africa, recent developments affecting foreign investors in Africa and canvassed possible collaboration between companies, NGOs and possibly the Australian Government on addressing development challenges in Africa.
Attendees on the Government side were Justin Hayhurst, Assistant Secretary, Africa Branch, DFAT; Jon Richardson, Director, East West and Regional Africa Section, DFAT; Ann Harrap, Australian High Commissioner, Pretoria; Billy Williams, Australian High Commissioner, Accra; John Courtney, Australian Ambassador, Harare; Geoffrey Tooth, Australian High Commissioner-designate, Nairobi; Greg Hull, Senior Trade Commissioner, Johannesburg, Austrade; James Hall, Director North, East and West Africa Section, AusAID; Roger Donnelly, Chief Economist and Jan Fuchter, Director, Structured Trade and Project Finance, Export Finance Insurance Corporation (EFIC).
The then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Stephen Smith, also attended the 2 September meeting.
The Director of the DFAT WA State office hosted a dinner on 12 November for AAMIG at which the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, and other departmental officers were present.
(2) DFAT and AusAID have discussed ways in which the Government might respond to the AAMIG proposals. Neither DFAT nor AusAID has a specific program of work in this area but endorses the approach set out in response to question 3 below.
AusAID's mining-related assistance to Africa has focused on building the capacity of countries to sustainably manage their resources. This has been done through the provision of short-course Australia Awards, supporting a workshop on the sustainable use of mining revenues, and expanding countries' access to technical assistance through partnerships with the IMF and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
(3) AAMIG has advocated cooperation between government and industry in delivering small-scale social development assistance in Africa in discussions with DFAT and AusAID. AusAID and DFAT have advised that they are prepared to host discussions with key stakeholders in the African mining sector to draw on the experience and expertise of NGOs, industry and Government to explore possible areas of cooperation, such as sharing best practice guidelines on community development.
(4) The Assistant Secretary, Africa Branch, DFAT and the Assistant Director-General, Africa & Middle East Branch, AusAID, have overall responsibility for issues relating to mining in Africa.
(5) Yes. Departmental and agency personnel attended as conference delegates and representatives of their respective agencies. The Secretary of DFAT gave the keynote address to the conference.
(6) A panel consisting of representatives of DFAT, AusAID, Austrade and Australia's Heads of Mission in Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe and the High Commissioner-designate to Kenya, as named in answer to question 1 above, gave a presentation to the Conference on the Australian Government's engagement with Africa. EFIC representatives delivered a separate presentation outlining EFIC's services.
Government representatives had a wide range of individual meetings and discussions with Australian mining companies, African ministers and officials, and other delegates and participants in the conference.
The Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted a dinner on 1 September for visiting African Mining Ministers and chief executives of Australian mining companies active in Africa.
(7) Neither DFAT nor AusAID is considering specific initiatives of this kind.
(8) The Australian Government does not undertake assessments of this kind.
(9) The department does not maintain a public register of Australian companies active in the uranium sector in Africa.