Michael Pascoe writes:

It looks like the West Australian
followed up Crikey’s tip on the collapse of the Australian Gold Council
yesterday (item 21), obtaining more detail in the process on how the plug was pulled just
as the gold price is hitting 25-year highs. John Phaceas reports:

Council chief executive Michael O’Neill said yesterday the
organisation had fallen victim to the same forces of consolidation which had
decimated the sector and left it dominated by a handful of mostly
overseas-based multinationals. Following pressure from key members, primarily big producers, Mr O’Neill said
the lobby group was now examining its options for survival, with a decision
likely by the middle of the year…

… Mr O’Neill said the big gold miners had been “very upfront” in
arguing the need to rationalise the plethora of organisations which represent
the industry but carry out similar functions. To underline their intent, those
members had also initially withheld payment of their membership fees – which
provide more than half the council’s annual funding – though all had now paid
their dues.

“They told us that they fund dozens of resources organisations and we were
the first ones due to come through the door,” Mr O’Neill said. “We
may well be the first cab off the rank, but I don’t think that we will be the
last.”

While some
individual companies have become better at the public relations game – for
example, the way Rio is very happy to let the controversial Grasberg mine in
West Papua be thought of as all
Freeport’s responsibility – the industry as a whole has been woeful. It
lost the environmental spin war before it realised it was being fought and has
been playing political catch-up ever since.

The Gold Council might well prove to be irrelevant, but one
somehow suspects the membership dues saved by the big miners won’t be
redirected into other lobbying operations. Maybe they feel all the relevant
governments have been re-captured.

Disclosure: Michael Pascoe has been paid to chair Gold Council
events.

Peter Fray

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