Ethical investors are calling on Rio Tinto, Origin Energy and others to join the growing list of Australian companies divesting from Russia.
Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, along with the New South Wales government and several super funds, have already announced they will divest hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Russian assets this week.
Fortescue Metals President Andrew Forrest even announced plans to explore hydrogen projects in Russia.
But Origin Energy and Rio Tinto still have ties to two Putin associates who have been on US sanctions lists for years.
A third Australian company, Tigers Realm Coal, counts the Russian sovereign wealth fund as one of its main shareholders.
On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced sanctions against more than 350 Russian and Belarusian individuals “who facilitate Putin’s illegal and violent ambitions”.
Ethical investment advocates still call on these remnant companies to divest from joint ventures with Russian oligarchs.
“Continuing to do business with Russia is funding the war in Ukraine,” said Kateryna Argyrou, co-chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations.
“Putin has blood on his hands, and all companies that remain invested in Russia also have blood on their hands.”
Rio Tinto linked to two oligarchs
Rio Tinto has an 80% stake in the Queensland Alumina joint venture with Moscow-based aluminum company Rusal.
Dan Gocher of the Australasian Center for Corporate Accountability said while overall trade between the two countries is relatively small compared to other regions, companies like this are still important.
“My concern is that Australian alumina is going to Russia and they’re still making aluminium, and who knows what wartime use that was for,” he said. The new daily.
Russian billionaire and Putin associate Viktor Vekselberg owns about a third of Rusal.
Mr Gocher said Mr Vekselberg was “one of the original oligarchs”.
Another oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, owns 44.5% of a company which in turn owns 56.9% of Rusal.
However, Mr. Deripaska is one of a handful of high profile Russians to have publicly called for peace after the country invaded Ukraine.
“Rusal is a fairly large integrated mining company with many joint ventures with different companies, including Glencore, including Rio Tinto,” Gocher said.
“I imagine these companies probably want Deripaska to distance himself from Putin.
“Sanctions against Rusal and its affiliates would make life very difficult for them.”
Rio Tinto did not respond to a request for comment.
Origin Energy and government subsidies
A key Australian government “gas takeover” project is the Beetaloo Basin joint venture between Origin Energy, which has a 77.5% stake, and Falcon Oil & Gas, which controls 22.5%.
Mr Vekselberg owns around 16% of Falcon Oil & Gas through a subsidiary called Lamesa Holding in Cyprus.
Origin condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and pointed out that it covered 100% of the project’s exploration costs and that no revenue was generated from the gas.
“Nevertheless, given the Russian invasion, Origin is concerned about Lamesa Holding’s investment in Falcon,” a spokesperson said Tuesday.
“Origin has raised concerns directly with Falcon and acknowledges the company’s responsiveness, noting the announcement that Russian businessman Maxim Mayorets has agreed to step down from Falcon’s board of directors effective immediately. .”
But Mr Goch said that was not enough.
“Origin Energy may be hoping that the resignation of Maxim Mayorets from the board of Falcon Oil & Gas will remove undue influence from its joint venture in the Beetaloo Basin, but that’s just window dressing,” he said. he said Wednesday.
“Vekselberg will personally benefit from any successful exploration Origin conducts in the Beetaloo Basin.”
He added: “Minister Keith Pitt must ensure that Vekelsberg does not benefit in any way from the gas recovery subsidies.”
Tigers Realm and the sovereign wealth fund
Melbourne-based Tigers Realm Coal is developing coal mines and ports in the Russian Far East.
In February, the Russian Direct Investment Fund – the country’s sovereign wealth fund – held a 7.93% stake in the Australian company.
This was enough to make it the fourth shareholder.
Several RDIF representatives have also served on the Tigers Realm Board of Directors over the years.
More recently, the RDIF appointed Valery Doronin as a non-executive director.
Mr. Doronin resigned on February 3, since he no longer works for the RDIF.
The company did not respond to requests for comment, but said in a recent ASX statement that it is monitoring the situation closely.
“Tigers Realm Coal’s mining operations in the far eastern Russian province of Chukotka currently continue to operate on a continuous basis despite the situation resulting from the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” the company said in an ASX statement on Monday.
“Our Russia-based management and staff are all safe and continue to work diligently to achieve the company’s goals.”
Vodka on the shelves
Australian bottle shops have united to remove Russian-made spirits from their shelves.
The move was spurred by Endeavor Group, which owns Dan Murphy’s, BWS, CellarMasters, Langton’s and delivery app Jimmy Brings.
Coles soon followed suit with Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice, as did Aldi.
“As an act of solidarity with the innocent people of Ukraine and to prevent war funding, retailers should send a strong signal that they will not support the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Stefan said. Romaniw, co-president of the Australian Federation of Ukrainians. Organizations.
Most vodka brands in Australia are not made or owned by Russia.
A notable exception, however, is Russian Standard, which was founded in 1998 by billionaire oligarch Rustam Tariko, who also owns a bank of the same name.
Mr. Romaniw also mentioned other Russian vodka brands Beluga, Green Mark, Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya.