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Few Questions Asked On Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Deal
Salt Lake Tribune/Deseret News, September 30th, 2008 2PM

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When it comes to putting money into soccer, business is business, while environmental causes and workers' rights are the domains of naïve idealists. This must be the case given the reaction of Utah's local media to the announcement Monday that mining company Rio Tinto has bought the naming rights to Real Salt Lake's new stadium in Sandy.

When rare cash comes into Major League Soccer from outside the game one would, apparently, be foolish to question its source. "While the parent company's name may not be well-known here [in Utah], it is [known] all around the soccer-loving world, from its headquarters in London to its mining operations on every inhabited continent," gushes Mike Gorrell in the Salt Lake Tribune .

"For Rio Tinto," he continues, warming to the theme (or is he just quoting an official press release?), "having its name on the stadium will enhance the company's ongoing efforts to establish its name more vividly in the public consciousness, following up on its sponsorship of the new Utah Museum of Natural History, which will be known as the Rio Tinto Center." Hurrah! What does the company's history of aggressively attempting to de-unionize its workforce and vandalizing the planet matter when we're looking steadfastly ahead to the future of something as important as Major League Soccer!

Meanwhile, James Edward in the Deseret Morning News reported, "Real Salt Lake hit a literal gold mine on Monday." And after quoting RSL owner Dave Checketts' excitement "about having such an important relationship with a fantastic company, one with visionary leadership, strong local ties and most importantly a commitment to the community," why bother with a counter-quote? Far better to add how Andrew Harding, president and CEO at Rio Tinto's local subsidiary Kennecott Utah Copper, said "a partnership with RSL is a terrific opportunity for Rio Tinto to educate Utahns about not just mining, but responsible mining and commitment to the community."

Presumably a lack of editorial space prevented either paper from quoting the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, which earlier this month divested Rio Tinto from its government pension fund "due to a risk of contributing to severe environmental damage. There are no indications to the effect that the company's practises will be changed in future, or that measures will be taken to significantly reduce the damage to nature and the environment.

"Exclusion of a company from the Fund reflects our unwillingness to run an unacceptable risk of contributing to grossly unethical conduct," the statement goes on. "The Council on Ethics has concluded that Rio Tinto is directly involved, through its participation in the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, in the severe environmental damage caused by that mining operation."

It's entirely understandable when such a dry statement is drowned out by the sound of champagne corks popping, and the cheers from team officials, fans and journalists too. Onwards soccer nation!

 

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