Ian Plimer's Mining Connections

Since the publication in May of his book, Heaven and Earth: Global Warming - The Missing Science, Ian Plimer has been the darling of conservative media commentators and the global network of climate change skeptics. Plimer, an Australian geologist, has been strongly criticized by climate scientists for errors in his book. More recently, he has been in the news over his challenge to British journalist, George Monbiot, for a debate over climate science. Monbiot agreed, subject to Plimer answering some questions in writing ahead of a debate, but Plimer retreated.

While a few news stories have made a passing mention that Plimer is a director of several mining companies, none have looked with any detail at which companies he is involved with, and how substantial his interest is. Recently, a volunteer editor on SourceWatch (hat-tip to Scribe), did some digging into Plimer's directorships with three mining companies, Ivanhoe Australia, CBH Resources and Kefi Minerals.

Annual reports for the three companies reveal that:

  • CBH Resources paid Plimer $A125,000 in 2009 and $181,003 in 2008. As of June 2009, Plimer also had options on 3,569,633 CBH Resources shares. At the early November 2009 share price of .10, Plimer's options would be worth approximately $A356,963. However, CBH's annual report does not list details of what price, if any, the options would be available at, or the time limit under which they would have to be exercised.
  • As part of his employment agreement with Ivanhoe Australia, Plimer can forgo annual directors fees of $65,000 in return for a total of 100,000 share options "for nil consideration." The options are available in four installments, on September 1 each year from 2008 through to 2011, subject to Plimer continuing in employment with the company.

Ivanhoe Australia, which has an interest in uranium exploration, stated in its 2008 prospectus (pdf) that "one of the arguments for nuclear energy is its substantially reduced level of carbon emissions." Hyping nuclear power as a "solution" to global warming is standard fare for uranium mining companies, but one wonders if it makes Plimer a little uncomfortable. After all, he claims that in his book he tested the hypothesis "that increased atmospheric CO2 creates global warming" and found it to "be invalid on all time scales and by a diversity of methods."

  • Plimer is also non-executive Director and Deputy Chairman of Kefi Minerals, a U.K.-headquartered mineral exploration company with gold and copper exploration projects in Turkey and, via a joint venture, gold projects in Saudia Arabia. According to the company's 2009 annual report, Plimer has 250,000 shares in Kefi which, at the early November 2009 value of 2.25 British pence, would be worth over $A10,106. Plimer also has options on 2 million more shares which can be exercised at 3 pence prior to December 12, 2012. Kefi Minerals' 2009 annual report does not disclose what directors fees, if any, Plimer is paid.

All together, Plimer earns a very tidy sum as a director of the three mining companies.

Plimer has argued that the introduction of a cap-and-trade system in Australia could have a major impact on the mining industry, and even "probably destroy it totally."

He has also argued that his mining directorships don't affect his views on climate science. But it would still be better if media outlets covering his opinions at least disclosed the magnitude of his interests in the industry.


At the time of this comment, Ivanhoe Australia shares are trading at $A3.76, so Plimer can opt not to take his $65k in director's fees, and instead take over $350k worth of shares per annum.

Mr Plimer listed a hobby in his bio until recently. I think he removed it when he became infamous....err famous! The hobby was an ore-body in Broken Hill - a lead and silver mine. Hmmmmmm........perhaps it was the lead ingestion that induced him to write Heaven and Mirth?

Ivanhoe mines, do a fair amount of coal mining as a quick search coal site:ivanhoemines.com shows On 11/20/2009, I found 156 results from ivanhoemines.com for coal, I have previously searched Kefi and CBH, without finding reference to coal. Example: '...The Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine is approximately 45 kilometres north of the Mongolia--China border. The mine is operating 24 hours a day, with four production crews. During Q3'08, SouthGobi commenced initial sales of coal from the Ovoot Tolgoi mine to customers in China. Three coal products have been established for export from the Ovoot Tolgoi mine -- thermal coal, premium thermal coal and metallurgical coal. Coal trucks were loaded at the Ovoot Tolgoi mine site and crossed the border into China on September 22, 2008. This coal shipment is part of a one-year contract, with 300,000 tonnes to be loaded at the Ovoot Tolgoi mine gate in 2008. A second sales contract also is in place for an additional 400,000 tonnes in 2008....' http://www.ivanhoemines.com/s/NariinSukhait.asp

You would do better to attempt to disprove what he has to say on the subject instead of presenting an ad hominen argument.

The Australian public did not need to disprove Mr Plimer's misinformation. Just about every eminent Australian scientist, with credentials in climate change, did it for them and they were probably the worst scientific reviews for any author I've seen. Furthermore, Tony Jones on Lateline exposed Plimer's "bait and switch" technique which really did it for me. Plimer feigned to be speaking about global warming when in fact he'd switched to the US, which was not the topic Jones had initiated nor was it relevant. The hapless Plimer eventually asked Mr Jones: "Will you respect me in the morning?" Yep.......I think it's the lead!

The point that Plimer has directorships, is very pertinent to assessing his output. Particularly if the public are likely to take his words, as coming from a scientist speaking using the perspectives, traditions and conventions of scientists and academics Rather than as a company director/shareholder speaking using the perspectives, traditions and conventions, that company directors and shareholders usually use. Judges too get caught in conflicts of interest. If a judge has shares - and is called to presides over a trial of that company - we dont think it acceptable, the judge can say he's pretty sure the shares didnt affect his judgement. Even for something as trivial as a parking fine - we'd consider that unacceptable. Yet that is precisely the excuse put forward here -Plimer believes the shares havent altered his judgement. * * * * * * * * * * Australian law presumably puts a legal duty on company directors, to make money for their shareholders - full stop. Whatever Plimer does, he is bound by that duty. On the other hand, a professional position as professor/academic , also imposes certain duties - e.g a disinterested search for truth, communicating this to the public, so they understand what is goiong on in the real world. These duties have the force perhaps of terms of employment - or university statutes - those only. Suppose certain scientific evidence is consistent with a certain theory on weather - in short, that theory is likely correct. Suppose also, if the theory if correct, that will lower Plimer's company's profitablity - directly - or indirectly via unfavourable legislation. what should Plimer do? On the one hand, duties as director, require him to keep share price and profits high. For those ends, the less attention paid to the science, the better. On the other, his responsibilities/ duties as professor at a public university, rrequire him to seek the truth about what is actually going on, in the real world ,and to communicate it fully and accurately to students and public. The conflict is presuambly resolved in favour of the duties of director,. These have force of law (I think criminal law). The other duties have lesser force; civil law (terms of employment) or mere university regulations. No problems there, as long as one understand, that someone is speaking in the role of director - not role of scientist. Except Plimer's book doesn't always make this clear - and that in itself, is a valid reason for raising it here. In short, what Plimer is saying presumably in the role of a director, by way of talking up company prospects and share price - runs the risk people will take it as from him in role of scientist. Plimer perhaps does not intend such confusion - but the book is not open about this conflict of interest, and about disclosing the conflict . The biography makes much of Plimer's academic appointments- this only adds o the confusion of his readers. In addition Plimer mentions more often his academic appointments, than his commercial ones - even though it is largely the latter, that determine what he says in public.

"Self-appointed moralists cloud meeting's agenda" by Ian Plimer http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/selfappointed-moralists-cloud-meetings-agenda-20091211-kokk.html

Plimer did not retreat from the debate with Monbiot. Plimer challenged Monbiot to a debate to which Monbiot realized he was no match. The 'conditions' (questions) which Monbiot came up with were a ploy to scuttle the debate. Who has ever heard of putting conditions on a debate? You get up and debate if you back yourself or you try and wriggle out of it if you don't (without lossing face). I suggest you read: http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2009/11/why-monbiot-ran This is just 1 site which explains the full story.

Tony Jones said last night the 14/12 the debate will be on at 10.15 on the 15/12 with Monbiot & Plimer.