SYDNEY — Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola were the first Australians to sign up to the “Giving Pledge,” a philanthropic scheme pioneered by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the very rich to donate more than half their accumulated wealth to worthy causes. Now the Forrests have fulfilled at least part of their commitment, pledging 400 million Australian dollars ($307 million), the largest charitable donation ever made by a living Australian.
The Forrests are among 169 of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families from 21 countries who have joined the Giving Pledge and undertaken to give away the majority of their assets, during their lifetimes or in their wills. Others include Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and the British entrepreneur Richard Branson.
Forrest founded the Australian mining company Fortescue Metals Group, the world’s fourth largest iron ore producer, and is estimated by Forbes magazine to have net worth of more than $4.3 billion, derived largely from iron ore mining. The Forrests also own thousands of square kilometers of pastoral holdings in Western Australia, a meat-processing plant and other interests.
As has been the case with many other munificent donors, Forrest’s generosity has been measured by critics against the hard-headed business practices he employed to build his fortune. According to The Australian newspaper, in an article published earlier this year, these included tough mining rights negotiations with indigenous landholders who had no legal representation.
Forrest refused requests from The Australian to discuss these issues. But he had previously highlighted the difficulties involved in negotiating mining agreements in areas where overlapping native title claims have been lodged by many groups and individuals.
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