Rio Tinto’s Ryan Camp in Death Valley

Ryan Camp is a historic property and largely intact mining camp adjacent to Death Valley founded by Pacific Coast Borax in 1915.  The mining camp was opened to the public in the 1920’s but has been kept under wraps by mining Megalopoly Rio Tinto since being closed to the public subsequent to a tort lawsuit in the 1950’s.

The Camp dates from 1892 and the Death Valley View Hotel is still fully intact there, as are other historic structures, for example Saint Michael’s church from Rhyolite, Nevada which was moved to Ryan in 1910. A “baby gauge” railroad ran out to the mines with one original locomotive and many tracks, cars, and trestles still present.


Rio Tinto donated the property to the “Death Valley Conservancy” a public charity created in 2008 by the CEO of Rio Tinto Minerals at the time, Preston Chiaro, along with an endowment of approximately $18 million.  (1) Rio Tinto Donates Ryan Mining Camp to Rio Tinto Minerals (RTM) CEO’s Charity   (The Death Valley Conservancy is comprised of just four individuals)  (3) Borax Minerals CEO Publicly Announces Rio Donation to his Public Charity

Rio Tinto considered Ryan Camp to be a “non-performing asset” and wanted to unload the property for a number of reasons, an $84M USD Corporate tax write-off (including mineral rights) not least of which, according to internal and external sources.   (2) Rio Tinto’s Ryan Camp Tax Write off

Essentially, Rio Tinto – in collusion with their CEO – created the Death Valley Conservancy “public charity” to benefit by an $84 million tax write-off, then invested Rio’s $18Mn USD for the DVC endowment back into Rio shares when Preston Chiaro still worked for Rio Tinto.

The foregoing has never been disputed by the DVC or by Rio Tinto, despite numerous appeals for comment.

Rio Tinto had been working with the National Park Service on the donation of Ryan Camp to the Death Valley National Park, and the park service  had prepared documents on their plans for recovery and interpretation of this historic mining camp. (4) National Park Service’s Ryan Proposal

As part of DPA2 Senate Bill S.138 Rio Tinto planned to donate historic Ryan Camp to the National Park Service as late as 2009. That is, until Preston Chiaro convinced Gary Goldberg to approach Rio Tinto’s Tom Albanese – now under indictment by the US Securities & Exchange Commission for fraud – to hand over the property to the “public charity” Chiaro created.. along with an $18 million USD endowment from Rio Tinto. (5) Rio Tinto Donates Ryan Camp to CEO’s Charity

Rio’s US federal tax write-off included $60M USD for the mineral rights to the property, making a total federal tax write-off of $84 million for the Corporation, at a time when Rio needed any break it could get.

NB: SEE NOTE 1 (below)

The endowment from Rio Tinto to their ‘public charity’ is a particular type of investment vehicle with return on investment, used to fund CEO Chiaro’s effort going forward.  Usually this type of Corporate endowment funds a private foundation – not a public charity.  Private Foundation vs Public Charity

Rio Tinto won’t divulge how the DVC endowment funds for the DVC have been invested, only that “the RTM endowment gift was placed into interest bearing accounts* controlled and managed by the DVC with assistance from outside financial and legal experts.” 

So much for transparency where Rio Tinto is concerned…  especially with its former top CEO under scrutiny in the ongoing investigation into the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, Africa as well as the SEC prosecution of Tom Albanese who endorsed the Ryan Camp deal at the behest of Chiaro.

Meanwhile the RTM charade involving the potential donation of Ryan Camp to the NPS continued apace until July 23, 2009, when the true decision – so far hidden – was publicly announced.

The decision to strip Ryan Camp from the NPS was made just subsequent to the darkest days of the US financial collapse, subsequent to Rio’s share price collapse in March of 2009; the decision itself was announced to the NPS on July 23rd of 2009. In other words, powerful interests removed the language from Senate Bill S.138 that would have handed Ryan Camp back to the people of the United States, whose labor and custom made Ryan Camp the historic property that it is.

I’ve often wondered why Rio Tinto  – in cooperation with the charity created by its former CEO – pulled the Ryan Camp donation from the NPS. Why would Rio Tinto and Chiaro – apparently a very private individual – want public exposure in a prima facie conflict of interest?  The following is my theory, which is pure speculation or an educated guess… your call.

By July of 2009 the financial sector’s prospects were bleak. Following the Lehman and IndyMAC failures, the Fed’s private dealer banks were teetering on the verge of collapse. Recall the darkest days in 2008-2009 when the banking system locked up solid and Henry Paulson appeared on our TV sets demanding $700 Billion from the public for TARP-1 bail-outs… +or else+ . The 2008-2009 collapse resulted in the “Great Recession” of today and few had any idea back then that the operators of the monetary system would simply attempt to re-inflate the rotten bubble that had burst. Here is the Rio Tinto stock chart including that collapse:

(5) Rio Tinto Ten Year Chart

In June of 2008 RIO peaked at $120 per share, yet by January 2009 RIO was just $21 per share. Rhetorically speaking, such a share price collapse might cause any top executive to question the stability of the Corporate entity, and perhaps the monetary system itself.

In such a collapse, a top Corporate Insider may consider his own position to be endangered financially, with risk of potential bankruptcy… not just Corporate bankruptcy, but personal bankruptcy too.

Then imagine circumstances where that senior decision-maker has an opportunity to bequeath a valuable property and large financial sum to his / her very own nonprofit… Yes, the perfect solution to the perfect financial storm: a nonprofit tax-exempt essentially private entity that can tout for public funds as well.

Now that senior Executive, in the face of potential financial ruin and a banking system collapse, will have a new nonprofit and large endowment providing a day job for life – regardless of what happens in the markets, should his or her old job go away. Now the self-appointed Mayor of the self-appointed town, complete with hotel, servants, and a restaurant (and including a large corporate sum to boot) can live like a king while the rest of the population lives on spam.

Of course we are not saying that anything improper has occurred in this specific case, 501cx’s of all sorts are used at all levels for similar purposes. The foregoing is simply speculation about motivation, and in the end the world did not end in 2009. The private banks survived disaster via public money bail outs… but only just.

And in the case of the Ryan quadrangle, this story just gets weirder. We know that Boron, California, sits on the world’s largest borate deposit, but Boron has a couple of problems. First, deposits always play out. Sooner of later. And we know that monolithic conglomerates like Rio Tinto operate on a very, very long timeline indeed.

But worse than playing out, Boron is plagued by a problematic and cantankerous union headed by curmudgeonly types whom mistrust potential friends as much or more as they mistrust their very real Corporate enemies. That’s a problem. And the union is negotiating their contract with Rio again in 2014, another potential for confrontation, like the confrontation of 2010:

(6) Local 30 Boron Union Strike in 2010

Here’s what we know. According to reliable accounts, Rio Tinto’s former Director of Technology and Innovation and now President of the Death Valley Conservancy, indicated that the Ryan area will be mined for Borates again when Boron plays out; or, perhaps if the curmudgeonly types at Boron get a little too curmudgeonly as they almost did in 2010. Novus Confidential learned of this plan via a valued source, and Novus Confidential invites Rio Tinto to correct the record formally, should Rio Tinto so desire… so far they have not, despite this author’s request.

But to prove the point, Novus Confidential has obtained documents from the federal government by FOIA request, and one large RTM claim adjacent to Ryan — called the White Monster Mine — contains between $6-12 billion USD in borates according to Rio Tinto — and that’s a lot, especially for a company laying off staff and reducing operations at an alarming rate. (7) Rio Tinto’s $12 Billion Mine Inside Death Valley National Park

Here’s what else we know. We know that Rio Tinto maintains in excess of two hundred active mining claims in the vicinity of Ryan Camp, most of which are adjacent to Death Valley National Park, although a few are inside the park; all of these mining claims were just renewed again in July of 2013, as they are renewed every year to present. (8) Rio Tinto’s Claims Around Ryan Camp Rio Tinto has purchased new claims in the Old Ryan area, via the ebay auction site as well. Well… imagine that! And, Rio Tinto  claims to own over 100,000 acres within Death Valley National Park itself. **

As our FOIA documents show,  Rio Tinto’s nonprofit hopes to take more land around Ryan and privatize it, so that the public will no longer have access. (9) DVC Hopes to Receive BLM Land

10. DVC Treasurer Writes About Plans for BLM Land

Meanwhile Rio’s “public charity” has applied to increase their private water capacity up at Ryan by 350% taking more public water from public lands, to suit Rio’s hitherto still unknown private interests. What are those interests around Ryan? Rio Tinto Minerals will  not say. DVC Expands Access to Navel Springs Water

According to FOIA documents, although the CEO / Rio Tinto did not trust the National Park Service to receive Ryan Camp — in Chiaro’s opinion any funds donated to the National Park Service for Ryan may as well disappear into a black hole — ironically, the DVC had no compunction on becoming a National Park Service “Park Partner”.  The DVC also uses public labor in the form of AmeriCorps and yet the DVC releases very little information to the public, besides an arcane website and Facebook, and has largely been promoted only on web pages maintained by Rio Tinto Minerals itself.

In January of 2017 Rio Tinto Minerals further promoted itself via the DVC, spending in excess of $400K (estimated) on a mule team and wagons operated by Rio Tinto’s public charity in the Rose Parade. The issue of a private corporation – Rio Tinto – funding its own public tax exempt charity  thus subsidized by the public – to promote itself, is an issue to be pursued with vigor..  and to finally discover the truth about what Rio Tinto’s intentions around Ryan truly are..

The Death Valley Conservancy “public charity” –  which substantially consists of its President (and former CEO of RTM) and Golas (***) – has received one very historic property with the blessing of Rio Tinto Minerals.  And the DVC has decided on the people’s behalf how our history and heritage will be treated; accepting public subsidy, public labor (in the form of Americorps) and federal and state tax write-offs.

The former CEO of Rio Tinto created that public charity in collusion with Gary Goldberg and Tom Albanese to receive that historic Rio Tinto property, along with $24M USD in assets and an $18M gift from Rio Tinto (invested in RIO securities!) while Rio Tinto received an $84M USD corporate tax break. And now Rio Tinto promotes itself via the Death Valley Conservancy – which touts for public funds/public labor to boot – thus concerned citizens have a right to question  and seek answers.

That Rio Tinto Minerals can fund and operate its own “public charity” to promote itself at the Rose Bowl parade and elsewhere while its charity accepts public donations and public subsidy via tax write-offs at the same time — for essentially private use — is an issue which should be of major concern to everyone.

* Use of the words “interest bearing accounts” by Rio Tinto is strange, because it is highly unlikely that the funds from Rio Tinto are invested in any sort of money market account. It is highly likely that the funds are invested in some sort of mutual fund or funds, based upon tax information about a $100K investment fee paid.

** email from John Brown of Rio Tinto 02-24-2017

*** The DVC 501c3 consists of only four individuals; besides Chiaro as President and Golas as Treasurer, their pro bono attorney, and one former Ryan caretaker.


NB; Figures above from 2013 – 2014 – 2015 IRS 990 Reports re Death Valley Conservancy

Note 1:  According to verified sources Chiaro made the case to deny the donation of Ryan Camp to the NPS while making the case to deliver the property to his own DVC via Rio Tinto’s Gary Goldberg, and thence on to Tom Albanese.  (Albanese was asked to resign as Rio Tinto Bigwig in 2013 just prior to the finalization of the donation of the camp to Chiaro/Golas.) While Chiaro states that only Albanese had the authority to make the final Rio decision on Ryan, to this reporter’s knowledge Chiaro has never specifically stated that Albanese made that decision. Meanwhile Chiaro claims that he had nothing to do with the Rio Tinto decision to end Ryan negotiations with the DEVA and thus hand over the camp to himself and his underling (DVC) …while admitting that he made the very same case to Rio’s top brass… !!  *We do agree that US Borax is a virtual PR shell company and all decisions of any consequence come from London/Melbourne and Corporate HO only.

We know too that RTM CEO Chiaro made and/or influenced the decision to donate Rio Tinto’s property to his public charity, because someone at the charity created the Ryan Camp web domain on March 9th, 2008: 

Creation Date: 2008-03-09T22:00:28Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2018-03-09T22:00:28Z
Registrant Name: Death Valley Conservancy

… a domain touting the donation of Ryan Camp to the charity by Rio Tinto. Thus, there never was any intention to deliver the camp to any other entity than the CEO’s very own “public charity” — along with  a “gift” of $18 million dollars in Corporate cash; with a tax write off to the tune of $84M USD for Rio Tinto  to boot.  Meanwhile “Public support” for this “public charity” has declined precipitously year-by-year..


“Handover of the key”. From left to right, Dr. Bill Adams, Rio Tinto, Henry Golas, VP of the Death Valley Conservancy, Scott Smith, Superintendent of Ryan Camp, and Preston Chiaro, President of the Death Valley Conservancy. (PRNewsWire)  Fair Use *factual, educational, public interest, informational and/or historical purposes, Terms Of Use – PR Newswire

3 thoughts on “Rio Tinto’s Ryan Camp in Death Valley

  1. Polly

    Interesting! I would say this is illegal, but money talks, not what is legal or not or right either. Rich fucks playing their games.

  2. Pingback: Rio Tinto’s Death Valley Future | Novus Confidential

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s