Australian billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest has pledged 70 million Australian dollars ($48.1 million) in aid for the country’s bushfire crisis, joining a growing list of celebrities chipping in to fight the fires.
Forrest is the founder of Fortescue Metals Group, one of the world’s largest iron ore producers, and Minara Resources — one of Australia’s biggest nickel mining companies. The huge donation will come from the Minderoo Foundation, a philanthropic organization he founded with his wife, Nicola Forrest.
A total of 10 million Australian dollars ($6.9 million) will go toward specialist volunteers from Forrest’s home state, Western Australia. Another 10 million Australian dollars will be allocated to immediate relief funding, while the remaining 50 million Australian dollars ($34.3 million) will be set aside to develop a “long-term blueprint for fire resilience,” according to a statement from the foundation.
“At Minderoo Foundation, we want to provide immediate relief because, like so many other West Australians, we mourn the hardships of our fellow countrymen and women,” Forrest said in the statement. “We recognize that we don’t have all the answers, but we want to understand what communities need and do our bit to help them now and as they regroup in the coming months.”
The bushfires have been burning for months now and have devastated large swathes of the country. A total of 27 people have died nationwide since this year’s fire season began, and more than 2,600 homes have been destroyed or damaged in the state of New South Wales (NSW) alone.
About half a billion animals have been impacted by fire in NSW, and the number could be as high as a billion nationwide, according to University of Sydney ecologists.
Many have pointed to climate change as a factor exacerbating the fires, and have heavily criticized Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his climate policy and support for coal mines. “(Coal) is a national addiction,” climate scientist Tim Flannery told CNN earlier this week. “It’s a tragic situation where self-interest is seeing such great damage inflicted upon the people and the nature of our country.”
Celebrity donations pour in
Forrest joins a growing list of celebrities and sports stars worldwide raising awareness about the crisis and donating toward the fire response.
This week, Elton John announced he was donating $1 million to the fire relief fund. Australians Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban pledged $500,000 to rural fire services. Singers Kylie Minogue and Pink also said they planned to donate $500,000 to firefighting efforts.
Actors Chris Hemsworth and Hugh Jackman, “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness, and comedian Nick Kroll have said on social media they were supporting Australian organizations or donating money to help firefighters.
Australian comedian Celeste Barber raised more than $26 million in under a week for fire brigades.
Several prominent athletes are also chipping in. Tennis star Maria Sharapova has pledged $17,400 to bushfire relief, a donation which has been matched by Novak Djokovic. Top tennis players, including Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have agreed to play in an exhibition match to raise funds for fire relief.
Basketball player LaMelo Ball, a younger brother of NBA guard Lonzo Ball, is donating one month of his salary to fire victims. Nine Australian NBA players have also agreed to contribute $750,000 toward recovery efforts.
An estimated 100 million Australian dollars ($68.7 million) has been raised for the cause, CNN affiliate Nine News reported on Wednesday, before Forrest’s donation was announced.