MAC: Mines and Communities

BHP Billiton accused of restricting access to documents

Published by MAC on 2010-10-10
Source: Mail & Guardian

BHP Billiton accused of restricting access to documents

Mail & Guardian (South Africa)

25 September 2010

MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE - BHP Billiton was guilty of double standards by complicating public access to documents about a planned filter shutdown at its Mozambican aluminium smelter, an activist said on Friday.

"I don't understand how a corporate like BHP can do one thing in South Africa and across the border it does something completely different," said environmental activist Sandy Camminga.

Camminga works on air pollution in Richards Bay, where BHP Billiton and other industries also operate.

"There seem to be nothing forthright about this situation."

BHP's Mozal aluminium smelter outside the Mozambican capital Maputo will emit poisonous gases such as sulphur dioxide for six months, starting in November.

The gases would be emitted during a "bypass" while repairs were done to the plant's two fume towers, the company said earlier.

If the documents were not made available to organisations, they could not be peer-reviewed to check that the bypass would be above board, said Camminga.

"Absence of proof is not proof of absence," she said.

With its South African plants, BHP Billiton made public documents -- such as environmental impact assessments -- to interested groups, said Camminga.

"Why is it they're trying so hard to make it difficult?" she asked about the documents in Mozambique.

Following pressure from civil society organisations, BHP on Thursday announced the documents had been made available at the Mozambican Department of Environmental Affairs (Micoa), three months after a bypass permit had been granted.

Environmental organisation Justica Ambiental (JA!) protested against this, since Micoa does not allow documents to be copied.

"Micoa does not allow you to take away anything," said JA! spokesperson Vanessa Cabanelas. - Sapa

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