MAC: Mines and Communities

Protests at BHP's Australian annual general meeting

Published by MAC on 2010-11-22
Source: ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald, PerthNow

Protests at BHP's annual general meeting

ABC News

16 November 2010

Green groups have turned out in force to protest at BHP Billiton's annual general meeting in Perth.

Dozens of protesters were moved on by police after they became vocal outside the meeting at the Convention Centre.

The Conservation Council of Western Australia has launched what it calls the alternative annual report, saying the company has failed to protect the environment in a number of key areas.

The Council's director Piers Verstegen says they are concerned about BHP's plans to mine uranium in WA.

"If BHP has confidence in their ability to manage the extremely dangerous industry that is uranium mining, then they'd have no hesitation in subjecting this industry to a full, open and transparent public inquiry," he said.

"So, we're concerned that BHP have acted behind the scenes to block this inquiry."

Mr Verstegen says there is concern about the company's safety plans.

"What we are particularly concerned about in Western Australia is BHP's pursuit of the Yeelirrie uranium mining proposal," he said.

"There's a range of serious issues relating to this proposal, including the transport of radioactive material through communities."

Meanwhile, the BHP Billiton chairman has defended the company's decisions to pursue the now failed bids for Canadian company PotashCorp and the Rio Tinto Pilbara iron ore merger.

Jacques Nasser told shareholders at the AGM that the company withdrew its $40 billion takeover bid for Potash because it no longer delivered shareholder value.

The deal cost BHP $350 million in transaction costs.

Mr Nasser says the Potash deal and the Rio Tinto joint venture would have added considerable value for shareholders if they went ahead.

He says the company will continue to invest in Canada's potash basin.

Protesters voice BHP uranium concerns

By Lloyd Jones

Sydney Morning Herald

16 November 2010

AAP - Protesters outside BHP Billiton's annual general meeting in Perth have slammed the resource giant's uranium mining plans in Australia.

Conservation groups, unions and Aboriginal traditional owner groups voiced their environmental concerns at the Perth Convention and Exhibition centre on Tuesday.

They raised particular concerns about BHP proposed uranium mine at Yeelirrie in Western Australia's Goldfields region.

Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen said BHP had been acting behind the scenes to prevent a public inquiry from going ahead into uranium mining in WA.

He said serious issues related to the Yeelirrie proposal ranged from health impact and local communities through to the issue of whether WA uranium would find its way into weapons programs in other countries like Russia and China.

"These issues have been swept under the table by both BHP and the state government," Mr Verstegen said.

"This is an extremely damaging and dangerous industry and there's no such thing as a safe uranium mine anywhere in the world and we know that BHP will not be able to operate a safe uranium mine here."

Mr Verstegen said BHP's attempt to prevent a transparent public inquiry showed it did not have confidence in its ability to manage the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner David Noonan said BHP would also face questions at its AGM on Tuesday about its plans for an open pit mine at Roxby Downs in South Australia.

He said the mine would leak three million litres of liquid radio active waste a day until 2050.

"This practice is unacceptable in Australia in this day and age. We need an Australian Erin Brockovich to expose what's going on here," Mr Noonan said.

Kado Muir, a traditional owner from the Yeelirrie area, told reporters his people wanted the WA government to hold a public inquiry into the opening of uranium mines in the state, following 40 years of a virtual ban.

"We want to know what this landscape will be like at the end of this mine," Mr Muir said.

"We want to ensure we can use the land for the next 40,000 years that we will be living here.

"We don't want to be left with a toxic, radioactive outback.

"As far as traditional owners are concerned they do not want to have uranium mines in there backyards."

Unions WA spokeswoman Linda Morich said her union opposed uranium mining in the state because of safety concerns for workers and nearby communities.

"There's no safe dose of radiation, there's no safe uranium mines," she said.

To coincide with the AGM in Perth, smaller protest rallies where held outside BHP Billiton officers around Australia on Tuesday.

Anger at BHP's Yeelirrie uranium project

By Russell Quinn & Rebecca Lawson, Business Reporters


16 November 2010

BHP Billiton has met with opposition from traditional owners over the development of the proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine at its annual general meeting in Perth today.

About 60 people armed with posters, banners and a live band protested the mining giant's proposed uranium project outside of the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Conservation Council of WA, UnionsWA and Indigenous representatives reiterated community opposition to BHP's Australian uranium mining plans amid highlighting BHP's failure to meet its own human and environmental standards overseas.

Traditional owner Kado Muir told PerthNow that many questions still needed to be answered.

"We want to know what the landscape will be like at the end of the Yeelirrie mine," Muir said.

"We don't want to be left with a toxic, radioactive outback."

Traditional owners emphasised that they don't want uranium mining in their backyard.

Specifically, protestors suggested that if Yeelirrie goes ahead and the mine is developed there will be concerns of uranium mines popping up from Mulga Rocks to Kununurra.

"And that's an option traditional owners are not prepared to have," Muir said.

Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen remains concerned about BHP's failure to put its own sustainability and corporate responsibility policies into practice in pursuing the proposed Yeelirie uranium mining project after calling for a full open and transparent public inquiry into the project.

"BHP has worked behind the scenes to prevent this inquiry from going ahead, indicating that the company knows they have something to hide. This contravenes BHP's own policy on transparency, and we are seeking clarity on this at today's AGM," Mr Verstegen said.

"There is no such thing as a safe uranium mine, and the range of serious international environmental and social breaches outlined in the BHP Alternative Annual Report further compound our concerns about the Yeelirrie proposal here in WA.

"Serious concerns surrounding this proposal include health impacts on local communities, radioactive waste management, transport of uranium ore through communities and the serious risk that WA uranium will contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation."

UnionsWA Secretary Simone McGurk said the union opposes uranium mining in Western Australia due to concerns for the safety of workers involved in the industry and nearby communities.

"The WA mining industry, and BHP in particular, has a poor worker safety record and uranium mining poses even greater health risks as uranium mine workers are exposed to radiation from the ore itself and from the inhalation of radon gas," she said.

The Conservation Council of WA has contributed to the international BHP Billiton Alternative Annual Report which calls on BHP to put their human rights and environmental policies into practice, and withdraw from uranium mining and other dirty energy resources.

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