MAC: Mines and Communities

Community critics blast world's biggest miner

Published by MAC on 2004-10-22

Community critics blast world's biggest miner

The "caring, sharing" BHPBilliton has recently come under vigorous community attack on several fronts: in Australia, Colombia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Nepean River mine plan sparks protest

October 22, 2004

The Age/ the Sydney Morning Herald

BHP Billiton's intention to conduct environmentally risky mining underneath the Nepean River sparked a protest outside the global resources company's annual general meeting.

The Nepean River Action Group laid river sand and dead fish outside the Darling Harbour Convention Centre to draw shareholders' attention to the dangers posed by the planned long wall coal mining along a 2-3 kilometre stretch of the river between Menangle and Douglas Park.

Previous long wall coal mining under the Cataract, Bargo and Georges Rivers had devastating long-terms effects on the surrounding environment, group spokesperson Maurice Blackwood said.

Long wall coal mining on the Cataract River caused subsidence of the river bed of up to 1.6 metres, creating large cracks through which vast volumes of water were lost.

"As a result up to 4.5 million litres of Sydney drinking water is released per day to compensate for the loss of river flow," Mr Blackwood said.

On the Nepean River, the cracks would also cause the release of millions of litres of methane and hydrogen sulphide gas trapped in a sandstone seam running along the river bed.

"That gas will be released into the river, depleting the oxygen in the water, killing the fish as well as the vegetation on the river banks," Mr Blackwood said.

BHP Billiton's Chief Executive Officer, Chip Goodyear, reassured the protesters that no work on the project would commence until an in-depth community consultation had taken place.

"One of the critical issues is consultation with the community, it's going to be a long and significant process," Mr Goodyear said.

"There will be a complete review at the local, governmental and company levels," he said.

"Mistakes have been made in the past, but certainly changes have been made since then," he added.

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