MAC/20: Mines and Communities

BHP Billiton faces shareholder concern

Published by MAC on 2005-11-30


BHP Billiton faces shareholder concern

By MPI Sydney

30th November 2005

BHP Billiton faces shareholder concern over irresponsible conduct across four continents

Mineral Policy Centre (Australia) Media Release: 25 November 2005

BHP Billiton will face a barrage of concerned shareholders when it holds its meeting in Perth today.

The Mineral Policy Institute joins with other concerned shareholders of the company to query whether the company’s corporate responsibility rhetoric will ever translate into reality.

BHP Billiton will come under fire for their questionable environmental and social conduct across four continents including:

**PHILIPPINES: Their involvement in allegedly unlawful exploration for nickel in Pujada Bay in the Philippines. Earlier this week, BHPB Chairman Don Argus was sent a petition of over 800 signatures of residents in opposition to the mining who are demanding BHPB pull out of the operations. The petition was in response to claims Argus made at the London AGM last month that there was widespread community support for the Pujada Bay mining projects. Exploration licences for the activities supported by BHPB overlap with protected areas and endangered species habitiat in violation of requirements in the Philippines Mining Act, and have been opposed by two out of three local level governments in the region.

** COLOMBIA: Failure to address the cases of long suffering communities who were forcibly evicted for the expansion of the El Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia. Dialogue has not progressed since before the last AGM and dispossessed families who have lost their homes, lands and livelihood are currently scattered all over Northern Columbia living with family and friends as they await compensation and relocation as a result of forced and in case violent evictions that occurred 5 or more years ago.

**SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Unwilllingness to agree to a 1km safety zone from the rivers in its mining operations in the Southern Coalfields of NSW. After wrecking significant portions of the Cateract, Georges Rivers with previous mining activities, the company has submitted proposals to mine at distances of only 30m in some cases. Even BHPB’s own consultants say, in the subsidence management plan that was submitted on 18th of October this year that the river and 18 creeks at this site will probably be cracked. This river is a conduit for drinking water in Sydney (via Upper Canal) and Macarthur (via the nearby Macarthur Water Filtration Plant).

**INDONESIA: Recent reports that they are going to fight for the right to mine on Gag Island in Indonesia despite an Indonesian Constitutional court ruling that confirmed “the dangerousness and negative impacts of open cut mining in protected forest areas” and stated that those mines in exploration and feasibility stages must comply with the law banning open cut mining in protected areas.

**PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Their broken promises to shareholders in 2001 that they would ensure the Ok Tedi mine would be well managed after their exit. Now catastrophic predictions of acid rock drainage along the Ok Tedi and Fly River systems are likely to exacerbate near life threatening food and water shortages in downstream communities, and leave the river dead for between two hundred to three hundred years. A meeting of community representatives in November this year confirmed that, contrary to BHPB's claims, communities did not consent to the terms of BHPB’s exit from the mine.

**URANIUM, WORLDWIDE: Their entry into the uranium sector and the nuclear cycle which has seen ethical shareholders such as the Uniting Church sell their shares in the company, and includes current plans that drastically expand production and associated environmental impacts of the Roxby Downs uranium mine.

"If BHP Billiton is ever to live up to its claims of corporate responsiblity the company has to address the core issues at its mine sites across the globe. It has to take responsibilty for the mess it has dumped upon surrounding communities, and take meaningful steps to avoid creating further social and environmental harm. Lofty goals and weazel words are one thing, but the signals from their project sites tell the real story and it isn't very pretty," stated Techa Beaumont of the Mineral Policy Institute

Additional information on each of these issues is available at www.mpi.org.au

The audio of the questions is available on the BHP Billiton website

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