Visitors from three of the thirteen countries BHP Billiton operates in have come to London in search of accountability for the the company’s operations in their respective homes. These range from the fall-outs of the much-publicised Samarco dam disaster in Brazil, to the forced displacement of communities surrounding the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia and the contamination of vital rivers in the Borneo rainforests of Indonesia.
Below are demands from each of the communities who are in London to attend the BHP Billiton AGM. (Join the protest outside of the AGM at 9am on Thursday 20 October)
Following the 5 November 2015 deadly Fundão tailings dam breach in Minas Gerais which killed 19 people and decimated an entire river ecosystem, MAB (People Affected by Dams), a coalition of local communities impacted by Brazil’s thousands of dam projects, released the following demands of Samarco and parent companies BHP Billiton and Vale:
- No construction of S4 dam. Remove the mud from the river and present alternative locations for the construction of a new dike. The people of Bento Rodrigues own the village and will not give it up.
- Restructuring of the Renova Foundation to allow community participate in its decisions. The Renova Foundation is illegitimate, lacking the participation of those affected in their decision making processes. The foundation needs to be restructured so those who have been affected can help shape decisions, not simply offering tokenistic advice through the advisory board.
- Recognition of all families affected along the Rio Doce. All affected families must be granted emergency rights and participation in the compensation process. Currently, the company decides who is and who is not affected, while denying the indirect costs of the disaster. Many living slightly further from the breach were still affected, but have not received any compensation.
- Speed up the process of general repair. This is especially urgent in the construction of housing, provision of health service and support for the resumption of local production. This must still happen with the decision-making involvement of those affected.
For thirty years the Cerrejón coal mine has expanded in Colombia’s La Guajira region, displacing 15 communities, diverting local water supplies and causing health problems for local residents. Though Cerrejón is a major supplier of coal to UK power stations, it comes at great cost for Indigenous Wayúu and Afro-Colombian communities, who make the following demands of mine owners BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore:
- Stop the diversion of the Arroyo Bruno. Though Cerrejón has been granted permission to divert this major tributary of the Rancheria River, experts believe the diversions will lead to: increased water scarcity, greater drought vulnerability and impacts on local biodiversity.
- Provide adequate compensation and resettlement for families that have been forced off their lands. The company must provide adequate land for agriculture, adequate funding and advice for those who no longer wish to live by agriculture, and adequate funds for those whose attempts to make their livelihood in a new way have failed. Villages that have been displaced must also be resettled appropriately. The village of Tabaco was evicted 15 years ago and still has not been adequately rebuilt.
- Ensure access to water. Communities surrounding the mine must have access to water, that quality and quantity-wise, meets their basic needs. This must be guaranteed prior to the mine’s right to access local water supplies.
Though BHP Billiton is in the process of selling its 75% holding in the Indomet coal project, communities are adamant that the company not wash its hands of the damages already done during the lifetime of the project, particularly in light of the most recent tailings spill affecting the Barito River. The community demands the company:
- Stop all destruction of the Borneo Rainforest as a result of BHP operations in the area.
- Ensure full compensation for original land acquisition to local communities is realised and officially recognise the Dayak Murung indigenous peoples’ territories surrounding the Haju mine.
- Accept legal responsibility for the pollution in the Barito river due to waste leaks from the Indomet tailings storage.