In 1860 a Dutch company secured “rights” to mine tin from two of the largest deposits of their kind, on the Indonesian tropical islands of Bangka and Belitung. That company – Billiton – didn’t withdraw from the islands until 1958, by which time it was exploiting some of Indonesia’s most profitable bauxite reserves. Finally, nine years ago, Billiton’s assets were bought by BHP of Australia, soon making BHP Billiton the biggest mining conglomerate on earth.
The legacy of destruction on the tin islands is one of the worst to be found anywhere in South East Asia.
However, mining is still continuing. In January 2011, Indonesia’s vice-president and the country’s forestry minister finally¬† promised to launch an “action plan”, aimed at “slowing down the environmental destruction at the same time as providing livelihoods for residents”. Though whether this will end up as another “inaction” plan remains to be seen.
BHP Billiton’s current major play in Indonesia is focussed on opening up a large coal deposit on the island of Kalimantan.
As yet, no-one seems to be demanding the company first compensate for enormously profiting from the exploitation of Bangka and Belitung over almost one hundred years.
[Comment by Nostromo Research, 29 January 2011].