Protesters from the Occupy LSX demonstration marched from St Paul’s cathedral to join anti-nuclear campaigners, supporters of London Mining Network member group Colombia Solidarity Campaign and others outside yesterday’s BHP Billiton AGM. See short video at http://vimeo.com/31028821 and report at http://london.indymedia.org/articles/10589.
Inside the AGM, Julio Gomez from Colombia confronted the company over its activities in Colombia. Julio is President of the Federation of Communities Affected and Displaced by Mining Exploitation in La Guajira (FECODEMIGUA).
This Federation was constituted because of the disappearance of communities, the loss of lands and the violations of people’s rights over the last thirty years by the Cerrejon mine, one-third owned by BHP Billiton.
“The benefits obtained in this part of the world from coal mining in La Guajira, such as electrical power and shareholders’ dividends, are stained with blood. This is because of
· the displacement and uprooting of communities neighbouring the Cerrejon mine;
· the humiliations, threats, and persecution suffered by leaders of these communities;
· the destruction and pollution of nature;
· and the exploitation of mine workers.
Many of you may be aware of the forced eviction of the community of Tabaco ten years ago, of the situation of other communities and that of the workers. What you are probably not aware of is that many other communities were destroyed completely before BHP Billiton bought into the mine – among them indigenous and Afro-descendant communities including Manantial, Palmarito, El Descanso, Caracolí, Sarahita and others located along the railway line between the mine and the port.
BHP Billiton has not accepted responsibility for the disappearance of these communities, but it ought to do so, because it has acquired the rights and benefits generated by this business and with it the responsibility for past and future activities.
It is unfair that while you are obtaining massive profits, we suffer from high rates of respiratory illness and cancers, malnutrition, high infant mortality, violations of our rights, land rendered infertile, loss of livelihood, and descent into poverty…
Meanwhile, Cerrejon Coal is carrying out publicity campaigns trying to show how generous it is. It uses the slogan ‘responsible mining’, which is completely inaccurate. Cerrejon seems to spend substantial amounts of money on publicity about social responsibility, but not enough on social responsibility itself.
My question, therefore, is, how long do we, the communities affected by Cerrejon, have to wait for BHP Billiton to take action and demand that its subsidiary Cerrejon Coal act with justice, respect and equity towards us, and that it have an effective and honest department of social responsibility?”
BHP Billiton Chairman Jac Nasser replied that some of the issues raised by Julio were of long standing but that others were new and alarming. He said that not everything the company did was perfect but that they had good intent and that he believed the company was making good progress and contributing to the local and national economy through taxes and social investment. He said that he would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Julio to discuss the issues with Julio in more detail. (Julio took him at his word, conversing with him after the AGM – though they were unable to ‘sit down’ for lack of available seating.) Julio made clear that if Cerrejon Coal’s activities were so beneficial to the communities in La Guajira, he would not have come from Colombia to raise these issues at the company’s AGM.
Representatives of LMN member groups PIPLinks and Down to Earth challenged the Board about BHP Billiton’s plans for uranium mining at Yeelirrie in Western Australia, the massive expansion of its enormous Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia, its plans for coal mining in forested areas of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, and its refusal to accept Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior Informed Consent under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Statements were presented from Aboriginal Elders in the areas of BHP Billiton’s uranium projects in Australia.
19th October 2011: To BHP Billiton’s London Shareholders and the Parliament of Great Britain
In 2010 and again in 2011 we instructed our representative body- the Central Desert Native Title Services (CDNTS) Ltd that we, the Traditional Custodians of Yeelirrie, are strongly opposed to the development of uranium mine at Yeelirrie in Western Australia. Yeelirrie is currently under occupation from BHP Billiton who is pursuing a uranium mine application with the State of WA.
After extensive discussion at the meetings between the Traditional Custodians and the CDNTS in 2010 and 2011 the group arrived at the decision to oppose the development. In 2011 this decision was unanimous among the group.
Traditional Custodians have strong concerns about the safety and management of radiation and the effects that mining Yeelirrie will have on the well-being of our country and our people.
The place Yeelirrie, in our language, means the place of death. We are custodians of that place; it is our responsibility to keep that poison, the uranium, where it is. If that uranium leaves our country and does damage to someone, that’s our responsibility and we take that very seriously.
We have been to the BHP Billiton Annual General Meetings two years in a row, in Brisbane and in Perth and will go again this year to Melbourne to tell the company and their shareholders that we don’t want uranium mining on our country. Despite our position they continue to pursue the uranium mine and avoid engaging with us. We have been very clear about our position.
Kado Muir – Chairperson of the West Australia Nuclear Free Alliance and Ngalia Traditional Custodian
Richard Evans – Koara Tribal elder
I, Kevin Buzzacott, Arabunna elder from Lake Eyre, make the following statement to the BHP Billiton AGM and shareholders:
We never did want Olympic Dam to develop in the first place under Western Mining.
The same thing applies to you. We don’t want you to continue with Olympic Dam.
In fact we want you to shut up shop immediately and leave that area.
By your influence, the State and Federal Governments have sold us out.
For over 40,000 years we’ve been able to maintain and look after our country.
Under the ancient culture and law, digging up and destroying sacred sites is prohibited.
The desert to us is just as important as the cities.
Because of the lack of consultation and understanding in the first place, and because of greed and selfishness, it seems easy to you people who are foreign to this land to destroy the ancient structure.
We have no alternative but to continue to expose you as wrongdoers. It is a criminal offence that you people are committing, and you are already branded as criminals.
We are telling you to reverse the decision to expand and make an open cut mine, and cease this operation at Olympic Dam immediately.
Find a good use to spend your money. You will feel better as human beings.
I hope this message gets through to you.
I am inviting you to come and talk to reach a better understanding of the ancient dreamtime structure.
Kevin Buzzacott. 19 October 2011
Meanwhile, there were protests in Adelaide, South Australia…
MEDIA RELEASE, 20 October 2011
A giant radioactive waste barrel has just been erected on Grenfell Street opposite City Cross Arcade to mark the introduction of the new Roxby Downs Indenture Agreement into SA Parliament.
“This barrel can be used to conceptualise the volume of radioactive tailings that will leak from the tailings dams of the newly approved Olympic Dam open-pit uranium mine” said Riley Ashton of Protest BHP Adelaide.
“This leak will contaminate the aquifer with radioactive isotopes and heavy metals, and threaten groundwater dependent ecosystems for thousands of years” said Mr Ashton.
“BHP Billiton’s Environmental Impact Statement states that the maximum rate of seepage from the radioactive tailings dams in the first decade will be 8 million litres per day. That’s over 90 of these barrels each day, amounting to over 33 000 of these barrels each year (approximately 2922 million litres per year), and equivalent to more than 7.5 barrels every 2 hours,” said Mr Ashton.
“At 40 years of operation, the new tailings dams at Olympic Dam will have leaked well over 47.5 billion litres of radioactive waste into the underlying rock and groundwater, approximately 540 000 of these barrels” said Mr Ashton.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” continued Mr Ashton.
This coincides with a community rally at BHP Billiton’s Adelaide office, protesting the recent approval of the Olympic Dam Mine.
For comment, more information or photos contact:
Riley Ashton: 0421 593 902
Nectaria Calan: 0432 388 665
and in Perth, Western Australia…
Peaceful protest calls for an end to big exemptions for the Big Australian
More than 40 people from all over Perth gathered at BHP Billiton’s city offices on 20 October to protest the proposed Olympic Dam uranium mine expansion and remind the mining giant that there is no social license to mine uranium in Western Australia.
Despite BHP sending dire warnings of protestor violence to its Perth-based employees, the event took on a carnival atmosphere with a cheeky BHPeep Show featuring doubles of BHP CEO Marius Kloppers and Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.
Part of a national day of action timed to coincide with the BHP Billiton Annual General Meeting being held in London, the protest followed Minister Burke approving the expansion of South Australia’s Olympic Dam uranium mine last week. The multinational mining giant is also pursuing a uranium mine at Yeelirrie, 70kms South West of Wiluna in central WA.
See also http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/bhp-warning-is-ridiculous-protest-group-20111020-1m96y.html
Greens tying up Olympic Dam with new parliamentary inquiry, $30 billion project faces delays
News reports from Australia say BHP Billiton may face delays in getting approvals for its $30 billion Olympic Dam expansion, as Greens and other minor parties holding the balance of power in the South Australian Parliament push for an inquiry into the project. See http://www.mining.com/2011/10/18/greens-tying-up-olympic-dam-with-new-parliamentary-inquiry-30-billion-project-faces-delays/.
Back in Britain, Julio Gomez accompanied his visit to the BHP Billiton AGM with meetings with Coal Action Scotland in Edinburgh, UNISON North East in Newcastle, Latin American community groups, workers’ organisations and solidarity campaigns in London and the South East, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Peers and Members of Parliament, and the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group. He spoke at a well-attended public meeting in the Houses of Parliament the evening before the BHP Billiton AGM. His visit to Britain was organised by London Mining Network and the Colombia Solidarity Campaign.