Demonstration outside BHP mining company’s AGM, followed by record number of questions asked by human rights defenders and other shareholders
Around 30 protesters protested BHP’s annual general meeting on Thursday 17 October, braving the rain with chants, speeches and placards. Environmental human rights defenders from Latin America led the demonstration, in London for Beyond BHP, a week-long speaking tour in the UK.
Campaigners from the UK, southern Ireland and Latin America attended the demonstration, along with organisations such as IndustriAll, a global union, Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC) and student group Decolonising Environmentalism.
Promotional staff handed out free bottles of Aqua Vida to shareholders as they walked into the QEII centre venue. During the almost four hour meeting, investors would find out that these bottles of water were straight from Cerrejon coal mine in La Guajira, Colombia, or could have been, a feat made possible by ThreePenny Festival arts group from Manchester.
BHP is a British-Australian company, listed on the London Stock Exchange with a London office. The UK imports coal from controversial Cerrejon mine in Colombia.
BHP executives said that a record number of questions were asked during the meeting, coinciding with GreenGBweek, on issues raised by the five defenders: redress for communities affected by Brazil’s devastating tailings dam disaster in 2015, water rights in Chile, the viability of Resolution Copper in Arizona, US, the proposed BHP-Rio Tinto mine and on the pollution adversely affecting the spiritual and physical health of Wayuu communities in La Guajira, Colombia.
The issue of trust was a central theme.
A shareholder had travelled from Australia to inform the BHP board on the impact of iron-ore on communities in Port Hedland, Australia. She talked about the respiratory and dust-related illnesses suffered by children at Port Headland near the BHP mine there. She said “no lessons” have been learned from Samarco. “How is BHP going to uphold its ethical license while it continues to pollute?”
Shareholder Stephen Hunt, district director of United Steelworkers said: ‘”It’s about a matter of trust, we keep on attending these meetings bringing up these issues and you keep batting them back”.
Local Authority Pension Fund Forum shareholder asked about the proposed Oak Flats Arizona mining project:
“You start to lose trust from communities before projects even start. We are concerned about financial viability b/c of low returns. And impact on community due to water pollution and other issues. Is it time to pull out of the Resolution Copper scheme?”
After the meeting, Wayuu community leader Misael Ipauana said:
“I feel disappointed. I asked questions and BHP [the board] didn’t give our questions the response they deserved. They didn’t say anything new. One question I asked was about the damage to the water in the region of La Guajira. There are 16 streams that come from the river [Arroyo Bruno]. La Guajira is thirsty from a drought and they want to kill these sources of water. So how are they going to repair this damage that they’ve done? For us it is not repairable.”
Beyond BHP Events
Friday 19 October, Beyond BHP: Life on the frontlines of mining conflict in the Americas, 4-8pm, UCL, London
Saturday 20 October, Extractivism: Resistance and Alternatives at We Feed The World, 11am-6pm at Bargehouse Gallery, Southbank, London.
*** Some events may be ticketed but all are free of charge ***
Accessibility: The university events are accessible via lifts or will be on the ground floor (TBC). The Bargehouse Gallery also is accessible via a lift. Please see individual event pages for more details or email @firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or requests.
• From Brazil, Leticia Oliveira from Movement of People affected by Dams (MAB), a grasroots organisation that works with people affected by 2015’s catastrophic Samarco mining waste dam collapse in Mariana
• From Colombia, Misael Socarras, an indigenous activist from La Guajira in the north of the country and Rosa Mateus from lawyers’ collective CAJAR
• From Chile, Lucio Cuenca of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA) will expose BHP’s impacts at the world’s biggest copper mine, Escondida
• From the United States, Roger Featherstone of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition which is fighting back against BHP’s Resolution Copper project
If you’re in London, join us. If you can’t be there, follow us on social media and watch this space as we platform the voices of the defenders via social media or just search #BeyondBHP
#BeyondBHP is organised/co-hosted by London Mining Network, Coal Action Network, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, The Gaia Foundation, Threepenny Festival Association and War on Want.