London Mining Network submitted the following questions to BHP on behalf of BHP-affected communities and workers in advance of its online AGM on 14 October. As you can see from the AGM report, few of them were answered. We invite answers from BHP, and they should be made public.
Resolution Copper, Arizona, USA: questions based on concerns expressed by the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition
1) The US Forest Service is rushing the Final Environmental Impact Statement on Resolution Copper. The company has changed the tailings design and we do not yet have the full details for this change. Will BHP commit to slowing down the process so that it gets it right first time?
2) Arizona has had more than 15 years of drought. Some Arizona communities have had the lowest rainfall on record. How will Resolution Copper assure Arizona Mining Reform Coalition that they will not deprive communities, agriculture, or public lands of the water they need?
3) The US Forest Service is completely botching the process for getting a signed agreement about how to treat cultural and sacred features as required by law. Will BHP urge the Forest Service to get it right the first time?
4) Resolution Copper’s mine plan calls for the destruction of Oak Flat and other sacred or culturally sensitive sites. If BHP means what it says about protecting sacred sites, its has no choice but to abandon the Resolution Copper project. Will BHP therefore abandon it?
5) The Resolution Copper project is so poorly designed that it would be impossible to carry it out successfully. It is an experiment that will surely fail, with dangerous repercussions for everyone concerned including BHP. Will BHP therefore abandon the Resolution Copper project?
Samarco iron ore operations, Minas Gerais, Brazil: questions based on concerns expressed by MAB, the Movement of People Affected by Dams
(BACKGROUND: RESTART OF SAMARCO’S OPERATIONS. The Annual Report states that there are no further legal restrictions to restarting SAMARCO’S operations, but that restart will only occur if it is safe to do so and it has the support of the community. It does not give information about what work has to be done before restart of Samarco’s operations and how safety and community support will be demonstrated.)
RESTART OF SAMARCO’S OPERATIONS:- What is the programme of actions that have to be taken to create the conditions for a safe restart of Samarco’s operations?
RESTART OF SAMARCO’S OPERATIONS:- What document in the public domain sets out the programme of actions that need to be taken to create the conditions for a safe restart of Samarco’s operations?
RESTART OF SAMARCO’S OPERATIONS:- What will be the process to ensure and demonstrate that conditions for a safe restart of Samarco’s operations have been put in place?
RESTART OF SAMARCO’S OPERATIONS:- What will be the process to ensure and demonstrate that the restart of Samarco’s operations has the support of different communities?
(BACKGROUND – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION IN THE LOWER RIO DOCE, ABOVE CANDONGA DAM. Significant amounts of mining waste and other sediment was deposited on land beside the upper Rio Doce and its tributaries in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Fundão Tailings Dam. RENOVA has carried out work to stabilise these river-bank and flood-plain areas by revegetation. This means that pasture and agricultural land has been taken out of production and is inaccessible: it is unclear how it can ever be brought back into production without increasing the risk of remobilisation of the sediment. There is some sediment in the river, especially as times of heavy rainfall. The assertion in the BHP Annual Report (Section 1.8) that “in general, water and sediment qualities returned to historic conditions” does not cite any evidence and explain the exceptions implied by the words “in general”. The claim that “Long-term remediation work is continuing with landowners and regulators to re-establish agricultural production and riparian margins with native vegetation” does not go into details of the challenges of future use of the river-margins with deposits of mining waste.)
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: The Annual Report claims that “in general, water and sediment qualities returned to historic conditions” in the upper Rio Doce. Can BHP indicate which surveys are being referred to here with full references?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: Have water and sediment qualities returned to historic conditions at all times in the upper Rio Doce, even after heavy rainfall?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: A number of scientific bodies in Minas Gerais began studies of the impact on the collapse of the Fundão Dam on the upper Ro Doce last year. When are reports by these scientific bodies expected about tailings-related impacts in these areas?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: The Annual Report states that long-term remediation work is continuing to re-establish agriculture and native vegetation. What are the challenges to achieving this and where is there documentation in the public domain about these challenges?
(BACKGROUND: CANDONGA DAM AKA RISOLETA NEVES DAM. Significant amounts of mining waste and other sediment was deposited in the reservoir behind the Candonga Dam in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Fundão Tailings Dam. SAMARCO and RENOVA have invested a great deal in removing some of this sediment over the last five years. Questions have been asked in previous AGMs about the apparent difficulties that SAMARCO and RENOVA have faced in removing sediment from behind the Candonga Dam and finding somewhere to deposit it. There is no information in the Annual Report about progress with this work, whether previously-reported difficulties have been overcome and the implications for the continued presence of large amounts of sediment in the reservoir.)
SAMARCO – CANDONGA DAM: What progress has there been in removing accumulated mining waste from the Candonga Dam? Have the difficulties in removing sediment and finding a location to deposit it, discussed at previous AGMs, been overcome?
SAMARCO – CANDONGA DAM: What are the implications for the hydro-electric power plant, and for the environment of the lower parts of the Rio Doce, of long-term presence of mining waste in the reservoir of the Candonga Dam?
(BACKGROUND – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION IN THE LOWER RIO DOCE, ESTUARY AND ADJACENT COASTAL AREAS. The BHP annual report 2020 (Section 1.8) states that “Results from water and sediment quality, aquatic habitat and fish surveys demonstrate that the river ecology downstream of the Candonga reservoir and along the coast has recovered from any tailings-related impacts.” It is unclear how such an assertion can be made. The official research body for the lower Rio Doce, estuary and coastal areas – Rede Rio Doce Mar – has only produced one Annual Report which indicates that research is still in progress. Sediment from above the Candonga Dam, which may contain heavy metals, was desposited in these areas in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Fundão Tailings Dam and is almost impossible to remove. Sediment is still brought from above the Candonga Dam at times of very heavy rainfall. There is evidence in a report by LACTEC of contamination of fish in coastal areas near the mouth of the Rio Doce)
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: The Annual Report claims that surveys show that river ecology downstream of Candonga dam and along the coast has recovered from any tailings-related impacts. Can BHP indicate which surveys are being referred to here with full references?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: Rede Rio Doce Mar is the official research body for the ecology of the lower Rio Doce and estuary: Can BHP indicate any statement by RRDM to support the conclusion that these areas have recovered from tailings-related impacts?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: Rede Rio Doce Mar is the official research body for the ecology of the lower Rio Doce and estuary: When are further reports by RRDM expected about tailings-related impacts in these areas?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: Significant quantities of mining waste has been deposited on the bed of the lower Rio Doce, estuary and coastal regions (and is unlikely to be removed). Can BHP explain how it can be claimed that these areas have recovered from tailings-related impacts?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: The LACTEC report of November 2019 re EPT in fish states that molluscs, crustaceans and fish caught along the coast of Espirito Santo are contaminated by EPTs, especially arsenic. Does BHP have any comment on these findings?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: The LACTEC/RAMBOLL report of February 2020 re RENOVA’s water quality bulletins notes the discarding of data considered by RENOVA as incoherent, but which show high turbidity after heavy rainfall. Does BHP have any comment on these findings?
SAMARCO – ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION: Can BHP comment on the article in Chemosphere 262 (January 2021) by Duarte et al about trace metals in Rio Doce sediments and does BHP consider that it supports its assertion river ecology has recovered from any tailings-related impacts?
(BACKGROUND:SAMARCO -RESETTLEMENT. On November 5, 2020, it will be five years since the disaster of the collapse of the Fundão Dam. None of the resettlement of the destroyed communities of Bento Rodrigues, Paracatu de Baixo and Gesteira has been completed and the affected families continue to live in rented houses. The time-scale in the agreement between the Government and the RENOVA Foundation has not been followed. The promised date of completion has variously November 2018, November 2019, August 2020 and December 2020. The companies have now made a new request for February 2021. There are still no homes completed and the companies appear to be likely to use the pandemic as a reason to ask for more time. Meanwhile numerous works have been carried out inside the mining complex to prepare for the resumption of mining activities without the delays experienced by the resettlement programme.)
SAMARCO RESETTLEMENT: It is five years since the destruction of three communities near the Fundão Tailings Dam, but no homes have been completed and only a minority are under construction. Can BHP state when the resettlement of destroyed communities will actually be ready?
SAMARCO RESETTLEMENT: What measures has the RENOVA Foundation taken to complete the reconstruction of the three communities near the Fundão Dam with utmost urgency and what lessons has it learnt from the failure to do this over a period of five years?
SAMARCO RESETTLEMENT. Resettled communities are asked to pay for the upkeep of new water systems while before they had free water access from sources that are now contaminated. Does BHP believe this is feasible given that economy of these households has not yet been restored?
SAMARCO RESETTLEMENT. How is RENOVA responding to the need for affected communities to take part in meetings that are important for their future by video-conferencing (due to COVID-19) given the lack of such technologies in affected areas along the Rio Doce?
(BACKGROUND: SAMARCO HEALTH. Human health risk assessment studies have already been carried out in Mariana and Barra Longa by Ambios Engenharia, and concluded that there is a risk to the health of populations exposed to contaminants through ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption of contaminated topsoil particles and contaminated household dust. There are no measures in place to remedy or mitigate this situation, the mud remains in the same places where it was deposited after the dam collapse. Following these studies by Ambios Engenharia, RENOVA ended their contract and presented a new health risk study methodology (Gaisma) to the Inter-federative Committee. The Ministry of Health issued a Technical Note rejecting this new methodology. The Ministério Público Federal has filed appeals to the court questioning the use of this methodology. The BHP Annual Report does not mention that there already have been human health risk assessment studies that have reported, and that RENOVA wishes to change the risk assessment methodologies.)
SAMARCO HEALTH: Human health risk assessments by Ambios Engenharia have already concluded that in some areas there are urgent public health hazards. Can BHP state what measures will be taken to eliminate the health risks to the people living in these contaminated environments?
SAMARCO HEALTH: In areas such as Barra Longa, where risks have already been identified, can BHP confirm that action is being taken with sufficient urgency and with adequate inputs?
SAMARCO HEALTH: RENOVA has ended the contract of Ambios Engenharia and has proposed a new health risk study methodology (Gaisma) which is opposed by the Ministry of Health. Can BHP explain why RENOVA wishes to replace an already existing health risk study methodology?
Exploration in Ecuador: questions from community members in the INTAG region
1) Does BHP intend to mine in areas of Ecuador known to have critically endangered species of animals, or found only within the mining concessions and nowhere else on earth (endemic to the mining concessions)?
2) Does BHP intend to mine in areas designated as Protective Forests by the Ecuadorian government (Bosques Protectores), or where communities have not been properly consulted?
3) Will BHP commit to respecting the will of local communities and local governments if, after careful consideration, they decide to not allow mining, irrespective of what national governments say?
4) Is it true that the company is active in the Shuar region of Ecuador, and if so why has it not made public the creation of an Ecuadorian subsidiary (created June 2019)?
5) Before mining companies can operate in Ecuador, the Ecuadorian State has to consult with indigenous peoples, and obtain their consent. Can you confirm that such previous consultation has taken place?
6) Could you confirm that BHP subsidiary Cerro Yatsur is seeking to get signatures of support by sidestepping the traditional protocol of indigenous communities of holding public assemblies of everyone in the communities before taking any momentous decision that could affect them?
Cerrejón Coal, Colombia: questions based on concerns expressed by members of communities affected by the mine’s operations
Why is Cerrejón Coal (33.3% owned by BHP) not complying with Colombian court decisions?
The village of Tabaco has still not been reconstructed despite a court order in 2002 and an agreement signed between Cerrejón Coal (BHP 33%) and the community in 2008. Will BHP insist that the company honour the letter and spirit of the 2002 court order and the 2008 agreement?
Cerrejón Coal diverted the Arroyo Bruno despite Colombian Constitutional Court ruling SU-698 of 2017 that it should not do so. Colombian environmental authorities say the fact the stream remains diverted breaks SU-698. Will BHP insist that Cerrejón Coal comply with this ruling?
The Colombian Constitutional Court ordered Cerrejón to adopt measures to protect the rights to health and a healthy environment of the Wayuu Indigenous Reservation of Provincial through sentence T 614 of 2019. Will BHP insist that Cerrejón Coal comply fully with this sentence?
Cerrejón Coal has not provided conducted proper community consultation in compliance with Constitutional Court sentence T 614 of 2019. The company only talks with those sections of the community that support it. Will BHP insist that it consult the rest of the community?
Cerrejón Coal, Colombia: questions from Sintracarbon mine workers’ union
¿En que consiste la pugna interna de Glencore contra BHP (en el manejo de Cerrejón) por cotización y precio del carbón? Glencore comprara las acciones de BHP y Anglo?
What is the internal conflict between Glencore and BHP over the management of Cerrejon, over the stock exchange listing and the price of coal? Will Glencore buy out the shares of Anglo American and BHP in Cerrejón?
¿Por que para el cambio de turno de 2X1 2×3 a un turno 7×3 7×4, donde los trabajadores y trabajadoras se afectarían en su seguridad, salud y vida, pero también afecta la unidad y arraigo familiar, se pretende por parte de Cerrejón imponerlo por la vía de la fuerza y arrogancia? BHP debe intervenir en la solución de la HUELGA en Cerrejon por responsabilidad con los accionistas, Colombia, la Guajira y los trabajadores.
Why is Cerrejon forcibly and arrogantly imposing a change in shift from 2×1 2×3 to 7×3 7×4, given that it will affect not only the safety, health and life of workers, but also the unity and roots of their families? Will BHP intervene to achieve a solution to the strike?
¿Por que razón la sostenibilidad y supervivencia de Cerrejón depende de arrebatar derechos convencionales e imponer jornadas laborales extenúantes, que dejarían a unos 3.000 trabajadores directos e indirectos sin empleo en medio de la Pandemia generada por el COVID-19?
Why is it that the sustainability and survival of Cerrejón depend on taking away conventional rights and imposing strenuous working hours, which would leave about 3,000 direct and indirect workers without jobs in the midst of the Pandemic generated by COVID-19?
Escondida Mine, Chile: questions from members of communities affected by the mine’s operations
1) Does BHP Minera Escondida have any critical retrospective analysis regarding its specific approach to caring for the environment in its operations?
2) Beyond the results of the open processes (judicial and administrative), is there any action or process that should have been done better regarding the management of the aquifers that your environmental licenses were required to protect?
3) Does it seem logical to create damage to aquifers which will take between 100 and 200 years to restore, bearing in mind that ecosystem services and the survival of an entire Indigenous People depend on them?
4) How do you explain to an Indigenous People that the aquifers of the Punta Negra and Monturaqui-Tilopozo will have a recovery rate so slow that it far exceeds the life of a whole generation of human beings? The culture and economy of this Indigenous People depend on that water.
Antamina, Peru: questions from TerraJusta
Could BHP confirm how many concessions for use of fresh water sources the company has in relation to the Antamina mine in Peru? What criteria are used to determine the use of rainwater and its consequences for local streams and aquifers?
Demonstrating financial responsibility: questions from London Mining Network
The Annual Report shows an increase in the estimate within the provision for closure and rehabilitation costs of $1,255m, representing 18% of the opening provision of $6,977m. The Annual Report does not disclose the reason for this. Will you provide a detailed explanation?
Given recent reports that BHP is actively considering offloading its coal assets, can you assure investors and other stakeholders that you will commit to funding the full rehabilitation of these sites in recognition of the disruption brought about by past and current activity?
It is unclear from your Annual Report what level of security has been posted with the governments of the territories in which you operate for mine reclamation costs. Will you provide a breakdown at least for the ten countries where you have the most activity?
Does BHP hold sufficient financial assurances to meet the costs of likely environmental damage and third-party losses that arise due to mine related accidents? is unclear from your Annual Report.
Is your approach is to self-insure for the costs of likely environmental damage and third-party losses from mine related accidents? If so, where is this reflected in your accounts? If you are not planning to insure for this, this should be made more explicit.
What is your view on proposals to establish an industry-funded pool based on a charge against volume of production from operating mines, to cover reclamation and disaster costs where actual reclamation costs exceed estimated costs and a mine owner is unable to pay?
Will you make clear your view on proposals to create a claims process for compensable damage which is arms-length from the mine operator and includes a process for review of disputes regarding claims adjudication without the need to go to court?
Will you publish, on an annual basis, site reclamation plans, reclamation cost estimates, and related security, for each of your mines and in aggregate?
Will you make publicly available on an annual basis proof of security provided for unexpected environmental harm events for each of your mines?