BHP Billiton AGM protest


London Mining Network

Date of publication: 
21 October 2011

BHP Billiton AGM protest, London, 20 October 2011

London Mining Network –

21 October 2011

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

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.

Julio said:

“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

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

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.


BHP Billiton’s order book full but warns of softer prices

20 October 2011


LONDON – Order books at BHP Billiton remain full but the world’s largest miner sounded a note of caution in the face of short-term market volatility, warning on Thursday of softening prices and increasingly cautious customers.

“Our order book remains full and the developing world industrial operating rates are healthy; we have however seen a softening of prices over the last months, as customers behave conservatively in the light of global uncertainty,” Chief Executive Marius Kloppers told shareholders at the group’s AGM.

“We are also seeing that customers are looking closely at their inventory levels as they operate their businesses, cognisant of the potential need to tailor their plans if the global economic uncertainty continues.”

The large diversified miners have so far posted relatively bullish production data for the September quarter, with BHP earlier this week showing its foot was firmly stuck to the accelerator on key commodities like iron ore, despite falling prices for the steel-making commodity.

The miners have all said in recent weeks that demand is holding up — even in the face of falling equity and commodity prices and volatility in the markets as investors fret over Europe’s sovereign debt — but Rio Tinto and others have sounded notes of caution, with Rio saying last month that it was seeing some clients asking to delay shipments of metals.


Australia approves $20-30bn Olympic Dam mine expansion

Sonali Paul and James Regan


10 October 2011

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY – Global miner BHP Billiton moved a step closer on Monday toward an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion expansion of its Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine, securing environmental approvals for the project in the deserts of southern Australia.

The project, to be developed in stages over 30 years, would nearly quadruple the mine’s annual copper output to 750,000 tonnes to help meet demand from Asia, especially China where copper consumption is forecast to surge 6 percent this year.

The national government, together with the South Australia state government, have imposed more than 100 environmental conditions in approving the project, but are keen for it to go ahead because of the thousands of jobs it is expected to create.

BHP Billiton, expected to make a decision on final go-ahead for the project in mid-2012, now has to weigh up the conditions imposed as part of assessing its overall feasibility.

“We will now take these conditions into account and incorporate them into our final assessment and recommendation to the board next year,” BHP Billiton’s uranium president, Dean Dalla Valle, said in a statement.

The conditions include a desalination project and pipes to bring water to the mine from over 300 kilometres away, and an environmental buffer zone of 140,000 hectares, roughly equivalent to an area the size of London.

“The strict conditions I’ve imposed will help ensure protection of the natural environment, including native species, groundwater and vegetation, for the long-term,” Environment Minister Tony Burke said in a statement on Monday.

“With these conditions I am confident the Olympic Dam mine can progress in accordance with world best-practice in environmental protection and management.”

Uranium Production to Soar

Once fully expanded, the Olympic Dam mine would be on near-par with the massive copper lodes of South America, though

it would take years before it came close to matching the copper production of BHP’s giant Escondida lode in Chile.

It would also lift annual production of uranium from around 4,000 tonnes now to 19,000, more than is produced each year in all of Kazakhstan, the world’s top producer.

BHP Billiton has yet to reveal the cost of the expansion, but analysts rank it as possibly the single biggest on the drawing board of the world’s biggest miner, estimating costs of between $20 billion and $30 billion.

The project would require assembling one of the world’s largest fleet of earth movers, with geologists estimating that it would take four or five years just to expose the ore body.

The expansion would also extend the life of the mine from about 20 years to more than 100 years.

Demand for refined copper in China has been increasing due to rapid development in telecommunications, power, equipment manufacturing, automobiles, construction and consumer goods.

Chile is currently the largest producer of mined copper, followed by other major producers such as Peru, the United States and Australia.

The South Australia state government also gave its environmental approval to the project on Monday and said it aimed to finalise an agreement on royalties and infrastructure commitments for the expansion by Oct. 20.

“I anticipate an agreement can be reached soon,” Tom Koutsantonis, the state’s minister for mineral resources development, said in a statement, adding that would allow state parliament to pass legislation on it by December.

Monday’s key clearances follow a six-year review of the expected impact of the expansion on everything from air quality in neighbouring towns to cuttlefish in the Spencer Gulf, and sets 150 conditions BHP must meet to protect the environment.

The company will need more than 600 licences and permits to meet these requirements.

BHP Billiton will also be allowed to expand its smelter, build a concentrator and other plants to process the additional ore and dump waste rock in a 150-metre high pile covering 67 square km (26 square miles).

The plan also includes a new airport, a new gas-fired power station, a 320-kilometre pipeline and a 105-km rail line.

The company has said it would put the project up for board approval in stages, with phase one, digging the open pit, up for a sign-off around June 2012 and phase two, including building the concentrator, up for approval 18 months to two years later.

BHP shares slipped 0.3 percent on Monday, underperforming a 0.9 percent gain in the broader market.


BHP Billiton, South Australia agree Olympic Dam royalty fees

Global miner BHP Billiton, expected to make a final investment decision on the Olympic Dam mine expansion, has agreed to pay South Australia a 5% royalty for uranium and 3.5% for other metals.

Reuters –

12 October 2011

MELBOURNEBHP Billiton cleared another hurdle for a giant expansion of its Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine on Wednesday, further clearing the way for its board give a final go-ahead by June 2012.

BHP agreed to pay a 5 percent royalty to the government of South Australia for uranium and 3.5 percent for other metals after it expands the Olympic Dam mine.

BHP has said it wants to roughly quadruple annual output to 750,000 tonnes a year of copper and 19,000 tonnes of uranium.

“We are not cutting royalty rates to get this project up and running,” South Australian minister Kevin Foley said in a statement

BHP also agreed to pay A$25 million to upgrade a highway leading to the mine.


Greens tying up Olympic Dam with new parliamentary inquiry, $30 billion project faces delays

Frik Els,

18 October 2011

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.

The legal agreement between BHP and the State Government will be introduced to parliament on Tuesday or Wednesday, but the Greens now want BHP Billiton officials to appear before a parliamentary committee to investigate the indenture legislation for the expansion. The project will create an open pit mine adjacent to the current Olympic Dam underground operation that would be the world’s biggest – trucks will haul overburden 24/7 for five to six years just to reach the ore body.

Australian Mining reports Premier Mike Rann has earmarked Olympic Dam as one of his major legacies as premier and is keen to have the agreement quickly passed through parliament.

The combined operations would mine 72 Mt ore per year and would produce 750,000 tonnes refined copper, 19,000 tonnes uranium oxide, 800,000 gold ounces and 2.9 Moz of silver per year.


Part of proposed national park handed over for mining

Erik Jensen –

17 October 2011

THE state government has reached a compromise with BHP Billiton over a multibillion-dollar coal project near Campbelltown, sectioning off portions of a promised national park to allow for further mining.

The Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker, confirmed a finger of the proposed national park reaching to the Georges River will be left to the company for longwall mining.

Another swatch of land in the centre of the park will also be mined under the compromise, but there would be no undermining of the national park.

‘‘It allows BHP to access other mining leases,’‘ Ms Parker said. ‘‘It will stay as a state conservation area until it’s been mined and then we’ll probably draw it into the boundaries of the park.’‘

Ms Parker said no compensation was paid to BHP Billiton as part of the negotiations.

‘‘This hasn’t cost the NSW government anything. All parties have come to the negotiating table in good faith. We’ve been working very hard on this since the election.’‘

BHP Billiton said it still hoped to gain approval for some parts of its Bulli coal-seam project, which is to be determined by the Planning Assessment Commission.

‘‘The new national park will not have an adverse impact on Illawarra Coal’s existing West Cliff Mine operations,’‘ a spokeswoman said last night.

In a statement yesterday, the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, said 98.7 per cent of the area previously gazetted as a state conservation area would be absorbed into the national park.

“This outcome balances the establishment of the national park while securing jobs and investment,” he said.

The promise to make Dharawal a national park was made by Mr O’Farrell in January.