Activists call on BHP Billiton to Abandon Borneo Coal Mines

Melbourne, 26 May 2015Activists today attempted to unfurl a giant banner in BHP Billiton headquarters containing the names of over 9,000 people who are calling for the company to abandon its plans to build a series of coal mines in some of the last remaining stands of primary rainforest in Indonesian Borneo. The banner – measuring 12 square metres – was to be hung in the foyer of BHP Billiton’s head offices in Melbourne, but was quickly confiscated by BHP Billiton security (image of banner available below). A protest is also planned for BHP Billiton’s London offices tonight, Australian time, and the petition will be formally presented to company management.

The petition calls the series of mines – known as the IndoMet project – a “disaster in the making” and asks BHP Billiton (BHPB) to “withdraw from IndoMet immediately and seek permanent protection for the area.”

BHPB’s giant IndoMet coal concessions cover 350,000 hectares - an area one and a half times the size of the Australian Capital Territory - in Central and East Kalimantan.  The area holds more than 1.2 billion tonnes of coking coal and is located in the ‘Heart of Borneo’ region, which the Asian Development Bank has called “the lungs of Asia”.

The rich forest, which has provided sustainable livelihoods for Dayak people for generations, is also home to pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopards and orangutans. WWF reports that the area is home to 6 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, with three new species, on average, discovered every month since 2005.

“Thousands of people have signed this petition to call on BHP to scrap plans for what would be an environmental and social disaster. Rather than trying to mine for coal in the Heart of Borneo, BHP Billiton should do the right thing and seek permanent protections for this unique part of the world,” said Julien Vincent of Market Forces.

As a member of the International Council on Metals and Mining, BHPB has committed to obtaining the consent of indigenous peoples for mining operations affecting their land, including for “customary owners or occupants of land or resources.” 

However, local people in the village of Maruwai who live near the Haju mine, the first concession being developed by the company, report being forced on threat of arrest to accept less than half a cent per square metre from BHPB for their traditional lands. Next week, Maruwai villagers will be filing a claim with the Central Kalimantan government for legal recognition of over 1000 ha of land that is currently held in BHP Billiton’s Haju concession.

“It is simply unacceptable for one of the richest companies in the world to refuse to recognise the legitimate land rights of indigenous people in the area. This project is bad news for local people and bad news for the world’s climate. In a world that is oversupplied with coal, there is simply no justification for developing the IndoMet project,” said Alex Scrivener from Global Justice Now, the organiser of the petition.

Image of the banner is available at http://bit.ly/1Ktq3Za

Photos of the IndoMet area are available at http://bit.ly/1dshPmP

See attached Fact Sheet for more information

For media inquiries please contact:

Julien Vincent, Market Forces (Melbourne): + 61 (0)419 179529julien@marketforces.org.au
Pius Ginting, WALHI/ FoE Indonesia (Jakarta): +62 8193 295 5700, pius.walhi@gmail.com

Alex Scrivener, Global Justice Now (London): +44 20 7820 4913 or +44 7711 875345Alex.Scrivener@globaljustice.org.uk