Environment & Human Rights groups condemn BHP Billiton in Colombia

June 25, 2004

Environment & Human Rights groups condemn BHP Billiton in Colombia

Action: 8.30am, Wednesday 30th June, BHP Billiton HQ, 180 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Friends of the Earth Australia, The Mineral Policy Institute and U.S. NGO PressurePoint, publicly condemn the conduct of Melbourne based BHP Billiton in operating and planning the expansion of its Cerrejón Norte coal mine in Colombia.

Having refused to negotiate with the Wayuu indigenous community of Tamaquitos, BHP Billiton and its consortium partners have bought nearly all land surrounding the community and are on the verge of forcibly displacing them. With the consortium controlling the main road, Tamaquitos is now without access to public transport, education, health services or traditional food sources. The community is facing increased health problems related to pollution from the mine. BHP Billiton has increased its campaign of intimidation and harassment.

With this action Friends of the Earth Australia demand:

  • An end to the systematic violations of human rights and extreme intimidation being practised against a number of Wayuu Indigenous and Afro Colombian communities including Tamaquitos.
  • A system of fully negotiated and adequate compensation to these communities including relocation to secure, equivalent fertile agricultural land, with access to health care and education facilities, subject to community approval.

BHP Billiton is a signatory to the Global Compact on Human Rights, Labour, and the Environment. Principles One and Two state that ‘Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights within their sphere of influence, and make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.’
"NGOs in Australia and the USA call on BHP Billiton to live up to its commitments and immediately cease its gross and systematic violations of human rights at its Cerrejón Norte mine." - Liz Turner, Friends of the Earth Australia

" We demand that Tamaquitos and the other communities be adequately relocated so that people can work freely, educate their children, and live free of contamination. BHP Billition and its partners have no respect for the social fabric of our lives, as evidenced by the many communities intentionally destroyed since the mine began operating."
- Remedios Fajardo, Director of YANAMA, Wayuu Indigenous organisation

For further information and interviews contact:
Liz Turner, Friends of the Earth – (03) 9419 8700

Notes to Editors

  • BHP Billiton has been co-owner and operator of the Cerrejón Norte coal mine, with Anglo American and Glencore since April 2002 when the majority ownership was sold by ExxonMobil. It has been a minority owner in the mine since 2000.
  • On 9th August 2001, company officials arrived without warning at the 700 person Afro Colombian community of Tabaco with 500 police and 200 soldiers. The community was violently displaced. Residents were not permitted to remove personal belongings before their homes were bulldozed.
  • PressurePoint staff members have just returned from an extensive fact finding mission of the mine and its impacts. They report a systematic pattern of human rights abuses, excessive environmental destruction, and contamination.
  • The Afro Colombian communities of Roche, Chancleta, and Patiilla are facing similar circumstances.

To arrange interviews with Wayuu Indigenous and Afro Colombian community leaders: Direct mobile phone contact in Colombia- (57) 310 603 2517

For further information in Australia, contact:
The Mineral Policy Institute: Techa Beaumont (02) 9557 9019 Mobile: 0409 318 406