BHP Billiton AGM: Olympic dam legal privileges a disgrace

\BHPIndigenous and environmental campaigners will highlight the ecological and social impacts of BHP Billiton's operations in Australia and overseas at the company's AGM in Melbourne today.

MEDIA RELEASE - NOVEMBER 27, 2008
BHP BILLITON AGM: OLYMPIC DAM LEGAL PRIVILEGES A DISGRACE
 
Indigenous and environmental campaigners will highlight the ecological and social impacts of BHP Billiton's operations in Australia and overseas at the company's AGM in Melbourne today.
 
Friends of the Earth national nuclear campaigner Dr Jim Green said: "For all of BHP Billiton's hollow rhetoric about corporate social responsibility, the company operates the Olympic Dam uranium/copper mine in SA under an outdated Indenture Act which exempts the mine from key environmental and Aboriginal heritage laws that apply everywhere else in SA.
 
"The Aboriginal Heritage Act is the key law aimed at protecting Indigenous heritage in South Australia. However, under the Indenture Act, BHP Billiton decides the level of protection that Aboriginal heritage sites receive and which sites are recognised. Ironically, BHP Billiton has provided over $2 million to Reconciliation Australia, yet will not relinquish its exemptions from the Aboriginal Heritage Act. The company's attitude appears to be 'do as I say not as I do'."
 
Arabunna Elder Kevin Buzzacott, from whose land BHP Billiton takes 35 million litres of water daily, free of charge, with serious detrimental impacts on the precious Mound Springs which are sustained by the underlying Great Artesian Basin, will attend the protest and speak at BHP's AGM. Mr Buzzacott's statement for the AGM is attached.
 
Dr Green concluded: "The legal privileges enshrined in the Indenture Act were highly contentious when they were introduced in 1982 and are completely inappropriate as the legislative framework for the proposed expansion of the Roxby Downs mine."
 
BHP Billiton proposes the following for the Roxby Downs mine expansion:
* A pit of about 20 cubic kilometres (6 x 3 x 1.1 kms), making it the largest open-cut mine in the world.
* Water consumption of 1,736 litres PER SECOND (150 million litres per year), sourced from the Great Artesian Basin and a proposed desalination plant.
* Radioactive tailings waste production to increase to 2.2 tonnes PER SECOND (70 million tonnes per year).
* Uranium production to increase to 19,000 tonnes per year, sufficient to fuel 95 reactors which will produce 28.5 tonnes of plutonium each year - enough for 2,850 nuclear weapons each year.
* Electricity demand for the mine will increase from 120 megawatts to 690 megawatts - equivalent to 42% of South Australia's current total electricity consumption with no government requirement or company plans for any electricity to be supplied from renewable energy sources.
 
Contact: Jim Green 0417 318368
Kevin Buzzacott 0400 953708 or via Jim Green 0417 318368
 
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Statement to BHP Billiton and Shareholders at the BHP Annual General Meeting
 
Kevin Buzzacott - Arabunna Elder
27 November 2008
 
You BHP, the biggest mining company in the world, and here we are the oldest peoples in the world. You should be listening to us about this land and the water.
 
Two years ago when you BHP bought out Western Mining Corporation you bought a bad investment, you didn’t ask us, you didn’t consult with us. In the past I’ve told WMC that we didn’t want them to continue mining.
 
We wanted them to stop mining and we wanted them to stop taking the sacred water out of the Great Artesian Basin. Now you BHP are doing the same thing and you want to make it bigger and you want to make it open cut.
 
There should never be an open cut uranium mine in the desert.
 
Do not expand this mine. We don’t want an open cut mine. We do not want any more water taken out of the Great Artesian Basin we want that to stop.
 
To the Shareholders of BHP don’t invest any more money into this development, you will have a lot on your conscience. Sooner or later you will have to pay for the rehabilitation of that land, and you should know by now that this land is sacred.
 
We don’t know if you shareholders understand the impacts of what you’re doing to the Arabunna people, the Kokatha people and other tribes around that area. You don’t understand what you’re doing to the land and the culture.
 
My question to you BHP is, is it possible to close down the Olympic Dam Uranium mine, immediately, and if not immediately when is the soonest time possible that you can shut this mine down.
 
Can you Shareholders make a decision in this meeting right now to close down the Olympic Dam Uranium mine or to take your shares and invest in something else ...  and are you prepared to compensate all Aboriginal People around Roxby Downs to rehabilitate that country?