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cancelling meetings already agreed at the last minute, informing only some of the participants and not others. Community members remain in the dark about what they will eventually receive – what kind of houses, land, work and financial compensation. The quality of negotiation has improved since BHP Billiton’s last AGM, but the whole process continues to take place extremely slowly35.

Meanwhile, people are living in extremely difficult conditions, with blasting from the mine causing damage to homes, coal dust in the air causing skin and respiratory problems, land on which people used to work being swallowed up by mining activities or fenced off in readiness for mine expansion. People feel that their communities are being ‘strangled’. The Independent Panel of Investigation recommended that the company do more to ensure that people could make a living – including provision of services and financing of small-scale economic projects – but the company’s efforts have been inadequate. It has taken company representatives many months to accept that they need to listen to the community’s own experience and suggestions. Some cattle belonging to community members have died after wandering into the mine lease area36.

At the same time, Cerrejon mine workers who are members of the SINTRACARBON trade union are concerned about the inferior working conditions of non-unionised contract workers at the mine. SINTRACARBON is also worried about exposure to coal dust. The union says that coal dust is a hazardous substance under Colombian law and that because of this the company is legally bound to pay higher social security contributions than it is currently paying, in order to facilitate earlier retirement for mine workers. The union reports little progress on these matters since last year’s BHP Billiton AGM37.

Mine workers and representatives of communities affected by the Cerrejon mine are agreed that international pressure on the mine’s owners – including BHP Billiton – is crucial if progress is to be made.


Western Mining Corporation first developed the Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs) Uranium Mine in 1983, despite strong and sustained opposition from Kokatha and Arabunna Traditional Owners and environmentalists. BHP Billiton purchased the underground Olympic Dam mine in 2005. In May 2009 BHP Billiton released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) detailing plans to turn Olympic Dam into a massive open pit mine38. This new open pit mine is intended to operate alongside the existing underground mine and to increase uranium production from 4,000 to 19,000 tonnes per year and copper production from 200,000 to 750,000 tonnes a year39.

“Enough damage has been done from the Olympic Dam uranium mine, they should not expand it,” protests Eileen Wani Wingfield, a Senior Kokatha Woman from Coober Pedy in South Australia (SA). “Many of our food sources, traditional plants and trees are gone because of this mine. We worry for our water: it’s our main source of life. The mine causes many safety risks to our roads – transporting the uranium from the mine. It has stopped us from accessing our sacred sites and destroyed others. These can never be replaced. BHP never consulted me or my families, they select who they consult with. Many of our people have not had a voice. We want the mine stopped

35 Personal communication with Aviva Chomsky and community leaders from Roche and Chancleta,

October 2009; personal communication with community leaders and Aktion Schweiz Kolumbien,

September 2010

36 Personal communication with Aviva Chomsky and community leaders from Roche and Chancleta,

October 2009; personal communication with community leaders and Aktion Schweiz Kolumbien,

September 2010

37 Email communications with SINTRACARBON representatives, various, October 2008 – July 2009

and September 2010

38 BHP Billiton, 2009, Olympic Dam Expansion, Draft Environmental Impact Statement, accessed

online 29 September 2009, www.bhpbilliton.com/bb/odxEis/downloads/draftEisDocuments.jsp

39 ACF, 2009, EIS submission: www.acfonline.org.au/default.asp?section_id=25 or direct download


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