Submitted by Cam Walker on Tue, 26/05/2015 – 12:57
Melbourne, 26 May 2015.Â Activists 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 â€“ measuring 12 square metres â€“ was to be hung in the foyer of BHP Billitonâ€™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 Billitonâ€™s London offices tonight, Australian time, and the petition will be formally presented to company management.
The petition calls the series of mines â€“ known as the IndoMet project â€“ a â€œdisaster in the makingâ€ and asks BHP Billiton (BHPB) to â€œwithdraw from IndoMet immediately and seek permanent protection for the area.â€
BHPBâ€™s giant IndoMet coal concessions cover 350,000 hectares – an area one and a half times the size of the Australian Capital Territory -Â in Central and East Kalimantan.Â The area holdsÂ more than 1.2 billion tonnes of coking coal and is located in theÂ â€˜Heart of Borneoâ€™ region, which the Asian Development Bank has called â€œthe lungs of Asiaâ€.
The rich forest, which has provided sustainable livelihoods for Dayak people for generations, is also home toÂ pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopards and orangutans.Â WWF reports that the area isÂ home to 6 per cent of the worldâ€™s biodiversity, withÂ three new species, on average, discovered every month since 2005.
â€œThousands 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,â€ 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 â€œcustomary owners or occupants of land or resources.â€
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 Billitonâ€™s Haju concession.
â€œIt 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 worldâ€™s climate. In a world that is oversupplied with coal, there is simply no justification for developing the IndoMet project,â€ said Alex Scrivener from Global Justice Now, the organiser of the petition.