Activists to unfurl giant banner at BHP Billiton HQ calling on company to abandon Borneo coal mines

Tuesday, 26 May, 2015

Activists will today unfurl a giant banner at the London headquarters of UK listed mining company BHP Billiton in protest against the company’s plans to build a series of coal mines in some of the last remaining stands of primary rainforest in Indonesian Borneo. A petition will be formally presented to company management at 1pm.

The petition, signed by over 9,000 people, 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 more than double the size of Greater London - 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.

“We are here today to tell BHP Billiton that thousands of people around the world do not support developing a coal mine in the Heart of Borneo. Rather than pursuing profit at all costs, BHP Billiton should do the right thing and seek permanent protections for this unique part of the world,” said Julien Vincent of the campaigning NGO 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 where coal supply is outstripping demand, there is simply no justification for developing the IndoMet project,” said Alex Scrivener from Global Justice Now, the organiser of the petition.

“It’s not too late for BHP Billiton to stop the Indomet project. Production at the first site, the Haju mine, has not yet begun. Mining can devastate local communities through the pollution of local rivers and deforestation. It’s time for the company to reconsider this hare brained scheme to export dirty coal from the heart of Borneo” said Richard Solly, coordinator of the London Mining Network.

Photo: A family sit on the steps to their home in Maruwei village, where residents report being forced to accept just half a cent per square meter from BHP Billiton in exchange for their customary forest. Central Kalimantan, Borneo, 7 June 2013. Credit: Andrew Taylor/Global Justice Now