Report exposes Anglo-Australian mining giant's corrupt dealings

 Campaigners held a vigil outside Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton's AGM at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster yesterday in protest against the way a controversial nickel project has been imposed on a Philippine island community through bribery and poor information.

CAFOD's hard-hitting report "Kept in the Dark" which was launched yesterday, shows how people living in Macambol on the island of Mindanao claim BHP Billiton's joint venture partner and Philippine government officials offered members of the community bribes in return for supporting the proposed mine and to silence opposition.

The report also reveals:
The community has been kept in the dark about the proposed mine.
The process to secure indigenous people's consent for the project, as required under Filipino law, was seriously flawed.
Serious environmental risks to the area. The project could lead to increased soil erosion, landslides and flash-floods and pollution from mine waste and/or chemicals could endanger the livelihoods of the 65,000 people living near Pujada Bay.

Campaigners handed BHP Billiton's shareholders copies of the report and urged them to take up the concerns with company during the meeting.

Carrying lanterns, a large banner which read "BHP Billiton: "Don't Keep them in the Dark" and photo placards of members of the Macambol community, the campaigners then processed to the Philippine Embassy where they gave a copy of CAFOD's report to the Deputy Ambassador, Reynaldo Catapang.

CAFOD is calling for a new, independently-monitored consent process to be carried out and for the Macambol community to be given sufficient information about the mine and all its potential impacts so that they can make an informed decision about whether it should go ahead or not. CAFOD, which has been supporting the Philippine people's struggle for justice for nearly 40 years, also believes that if the risks to the environment are too great, the project should not continue.

CAFOD's Head of Campaigns, Rashmi Mistry, said: "The shareholders should know what is being done in their name. We want BHP Billiton to tell the Macambol community how the mine will impact on their lives and let them have a say over the project."

Director of CAFOD, Chris Bain said: "For generations, the people of Macambol, on the Philippine island of Mindanao, have earned a living fishing in the crystal waters of Pujada Bay and farming maize and mangoes in the shadow of Mount Hamiguitan. But their way of life is about to change forever. Throughout the world, poor communities are suffering the negative impacts of mining. We don't want this to happen in Macambol.

"As the world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton has a great opportunity to lead the way in responsible mining. It has a responsibility to ensure that the partners and contractors it chooses to work with are not involved in bribery or corruption.

"We are calling on BHP Billiton, its joint venture partner AMCOR and Philippine government officials to address the issues outlined in our report. Failure to do so could pose significant risks to the project and have lasting consequences for communities and the environment in Macambol and beyond."
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CAFOD's Unearth Justice campaign, launched in 2006, highlights the hidden harm caused by mining and asks questions about who actually benefits from the industry. Working with partner organisations it seeks to make the voices of poor communities heard so that communities like Macambol can secure a fair deal from mining and better protect their land and livelihoods.

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