The Guardian October 10, 2001


BHP Billiton OK Tedi walkout leaves environmental disaster

BHP-Billiton and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government have agreed on 
basic conditions for the company to get out of the Ok Tedi copper mine. The 
mine has done massive environmental damage to the area that could last for 
the better part of this century. Effluent from the mine is destroying food, 
fisheries and the forests which people living along the Fly River in PNG 
rely on. It is an area just to the north of Australia and environmental and 
economic devastation caused by the mine could create many refugees.

"The BHP Billiton agreement seems designed to absolve the company of 
responsibility arising from its polluting of the Ok Tedi mine. Costs are 
limited to forgoing the mine's future profits", said Mr Geoff Evans, 
Director of the Sydney based Mineral Policy Institute*.

"Already many people are living in squalid camps, such as Mosquito Camp in 
Daru. They report major problems from mine waste."

BHP's responsibility has been acknowledged in the 1996 settlement of a 
legal action by 30,000 affected PNG landowners. Today the company is back 
in court accused of breaking the agreement.

"BHP is leaving while its mine is still dumping waste into the river. The 
company cannot renege on its commitments. It has a moral and ethical 
obligation to fix the damage. In Australia it would have a legal 
responsibility to do this as well", said Mr Evans.

"The future damage could cause a serious refugee problem. People will move 
as they try to live, within PNG and potentially spilling into Australia."

* The Mineral Policy Institute is a research and advocacy group to support 
communities affected by the environmental and human rights impacts of the 
mining industry.

Email: advocacy@mpi.org.au

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