South32.com Suing South32.net BHP BHP.com Mining $500,000,000,000.00 Queen Elizabeth II Venal Scott Morrison Causing Fires illness Death Poisoning Waters radiation Leaks Radioactive Disease uranium leak Killing People Animals Public Stock Fraud BHP south32.net 500 Billion Dollars lawsuit headline news. South32.com Suing South32.net BHP BHP.com Mining $500,000,000,000.00 Queen Elizabeth II Venal Scott Morrison Causing Fires illness Death Poisoning Waters radiation Leaks Radioactive Disease uranium leak Killing People Animals Public Stock Fraud BHP south32.net 500 Billion Dollars lawsuit headline news. South32.com Suing South32.net BHP BHP.com Mining $500,000,000,000.00 Queen Elizabeth II Venal Scott Morrison Causing Fires illness Death Poisoning Waters radiation Leaks Radioactive Disease uranium leak Killing People Animals Public Stock Fraud BHP south32.net 500 Billion Dollars lawsuit headline news. WE ARE SLOWLY BEING KILLED BY South32.net S32 BHP BHP.comTHIS MINE’ share article: Share on Facebook Tweet Email 1 November 2016 ColombiaMiningPollution Threats, pay-offs and skin defects. Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik investigates the activities of a massive British-Australian ferronickel complex. 01.11.2016-this-mine-kills-590.jpgSkin defects, along with cancer and respiratory illnesses, are common in the area of the mine. This Zenú boy is from El Alto San Jorge, Córdoba province. © Irrael Aguilar Amid the arid farmlands of Colombia’s Córdoba province, the grassed earth gives way to bare incisions. Upturned mounds of ochre puncture the landscape. Fuming chimneys spill white smoke. This is Cerro Matoso, one of the largest ferronickel mines and processing facilities in the world. Owned and part-owned for over 30 years by BHP Billiton, an Anglo-Australian corporation and the largest mining firm in the world, it was recently transferred to South32, a spin-off company.1 Matoso has proven a lucrative source of wealth, delivering billions of dollars in sales. But former workers and local communities say that wealth has come at their expense; they are demanding justice for the destructive impact on their health, livelihoods, environment and safety. Small-scale mining first started at Cerro Matoso in the 1960s, expanding in 1979 when the Colombian government granted a concession to Conicol, Ifi-Econiquel and Billington Overseas (the precursor of BHP Billiton, from the Royal Dutch Shell group). Funded by the World Bank, the mine boomed, becoming the region’s flagship industry.2 Montelíbano, a nearby town devoted to agriculture and livestock breeding, saw its population triple.3 Advert Newint - Article 1, 2 & frontpage - CSO21 3 In 1997, BHP Billiton gained full ownership of the mine, doubling its production between 2001 and 2010. Today, Cerro Matoso’s high-quality ferronickel is shipped from Cartagena across the world, where it finds its way into countless industrial products, such as surgical instruments or mobile phones. Extracting the material is an intricate process. Raw ferronickel is found in opencast spaces. It is mined using bulldozers and then transported to processing facilities. There, it is crushed and dried, and readied for the smelter. In high-temperature ovens, the nickel is melted, separated into segments, and cooled. With four enormous furnaces in use, Cerro Matoso is the most energy-intensive industrial project in Colombia. But these ovens emit large amounts of toxic particles, which the wind carries to water sources and fields. CANCER, DEFECTS AND MISCARRIAGES The impacts of contaminated air and waterways on local communities is evident through genetic deformations, illnesses and an epidemic of miscarriages.4 Children have been born without reproductive organs or anuses. Cows and chickens have birthed offspring with two heads and excess limbs. DANE, the Colombian government bureau of statistics, reported an alarming rise in rates of cancer and respiratory illness in the region.5 Dermatological defects, such as blemishes, rashes or burst skin are common. Water studies have detected extremely high levels of iron in the principal local river.6 Dayro Romero is the governor of the indigenous community of Pueblo Flecha, a village located a few hundred metres away from Cerro Matoso. ‘At first we didn’t see any changes,’ he says. ‘But 20 years on we began to see the impacts. [Today] there are high rates of bronchitis, pneumonia… Our children have skin defects, eye problems, constant headaches. Our girls are embarrassed to wear short clothes that show the blemishes on their skin. We are known for our fertility, but in our community we now have so many miscarriages. In 2011, 14 out of 36 pregnancies in our village were aborted... We feel environmentally massacred.’ Advert Newint - Article 1, 2 & frontpage - CSO21 1 Children have been born without reproductive organs or anuses. Cows and chickens have birthed offspring with two heads and excess limbs Irrael Aguilar, chieftain of the Zenú communities in the region, concurs: ‘We are slowly being killed by this mine. This is the end of us. We are on our way to extermination.’ Dozens of former mine workers have also experienced high rates of cancer, deafness and illness, with some initiating legal proceedings against the company.7,8,9 Nickel isn’t the only source of pollution. Nearby coalmines and coal-fired power plants, relied on by Cerro Matoso to meet its enormous energy needs, cast coal dust into the air. In 2013, indigenous and Afro-descendant communities from areas surrounding Cerro Matoso blockaded the mine’s entrance in protest over the health and environmental impacts, halting operations. At first they were ignored. Then, riot police were sent in. The pressure continued, eventually leading to an agreement between communities, the company and the government. One of the central compromises was that Cerro Matoso would finance an independent environmental and health study. Despite delays, the study has begun and is expected to reveal its results later in the year.10,11 The company is adamant that there are no negative impacts from its operations.12 Luis Marulanda del Valle, Cerro Matoso’s Vice-President for External Affairs, maintains that ‘the health of these communities is affected by factors independent of our operations.’13 A BHP Billiton spokesperson pointed to ‘detailed environmental and health studies carried out by Cerro Matoso up to 2014’, which indicated a minimal or absent impact on air quality, water quality and public health. But in 2014, one of the public bodies responsible for monitoring Cerro Matoso’s impacts admitted lacking the necessary equipment to determine whether the company’s own environmental reporting matched reality.14 CALLOUS CONTRASTS In its communications, Cerro Matoso pays ample reference to its contribution to economic and social development. It claims to have significantly improved the quality of life in the region through royalties and social programmes.15 Cerro Matoso is a massive enterprise linking mines with power plants and processing facilities. This truck, loaded with coal, heads from the Córdoba mines to the Geselca power plant.Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik But local voices are more sceptical. Moreno argues that ‘they [the company] haven’t come through on their promise on water access, or the fixing of streets. They’ve built houses, but not using our traditional methods. In any case, what do we do with a house when we’re blighting our blood?’ Aguilar agrees: ‘We do not see the companies bringing real development. Rather, they have been preparing death for people here. They are destroying the forests, the water sources. We are merely looking for a dignified life for our coming generations, something which goes against the company’s vision.’ Montelíbano is a city of callous contrasts. Mine managers and workers benefit from a company country club, a private school and a private water supply. A gated Cerro Matoso neighbourhood sits inside the city centre. A closed condominium reserved for managers lies outside the city limits. Yet thousands of families in Montelíbano live in conditions of extreme poverty. Many lack access to water, sewerage or adequate housing. Rates of illiteracy are high.16 Eighty per cent of the inhabitants of the neighbouring municipality of San José de Uré have unmet basic needs.17 In 2012, a delegate from the General Comptroller noted that municipalities affected by Cerro Matoso were worse off than those without mining projects.18 In rural districts and communities adjacent to the mine, pollution has wrecked traditional livelihoods and methods of subsistence. ‘Before,’ Moreno says, ‘you could throw a net into the river and retrieve 20 fish. Now, it takes you a day to catch three.’ Cerro Matoso is not just a mine: it is an enormous development enterprise, linking coalmines with power plants and processing facilities. For its advocates, it has proven to be a dynamic engine of growth. For critics, it is a textbook example of maldevelopment, a network of extractive ventures which has harmed lives and impeded more salutary forms of development in the region. The mine, which has seemingly polluted the land and lives of Zenú communities, was initially powered by a hydroelectric mega-dam which forcibly displaced indigenous Emberá communities. Today, an enlarged Cerro Matoso is looking to meet its growing energy needs through the expansion of Geselca, a coal-fired power plant supplied by new local coalmines. All these polluting processes are in turn being ‘environmentally offset’ by the industrial plantation of swathes of palm and non-native teca trees, which consume more water than native species. Aguilar calls this ‘double damage’. He says: ‘They damage the environment, and then try to fix that damage with further damage.’ PARAMILITARY LINKS? There are also concerns around how Cerro Matoso has woven itself into Colombia’s vivid landscape of violence. Historically, the province of Córdoba has been one of the areas most embroiled in the country’s armed conflict, with a patent presence of paramilitary and guerrilla forces. Local residents have expressed fears about the relationship between the company and armed actors. One local shopkeeper, asking to remain nameless, reflects: ‘In this city, every business has to pay vacunas [extortion payments] to the paramilitaries, from wealthy retailers to the guys who sell passion-fruit juice on the street. They [Cerro Matoso] have been here for decades, and haven’t had a single reprisal, a single threat, a single kidnapping. How have they done that? Are we supposed to believe that they’ve never paid or engaged with the paramilitaries? We simply cannot explain to ourselves how such a company can move so freely in this territory.’ Others point to precedents. A Japanese company supplying carbon filters left the region, allegedly due to constant extortion.19 Non-governmental organizations have been unable to operate freely in surrounding villages. Irrael Aguilar (left) is one of the indigenous Zenú leaders who lives under severe threats for his involvement in environmental struggles. He is accompanied by fellow leader Juan Urango.Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik There is not just suspicion around the mine’s engagement with paramilitaries to ensure unobstructed operations; allegations persist of the mine’s complicity in violence against social leaders. Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for defenders of human and environmental rights. An explosive mix of armed groups, extensive land conflicts, lucrative extractive projects, and state paralysis create conditions for the killing of dozens of activists every year.20 In Córdoba, the indigenous Zenú community of El Alto San Jorge is home to a population of nearly 16,900 people, spread across dozens of villages. Over the past eight years, the community has seen 49 of its leaders killed. Another 14 leaders currently have protection measures and 19 more are undergoing risk assessments. Only two have obtained full protection measures. Irrael Aguilar, the community’s chieftain, is under severe threat for his involvement in various rights struggles. He travels with an entourage of bodyguards and rarely spends consecutive nights in the same location. Aguilar says that ‘the company certainly has its hands in some of the threats.’ South32 and BHP Billiton deny the claims, with spokespersons from both companies affirming compliance with high standards of human rights due diligence. But those under threat are often stuck in a bind. If they present concrete evidence of the threats against them to the authorities, the risk of reprisal increases. One community leader, who asked to remain anonymous, alleged that he had evidence from paramilitary leaders who had been approached by Cerro Matoso to ‘eliminate him’. But divulging that evidence would put him at further risk. Until the security situation in the region changes, and thorough investigations can take place, there will be little clarity around the true nature of extortion and threats. Questions also arise around the company’s fiscal relationship to the Colombian state. Plantations of thirsty non-native teca trees do further damage to the environment.Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik Cerro Matoso has been accused of avoiding tax, underpaying royalties, and under-invoicing.21 In 2010, the company was forced to pay over $12 million in unpaid royalties, after an audit from the General Comptroller. Further analysis of Cerro Matoso’s finances suggests manipulation or creative accounting to reduce its taxable income.22 Mario Valencia, spokesperson for the Network for Tributary Justice in Colombia, noted: ‘[an] analysis of Cerro Matoso’s figures leaves us concerned, because there is strong evidence that they are presenting accounts which show a situation that is more critical than in reality.’23 Cerro Matoso has also faced significant scrutiny for its lease over the mine, and the contracts it has negotiated with the government.24 Another Comptroller report in 2012 showed that the mine’s environmental licence was granted based on incomplete, inadequate and outdated data.25 WHAT NEXT? The future of Cerro Matoso is clouded in uncertainty. Despite plans to expand operations, a collapse in nickel prices has provoked a crisis.26 Many workers have been laid off, and there are doubts whether the mine’s concession will be extended beyond 2029. But if Cerro Matoso closes operations, will there be justice for communities torn apart by its impacts? In 2011, BHP Billiton registered the largest-ever profit by a British firm.27 It has been a generous sponsor of sports teams, cultural events, and Olympic medals, and has poured millions into lobbying.28 But its wealth has come at a cost – from flattened villages in Brazil to polluted lives in Colombia.29, 30 ‘The word Zenú means wonderful land, a place of found waters,’ Aguilar laments. ‘The legacy of our ancestors is a world-vision of equilibrium, of harmony with the natural world. The Western man [sic] doesn’t understand this, let alone the businessman [sic]. They understand extraction, not conservation.’ Over the past eight years, the community has seen 49 of its leaders killed The tension Aguilar references extends beyond Cerro Matoso; it lies at the heart of hundreds of disputes across the country. Two-fifths of Colombia’s land has been concessioned to or requested by mining or fossil-fuel companies. The government has declared the country open for business, assuring all that the country must develop its way to an enduring peace. The thrust of that development is the so-called ‘mining-energy locomotive’.31 But will an authentic peace be obtainable with a development policy that enflames social conflicts and degrades territories? Social movements have been mobilizing to demand instead a peace imbued with social and environmental justice.32 Danilo Urrea, from the environmental justice organization CENSAT Agua Viva, criticizes the government for proposing a ‘corporate peace’, ‘based on a development model which turns its back to environmental equilibrium, and closes its eyes to popular participation.’ ‘Nature has been the setting of war, it holds the spoils of war and, therefore, it has been the victim of war,’ he says. ‘Nature is also the only fertile ground for peace. Unless we reconfigure our relationships and economic models, unless we reconcile ourselves with nature and each other, then a lasting peace is unattainable.’ Tim Flannery warns of adverse climate impacts if South32 coal mine expansion approved ABC Illawarra / By Ainslie Drewitt Smith Posted WedWednesday 2 DecDecember 2020 at 8:31pm A man sits in front of solar panels Former climate change commissioner Tim Flannery spoke at a hearing of the IPC.(AAP) Share Prominent Australian scientist and climate change writer Tim Flannery has spoken against a planned coal mine expansion in New South Wales, warning of dire environmental consequences if it is to proceed. Key points: The IPC is conducting three days of public hearings as it considers South32's mine expansion plans The company wants to extract 78 million tonnes of coal from beneath Sydney's drinking water catchment until 2048 Climate change scientist Tim Flannery addressed the commission to raise concerns about the mine's environmental impact South32 is seeking approval to expand its Dendrobium mine, west of Wollongong, until 2048. It plans to use a longwall mining technique to extract 78 million tonnes of metallurgical coal for steelmaking from two new areas under Sydney's drinking water catchment. "I want to speak against the development and my concerns are really around the climate impacts of extending our coal mining in Australia," Professor Flannery told a public hearing of the Independent Planning Commission on Thursday. He pointed to a paper published in April in leading science journal Nature which he said laid out evidence that Australia was approaching some "very serious deteriorations" in key global climate systems, including destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and the drying of the Amazon rainforest. "The key thing I'm concerned about is that we're reaching some key climatic tipping points which represent an extreme risk for us," Professor Flannery said. "If we're to have a chance, at least, of avoiding those tipping points, we need to stabilise the Earth's temperatures at about one and half degrees above the pre-industrial average." A sign and the road outside the Dendrobium mine South32 wants to extend the life of its Dendrobium mine until 2048.(ABC Illawarra: Kelly Fuller) Cutting fossil fuels Professor Flannery's presentation to the IPC coincided with the release of the United Nations' annual Production Gap Report, which calls for substantial cuts in global carbon emissions to avoid dire consequences for the environment. "So rather than extending our coal mining and our fossil fuel use, the report argues we need to be cutting [their use] six per cent per year, every year, to keep ourselves safe from these dangerous tipping points." Rush to renewables Wind turbines in a wind farm in South Australia Despite, or perhaps because of, government inaction, consumers and businesses have flocked towards renewable energy, writes Ian Verrender. Read more South32's mines in the Illawarra region provide around 80 per cent of the coal necessary for steelmaking at BlueScope's Port Kembla plant. The companies together have called for the expansion project to be approved to secure thousands of direct and indirect jobs in New South Wales and across the country. Professor Flannery said an ongoing reliance on coal was not feasible as other countries, including Germany, move towards hydrogen steel production. How Germany is quitting coal A coal power plant in Germany. Germany is doing what Australia says it can't — shutting down its coal industry. Read more "Coal mining is not going to be the future," he told the commission. "The hydrogen economy offers us a way of producing steel with 98 per cent less CO2 than using coal. "BHP announced in November that they were going to be investing in hydrogen for steelmaking in China. We can't be left behind on this. "If we make the right decisions now and we get on the right track we could have a very prosperous future here in the Illawarra," Professor Flannery said. Find more local news Tell us your location and find more local ABC News and information Site of mine in metropolitan special area The Dendrobium underground coal mine (represented by the black dot) is seen in the metropolitan special area of Sydney's drinking water catchment.(Supplied: Water NSW) Directly affected Several South32 employees presented to the IPC during its second day of public hearings on Thursday, backing the mine. "The industry provides opportunities in so many disciplines from operators to engineers, finance, technology, communications, and community engagement," Luke Oliver said. "Our region relies on the jobs directly with South32 and those contract partners and supply services." Australian bosses have started caring about climate change Australian company directors nominate climate change as the number one issue they want the government to address in the long-term, in a survey of more than 1,200 business leaders. Read more Mining supervisor Anthony Dal Santo said he and his three children, who also work in the industry, would be "directly affected" if Dendrobium's expansion was rejected. "It would have both emotional and a financial devastating affect on my family," Mr Dal Santo told the commission. "This impact would be felt across the Illawarra and would also impact local businesses, the community, and the state of New South Wales. "Dendrobium mine has proved to be a positive influence in the local community and deserves the opportunity to continue." The IPC is due to hear the last of more than 80 registered speakers making oral submissions on Friday. Of the 280 written submissions already received by the commission, 250 have expressed support for the mine expansion project.