/ 16 November 2010

Mozambican NGOs report BHP to JSE

A coalition of Mozambican non-governmental organisations has reported mining giant BHP Billiton to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Socially Responsible Investment Index (SRI) for “intolerable conduct” in planned pollution at its aluminium smelter in Mozambique, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The coalition of environmental and human rights NGOs sent a formal complaint to the JSE at the end of October, Vanessa Cabanelas, spokesperson for the environmental organisation Justica Ambiental, told the South African Press Association (Sapa).

“We were not sure if the Mozambican Administrative Court or internal processes would work out so we decided to build pressure and lobby from outside,” said Cabanelas.

“We have to use all the means available.”

BHP’s Mozal aluminium smelter outside the capital, Maputo, obtained a special permit in May to emit pollutive gases in a bypass for four months during reparations to its fume treatment centres (FTCs).

The coalition disputes the authorisation.

The fact that the FTCs had been allowed to corrode to such a point as to need repair suggested “a gross negligence on the part of Mozal”, the letter to the SRI read.

Independence of studies questioned
“Either they used inappropriate material or failed in their initial Environmental Impact Assessment.”

The coalition also questioned the independence of environmental studies, since one analyst had acknowledged on television that studies had been based on information provided by Mozal, the letter read.

It also claimed no public consultation was held with the commnunity of 800 000 people living around the plant before the permit was granted and that there had not been thorough disclosure of alternative repair methods to the bypass.

The SRI’s Corli le Roux confirmed to Sapa that it was investigating complaints against BHP’s actions in the Mozal saga.

Other ethical bodies were considering similar complaints, said Cabanelas.

IFC to visit the site
The United States-based International Finance Corporation Compliance Advisor Ombudsman would “in fact come to Maputo for a visit”, she said.

The IFC was one of the funders of the $1,34-billion plant’s construction 10 years ago.

In the complaints letter, the coalition called for an independent environmental audit of the planned bypass, access to Mozal’s initial environmental permit and annual environmental report, as well as an “argued evaluation” of alternatives to the bypass. It also demanded the public presentation of environmental audits and better consultation with civil society and the community.

Mozambique’s Administrative Tribunal is currently presiding over an application to suspend Mozal’s bypass permit. — Sapa