Protest at BHP Billiton AGM, Melbourne, 17 November 2011

Traditional owners and environmentalists descended on the Melbourne Convention Centre on Thursday 17 November for the BHP Billiton AGM. Using proxies, some twenty Aboriginal elders and supporters gained access to the meeting, while others held a protest outside. Friends of the Earth and a collective of environment groups had prepared an ‘alternative’ annual report for the world’s biggest mining company, and copies were handed to shareholders – see BHP Billiton Watch ( the report is available for download. The protest, against a backdrop of a giant inflatable radioactive waste drum and Mr Death puppet, was joined by members of Japanese for Peace, and was enlivened by music from the Radical Choir, hip-hop activists MC Ollie and Izzy, plus a visit from No Nuke Calamity Jane (aka Madeline Hudson).

The previous evening also saw a public forum at Trades Hall, organised by Friends of the Earth ACE collective, where Senator Scott Ludlam spoke about mining and the history of resource consumption, using the well-known story of the invention of chess to point the impossibility of indefinite exponential growth. He also talked about the waste product of uranium mining and illustrated the sheer scale involved by superimposing projected volumes generated by BHP operations to 2050 - about 1.3 cubic kilometers - on a map of Adelaide, burying the CBD under 370 meters of tailings...

Mia Pepper from the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) spoke about what has been happening in Western Australia and introduced the new BHP Alternative Annual Report, which was due to be distributed to shareholders at the AGM next day.(See video

Tomohiro Matsuoka of Japanese for Peace spoke about the present situation in Japan following Fukushima, but also the role of the Japanese nucler industry in the recent Australian government decision to reverse the ban on uranium exports to India: the industry had no hope of expanding in Japan itself following the Fukushima disaster and therefore needed the additional supplies of uranium to countries such as India where it means to sell nuclear power plants...

The forum then heard from traditional custodians Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, Peter Watts, Mitch, Glenn Cooke, Darcy Harris, and Richard Evans, all of whom were due to intervene in the AGM, as well as visiting Chilean activist Cristian Milla, who gave an account of the activities of BHP in that country, and John Poppins of BHP Shareholders for Social Responsibility (see

The reception given to the elders and to Cristian at the AGM was insulting and dismissive, though Uncle Kevin saw it as a positive that their presence had at least held up the money talk for most of the morning - see video

There is a brief report of the AGM on BHP Billiton Watch and photos on Melbourne Protests, including links to more video from the forum -