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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14214


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (16:06): According to BHP Billiton's code:

Health and safety, social responsibility and environmental sustainability are crucial to maintaining … our social licence to operate.

Yet it is evident that these elements were not present on 5 November, when the equivalent of 25,000 Olympic swimming pools of water and sediment from iron ore extraction came down a mountain side in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The Fundao dam, which in recent years had undergone a rapid scaling up, collapsed in what some have called an 'avoidable' catastrophe, killing 12, with 11 people still missing.

There must be accountability for this human and environmental disaster, especially in the light of BHP's past disastrous experience with the Ok Tedi Mine and the 2013 independent report produced by environmental group Instituto Pristino that warned of the dangers of the Brazilian tailings dam. The collapse of the dam, operated by Samarco, a fifty-fifty joint venture between BHP Billiton and Brazilian company, Vale S.A., has many, including the Brazilian government, calling it the country's worst environmental disaster.

While BHP has asserted that the sludge is chemically stable, the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights last week cited new evidence that suggests the residue 'contained higher levels of toxic heavy metals and other toxic chemicals', and called the response by the companies involved and the Brazilian government 'insufficient'. The avalanche of mine waste and the contamination of river water has destroyed communities and plant and animal life in its path. There must be a fully independent external investigation leading to full accountability and adequate compensation for the families and communities affected.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Prentice ): Thank you, Member for Fremantle. I know it is an important issue.