Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 11:18 UK

'Bribery' secured Philippine mine

Philippine fisherman
Fishermen on Pujada Bay adjacent to the mine site fear for their livelihoods (pic courtesy Cafod)

A development agency is claiming that a nickel mining project has been "imposed" on Philippine villagers "through bribery and poor information".

The Catholic non-government agency Cafod is making the accusation against Amcor, the local partner of the world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton.

Cafod is taking its concerns to shareholders at the BHP Billiton annual general meeting in London on Thursday.

The agency wants a new, independently monitored process of securing consent.

Consent is required under Philippine law, as the mining project affects an area where a sizeable minority of residents are indigenous.

The allegations of bribery are made in a new report launched to coincide with the AGM in London.

anti mining poster
The mining project has given rise to local protests (pic courtesy Cafod)

The report does not accuse BHP Billiton itself of bribery, but does level the charge at its Philippine joint-venture partner Amcor, as well as local government officials.

Amcor was not available for comment, but BHP Billiton issued the following statement:

"BHP Billiton has a strict code of conduct governing all aspects of our business conduct, including relationship with joint venture partners.

"We take the allegations of bribery extremely seriously and, as noted in their report, Cafod acknowledge they have no evidence to suggest BHP Billiton has been involved in such activity.

"As also acknowledged in the report, BHP Billiton is in dispute with Amcor and until this issue is resolved we are not in a position to further address the allegations in the report."

Cafod alleges that an indigenous community leader was offered one million Philippine pesos ($20,500; 12,600), in return for "supporting the proposed mine and silencing opposition", in an area of great poverty.

The agency also says that the proposed mining project has "created deep division and unease in this formerly close-knit community".

Some people are in favour of the jobs and infrastructure investment mining would bring, but others fear the risk of pollution and damage to their livelihoods as farmers and fishermen in the adjacent Pujada Bay.

The land to be mined lies between the sea and a mountain nature reserve.

Cafod is seeking a new, independently monitored consent process, and wants BHP Billiton to "lead the way in responsible mining" and to "ensure that the partners and contractors it chooses to work with are not involved in bribery or corruption".

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