Elder pleads with BHP "don't make me bankrupt"

22 Nov 2013By Ryan Emery

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An Aboriginal elder has pleaded with BHP not to make him bankrupt, after he lost a court battle over expansion of the Olympic Dam uranium mine and was ordered to pay costs.

 

 

 

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(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

 

Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzacott has pleaded with BHP not to make him bankrupt.

 

Mr Buzzacott took BHP to court over its expansion of its Olympic Dam uranium mine, but lost and had to pay court costs.

 

He made his plea directly to chairman Jac Nasser at BHP's annual general meeting in Perth.

 

(Click on audio tab above to hear full item)

 

Kevin Buzzacott sits on couch in a friend's Perth backyard in the stifling afternoon heat.

 

He's tired.

 

It's been a long fight to protect his land north east of BHP's Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia.

 

"I'm 67, I think, and sometimes I feel like I'm 167."

 

Mr Buzzacott is relaxing after he fronted the board of BHP and its shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in Perth.

 

He stood before them and asked if they would "bankrupt him".

 

Kevin Buzzacott took Australia's number one taxpayer to court over its planned expansion of its Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia.

 

He's long argued the water for the mine comes from his people's lands and it's affecting the environment.

 

But the Arabunna elder lost last month and was ordered to pay costs.

 

He says he's doing what his ancestors would have wanted.

 

"My life's been pretty hard, but that's what I've been born for. That's my obligation, my responsibility to care for my land and I don't like it any other way, I love that. That's why I make these hard journeys and get a feed when you get a feed."

 

BHP chairman Jac Nasser didn't say if the company would pursue Mr Buzzacott for the costs.

 

But SBS understands the company is unlikely to do so.

 

Mr Buzzacott also asked about the expansion of Olympic Dam, which is on hold because it's economically unviable.

 

His questions were avoided, but in a later press conference chairman Nasser made it clear uranium was part of its long-term future.

 

"It is fraught with risk to predict with any certainty where the energy markets are heading with the one exception and that is it will continue to evolve and change and we happen to be in an extremely strong position because whether you're looking at coal, or gas, or oil, or uranium, we just have that magic mix of all of those potential outcomes."

 

A spokeswoman for BHP says the company is waiting for technological advancements in the extraction and processing of uranium ore before it goes ahead with its expansion.

 

Kevin Buzzacott says he will continue to fight the company.

 

"The price of uranium has gone right down because of all the stuff that happened at Fukushima. The world is really looking at how deadly this uranium is and what it does, so I've got a lot of support out there as far as that goes. They want this industry to close."

 

For now, it's back to country for Mr Buzzacott to continue his watch over the land.

 

 

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