BHP Billiton exploring Bushman reserve without consent

March 22, 2005

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BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, is exploring the Gana and Gwi Bushmen's reserve without their consent. In reaction to a complaint to the World Bank, the company's Botswana subsidiary Sekaka Diamonds* has erected signs in the reserve in English and Setswana, explaining that low flying planes will start surveying for diamonds. Yet the Bushmen in the reserve read neither English nor Setswana.

The BHP Billiton venture in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is funded by the private arm of the World Bank, the IFC (International Finance Corporation), to the tune of US$2 million. The company's failure to consult the Gana and Gwi, who have been evicted from the reserve, violates the World Bank's own policy on Indigenous peoples.

Local Bushman organization First People of the Kalahari wrote to the World Bank ombudsman in November 2004, complaining that their right to live on their ancestral land was being ’undermined' by the BHP Billiton project. The Bushmen are opposed to any development on their land until they are allowed to return and live freely there.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, ’The Bushmen know not to expect justice from the diamond companies or the Botswana government, and Survival knows that the World Bank won't help Indigenous peoples who are victims of its so-called development schemes – whatever its policies might be. But the sheer cynicism of this is extraordinary. A diamond company sticking up unreadable signs in a Bushman community in order to fulfil 'local consultation'! It would be comic, if it wasn't so tragic.'

*Sekaka Diamonds is also known as Kalahari Diamonds Limited.

Photos of the sign available. For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]