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Protesters disrupt BHP annual meeting

BHP Billiton has been blamed for fuelling the Fukushima disaster and for not adequately looking after the health of mine workers in Colombia in protests outside the mining giant's annual meeting in Sydney.

Dozens of environmental and social campaigners gathered outside the Sydney Convention Centre on Thursday. A number of protesters unfurled banners reading "BHP dirty deeds" and "Australian uranium fuelled Fukushima" from the top of the building.

A police spokesman said four abseilers who scale the centre to hang the banners were arrested. They were being questioned at Surry Hills police station and could be charged later today, the spokesman said.

The protesters - who represented environmental groups the Mineral Policy Institute, the Conservation Council of Western Australia, the London Mining Network and Friends of the Earth - also distributed an eight-page booklet titled Alternative Annual Report, which listed their complaints against BHP Billiton in the Kimberley and at the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia.

They were joined by Edwin Mejia, a union leader from Colombia, who said he travelled from the South American country to highlight the health and social issues facing mining workers and people living near mines.

"Workers experience very bad conditions [in Colombia] compared to the workers in Australia," Mr Mejia said, citing the town of Albania as an example.


"Why? We are coming to ask to be treated the same as Australian workers."

Adriana Trujillo, who distributed the alternative report outside the meeting, said she was concerned about the impact miners such as BHP Billiton had on the environment.

"Climate change is a massive issue," she said. "The answer is not nuclear energy, nor is it mining more coal."

Other campaigners made themselves heard during the annual meeting.

Anti-uranium protester Laura Hogan, of the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, shouted "Uranium is blood money" and distributed the alternative report after BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers' speech to shareholders in a packed auditorium.

She said she was campaigning against BHP Billiton's sampling of workers' radiation levels at the Olympic Dam mine.

One shareholder called Jack had a different complaint, repeatedly expressing his frustration with what he believed were inadequate shareholder returns.