Mining giant keen on exploiting Borneo forests

Mining giant keen on exploiting Borneo forests Bhp Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, is planning to raze some of the great apes' rainforest habitat. The company is known to be an ardent supporter of the widely-watched bbc programme, Saving Planet Earth. The Sunday Times has uncovered documents that reveal the Anglo-Australian mining giant's plans to exploit mining rights in large swathes of tropical forests in Borneo. Billiton, which is known to wear its green credentials on its sleeves, has lobbied for ending the protected status of some of these areas so it can clear the trees and dig for coal.

The company has in the past supported work to help save Borneo's orangutans. But the documents reveal Billiton's plans for an open cast coal mine less than 3 km from where orangutans live. They show it has concessions for mining in hundreds of thousands of acres of the rainforest.

David Chivers of the Wildlife Research Group at the Cambridge University, said: "This is going to be a belt of mines right across rainforest. It will drive out wildlife and will be a disaster for the island.' Billiton insists it will only mine in permitted zones and use sustainable practices but the British government is concerned by the lobbying to revoke protected status of parts of the rainforest. Barry Gardiner, British prime minister Gordon Brown's special representative on forestry, has sought a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Farah Sofa, deputy director of Walhi, an Indonesian environmental group, said: "bhp Billiton is a climate dinosaur. A deluge of base camps, roads, and open-cast pits would eat the heart of this island from inside out.'