The Lizard's revenge on BHP Billiton


Intro by PIPLinks

Date of publication: 
18 July 2012

BHP Billiton’s gigantic Olympic dam mine has long been the focus of protest. We have long covered the legal actions of local Arabunna elder ‘Uncle’ Kevin Buzzacott to stop the expansion of the mine, which aims to make it the biggest uranium mine in the world. (See: Aboriginal elder loses bid to overturn expansion of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam –

Kevin Buzzacot tells the story of an old lizard known as Kalta, who sleeps under the ground. Except the lizard isn’t sleepy anymore, not since the Australian Government approved the expansion of the Olympic Dam uranium mine in October 2011.

He’s called for people to help the lizard shut down the mine. The results is a weekend of protest in Australia called the Lizard’s Revenge (with accompanying global protests). See:

It is still ongoing, but below is a selection of articles on the protests to date … (Richard may later be able to add something more from the London solidarity action he was part of). There are good photos to use in the first article…


Protesters storm BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine fence at Roxby Downs

Ben Hyde in Roxby Downs –

13 July 2012

PROTESTERS broke a gate lock but failed to enter South Australia’s Olympic Dam mine yesterday, in an escalation of their bid to halt its operations.

About 12 people involved in the Lizard’s Revenge protest pushed and pulled at the exterior gate until the lock broke at 3.30pm.

But the primary steel gate was reinforced with weights to prevent the protesters from entering the mine site.

More police officers were brought in to stand guard behind the mine fence, while another group of about 40 police marched over a hill and stood watch nearby. Mounted police were also seen for the first time since the protest began on Saturday.

At least 100 officers were in the vicinity at the height of the protest but there was minimal confrontation.

The drama unfolded after the group of about 350 protesters marched to the Olympic Dam mine gates for the second time, chanting their anti-nuclear message.

Once at the gates, the activists sang, danced, lit fires and chanted “use your cranium, don’t mine uranium”. The march started about 2.30pm and a small group was still sitting at the mine gates at 6pm.

SA Police Northern Operations Assistant Commissioner Neil Smith said police would take “appropriate action” against those responsible for breaking through the fence.

“Their behaviour clearly shows their intentions to not protest in a lawful manner, which is the reason we have significant resources here.

“We have police officers filming what is occurring at the gates, to identify those responsible in order to take appropriate action,” he said.

Lizard’s Revenge co-organiser Nectaria Calan said the breaking of the fence was unplanned.

“We’ve been fenced in (our campsite) for days and people are frustrated,” she said.

“I’m not going to condone the behaviour of others, I think it was pretty harmless.” Ms Calan said the group still hoped to shut down the mine but would not elaborate on plans for today and tomorrow, the final two days of the event.

BHP Billiton external affairs vice-president Kym Winter-Dewhirst said the company was satisfied with security. “We are always concerned when people damage someone’s private property,” he said.

“(The main steel fence) is very sturdy. I don’t think we are too worried about the chicken-wire fence outside.”


Rally reaches Olympic Dam gates

The Transcontinental –

14 July 2012

CO-OPERATION between police and protestors in Roxby Downs has been tested following a large rally outside the gates of Olympic Dam mine.

Police issued a statement expressing ‘disappointment’ at how some 400 protestors conducted a march to the mine’s gate on Saturday.

According to police, an agreement had been reached to restrict the march to one lane.

“Protestors ignored requests to restrict activity to one lane and instead took up the whole road,” the statement read.

“This caused the need for police to close the road for the entire two hour period.”

The statement quoted Assistant Commissioner Neil Smith as saying: “I hope to continue to work with the protestors to facilitate a lawful and peaceful protest that minimises disruption to anyone else in the area.”


PROTESTORS have waved flags and indulged in song and dance at the gates of the Olympic Dam mine in Roxby Downs to protest against its expansion.

The ‘zombie’ march, to demonstrate their opposition to uranium mining and nuclear power, finished shortly after 3pm on Saturday.

There were conflicting reports on how many people attended the rally – organisers claim 400 while police put the figure at 150.

Co-organiser Nectaria Calan from Friends of the Earth said the rally was a success.

“The police have treated us surprisingly well. The march has gone off without a hitch,” she told this website from gate.

“We wanted to bring out protest against the expansion and against the international chain of uranium to the site and we did.”

Ms Calan said it was important to highlight what happened to uranium once it left Australia’s shore and headed overseas.

One of the group’s issues is Australia’s agreement to sell uranium to India which is not a signatory to the nuclear weapons non-proliferation treaty.

Ms Calan said the rest of the event would feature music, cabaret, legal briefings and discussions.

The Lizards Revenge event is due to finish on Wednesday, July 18.


Police accused over Olympic Dam protest

by: Sarah Martin, SA political reporter, The Australian –

16 July 12012

PROTESTERS at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine have accused police of heavy-handedness, as more than 400 people joined a “mutant zombie march” to the Roxby Downs site yesterday.

Organiser Nectaria Calan said police were harassing protesters and depriving the group of their civil liberties by demanding identification and controlling access to and from their campsite.

“They have barricaded us into camps . . . and you can’t get out with a two-wheel-drive,” she said.

“They are forcing us to go through the roadblock with an escort through the protected area, where police have increased powers. We feel like our civil liberties are being undermined.”

Ms Calan said protesters were still arriving for the five-day Lizard’s Revenge Festival and urged police to respect their right to protest.

Police said protesters had defied orders to march on one lane from the campsite to the mine gates 1.3km away, causing a two-hour road closure, but the event had been otherwise controlled.
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The anti-nuclear activists, who are protesting against the mine expansion and the uranium industry, have vowed to shut down the mine, with further protest action planned.

They say the company and the state and federal government have put short-term economic gain ahead of environmental and health concerns.

Elder Kevin Buzzacott, who had previously tried to stall the mine expansion through a legal challenge, said the uranium industry was “deadly”. “The sooner it stops the better. If people really knew what they were destroying they wouldn’t touch it.”

Northern Operations Assistant Commissioner Neil Smith rejected suggestions the police response to the protesters had been heavy-handed.


Peaceful dissent and a lizard’s revenge

Peter D. Burdon ABC Environment –

10 July 2012

THE ANTI-NUCLEAR MOVEMENT in Australia can be characterised by several key themes – colour, lentils, solidarity and a commitment to nonviolent acts of resistance.

Another pervasive theme that characterises the past forty years of activism is power imbalance. On one side of the struggle you have poor and sometimes dislocated indigenous people, students and concerned community members (greenies). On the other side there are billion dollar companies, the Government, State police and the media.

Such is this power imbalance that many campaigners will spend decades resisting without reward. Those who are fortunate to be involved in a campaign victory (or even a slight concession) have also seen promises betrayed and decisions reversed.

Yet, despite many crushing defeats, antinuclear activists continue to resist. They do so, not because they have nothing better to do, or because they are violent delinquents (the images commonly portrayed in the media), but because they are acting in accordance with their conscience. They are resisting environmental degradation, corporate dominance, and the continued dispossession of Aboriginal communities. They are also promoting things such as appropriate technology, de-growth economics, solidarity and antiquated notions such a citizen’s right to participate in a democracy. Whatever one’s political persuasion, these are all pressing moral and social issues and they deserve our most earnest engagement.

Instead, the most significant upcoming anti-nuclear protest, ‘Lizard’s Revenge 14-18 July’ (north of Roxby Downs at Alberrie Creek Station) will be greeted by over two hundred police officers “including including STAR Group [Special Tasks and Rescue], mounted police and others on dirt bikes”.

The stated reason for this deployment of SA State power is “to ensure a peaceful protest” and to “manage the situation”. The antinuclear movement has good reason to be suspicious of these seemingly benign statements. Still fresh for many campaigners are the memories and scars of an anti-nuclear protest at the Beverley Uranium Mine in May 2000.

The protest was organised by anti-nuclear groups in South Australia and Victoria. An undercover police informant successfully infiltrated the Victorian group and fed false and provocative information to the mining officials. The public aim of the protest was to commit trespass onto the mining lease and host a peaceful march in solidarity with Aboriginal elders and children. However, at the mine site the protestors (including a Chanel 7 cameraman) were herded into metal crates and welded inside. Prominent Human Rights advocate Brian Walters SC, represented 10 of the protestors in a compensation claim against the South Australian Government. He describes the scenes as follows:

“This case is a nasty example of police violence that was premeditated, consistent and paid no heed to legal requirements. Police used capsicum spray like it was fly spray and used their vehicles like weapons. They placed protesters, as if they were cattle, into shipping containers in the middle of the desert and conducted welding while they were inside.”

One of the most horrific consequences of this police action was the assault committed against an 11-year-old Adnyamathana girl who was suffered injuries when capsicum spray was used against her. Another young man was targeted by police and beaten with batons by eight officers. Many in Government and civil society failed to engage with the important moral considerations that lay behind the protest. A common bias and perception was articulated by then deputy premier, Kevin Foley: “The Government will not negotiate a wholsesale settlement with a bunch of feral protesters who put the safety of our police officers in peril…the Government sends a clear message to any anarchist group of protesters that we will not be a soft touch.”

Yet, at the end of the trial, Supreme Court Judge Timothy Anderson was left with little doubt over which parties had behaved as uncivilized “ferals”. Judge Anderson awarded $700,000 in damages to the plaintiffs. He described their imprisonment in shipping crates, as “degrading, humiliating and frightening” and noted that the action constituted an “affront to the civil liberties of the protestors”. He added, “The conditions were oppressive, degrading and dirty, there was a lack of air, there was the smell from capsicum spray and up to 30 persons were crammed into a very small space.”

Following from these comments, Judge Anderson found instances of police force to be unnecessary: “Some of those arrested, some being plaintiffs, were mere passive observers, several of whom were taking video footage.” Judge Anderson also criticised Kevin Foley and then Police Minister Michael Wright for their “unreasonable” and “antagonistic” withdrawal from attempts to resolve the case through mediation. In plain language, Judge Anderson said: “It is my view that both ministers, in making these statements, have acted with a high-handed and contumelious disregard of the plaintiffs as citizens of the state with a right to protest, and with the right to be treated according to law if they did protest.”

As the protest camp at Lizard’s Revenge is erected and the hundreds of citizens converge, we would do well to recall this event and the words of Judge Anderson. Certainly, the right to free speech and political protest is a basic human right and a hallmark of a functioning democracy. Political protest is also an important part of ensuring the accountability of those in power.

As we navigate our way through sensational media headlines such as “Protesters vow to shut down Olympic Dam” we should also try to engage genuinely with the important moral issues that the protestors are highlighting.

Their agenda is quite public, which is more than could be said for the private sector interests they are protesting. We might also question why the police are deploying over 200 personnel to “manage” a peaceful protest and what violence police have instigated during similar events in the recent past.

Finally, we might ponder the opportunity that is being lost by failing to engage seriously with the issues that are being presented and responding to dissent with heavy-handed tactics. Certainly, if free speech means anything, it means the right to express a view that another may disagree with. Even a view that another might think is childish or fanciful. Former High Court Judge, Justice Lionel Murphy said it best twenty years ago when commenting on Queensland Aboriginal activist, Percy Neal. Murphy Commented:

“If he is an agitator, he is in good company. Many of the great religious and political figures of history have been agitators, and human progress owes much to the efforts of these and the many who are unknown…[Murphy went on to quote Oscar Wilde] Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent among them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them … there would be no advance towards civilisation.”

Peter Burdon is a lecturer in law at the University of Adelaide.