On 1 February 2021, the NGO Port Hedland Community Progress Association submitted a complaint to the Australian NCP against BHP, an Australian mining company. According to the complainant, BHP has not complied with the Environment chapter of the OECD Guidelines. They allege that BHP’s industrial emissions are causing dangerous health risks to the Port Hedland community. In addition, the complainants allege that BHP has not maintained an appropriate environmental management system for over 10 years.
The complainants are seeking compensation for residents impacted by the pollution under a government scheme, as well as a review of the company’s license under Western Australia law to ensure BHP meets current environmental and health standards for safe living.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
From February to June 2021, the Australian NCP engaged with the parties to better understand the complaint, inviting submissions and material and giving both sides the opportunity to respond.
On 1 September 2021, the NCP published its initial assessment rejecting the complaint. According to the NCP, the complainants did not provide sufficient details about the issues they were seeking to resolve and the two main aims of the complaint (compensation under a government scheme and review of BHP’s license under Western Australia law) were considered to fall outside the Guidelines’ scope.
The NCP found only the issue of dust management processes and its impact on surrounding communities to be ‘material and substantiated’, and that there was a link between BHP’s activities and the dust issues in Port Hedland. However, BHP’s dust measures and air monitoring systems were found to be in accordance with the Guidelines’ expectations regarding environmental management. Additionally, the NCP transferred the claims on ambient air quality monitoring to the Western Australia government for consideration.