Barbados has awarded its first offshore oil-exploration rights. Australia-based BHP Billiton will evaluate two undersea blocks southeast of the Caribbean island. 

Above: The Ok Tedi Mine from Wikipedia (credit Ok Tedi Mine CMCA Review)

BHP Billiton is the world’s largest mining company. It was responsible for the worst environmental mining disaster in the Southern Hemisphere at the Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea. (See: ABC Science Friday, 5 September 2008: ‘Toxic time bomb’ awaits Ok Tedi)

In Papua, New Guinea, BHP Billiton was sued for US$4 billion, but settled for US$500 million, even though The Australian via Corpwatch, January 19th, 2007, reported that experts say it could take 300 years to clean up the toxic contamination. When there is an oil spill in Barbados, will Bajans be adequately compensated? 


Crane Beach, Barbados South-East Coast

If there is an oil spill off of the South East coast of Barbados where BHP Billiton may be drilling, the prevailing tides are likely to bring any slick closer to the beautiful beaches.


Shell Oil and the Jet Fuel Spill

Royal Dutch/Shell (Shell Oil) acquired Billiton in 1970, and it is noteworthy that there is currently a pollution problem involving Shell in Barbados. Barbadian farmers near the airport in Barbados are still complaining that their well water is contaminated, and in some cases flammable! Barbados Free Press states the following in TO HELL WITH SHELL!: “Fifteen Years Ago, Shell Spilled At Least A Half A Million Gallons Of Jet Fuel Into The Barbados Water Table. Shell Has Not Cleaned Up The Spill Or Compensated The Immediate Victims


Trust Me

While reporting the offshore oil-exploration agreement, Mike Melia of AP (seen on Taiwan News) remarked that Philmore Best, deputy permanent secretary of Barbados’ energy ministry gave no details on the financial terms of the deal.  Why no details? Barbadians have a right to know what is being done with their country’s resources.

Prime Minister Thompson’s government lacks accountability. When I read the Taiwan News report, I get the opinion the Bajan Government is saying, “Trust me! We negotiated a great deal, but you don’t need to know the details!”

When I see recent stories like BHP Billiton’s mine partner accused of bribery and BHP Billiton attacked for ‘half-truths and evasions’, I get worried.


Big Money

If there is a substantial oil discovery off Barbados, tremendous sums of money will change hands. Who will benefit? No individual person owns the sea. The country of Barbados owns these offshore oil fields, and it is only fair that ALL the owners, the citizens of Barbados, benefit from the sale. Fellow Bajans, think about it. We own both the oil fields and the oil therein! Our elected officials are supposed to manage our property for OUR benefit. Will YOU benefit from the sale of YOUR oil? 


Integrity Legislation Urgently Needed

Someone told me that a certain high-ranking Barbados Government minster was making money on the side from his position. When he was confronted with what he was doing, he brazenly said: “I have done nothing illegal!” The sad thing is that he was right. It is still legal for Bajan politicians to accept gifts from contractors.

Barbados Free Press said: “Citizens Of Barbados: Oil Is A National Treasure - Demand Full Disclosure About Oil Bidding!

Unfortunately with no rules, all we can do is sit back, and blindly trust the Government to manage our property.