The Multinational Monitor


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BP Sinks Profits into Namibian Mines

"Once a sanctions-buster, always a sanctions-buster," might well be the refrain after the recent record-setting merger between two British industrial giants.

With British Petroleum's July offer of $} billion for the Selection Trust mining house, BP joins other oil companies in becoming a self-described "industrial energy/ natural resources group." Despite setbacks due to interrupted Iranian crude supplies and the nationalization of their Nigerian operation, BP tripled its profits in 1979 on the strength of rising oil prices and burgeoning production in the North Sea and Alaska. With ample capital to go prospecting, BP seized on Selection Trust in the country's largest merger ever, picking up what BP director Robin Adams calls "some of the best expertise in the international minerals industry."

What BP---and the British government, which holds almost hall of BP's shares--also picked up was interest in a mining operation in white-ruled southern Africa that operates in defiance of international law.

Just two years ago, scandal rocked Britain when it was revealed that Her Majesty's Government permitted BP to route critical oil supplies secretly to white minority-ruled Rhodesia, in contravenuon of the mandatory trade sanctions that Westminster had herself pushed for as a means of punishing her rebel colony.

Now as a result of the BP-S'( merger, Britain finds itself the perhaps somewhat chagrined part-owner of Tsumeb, a mining corporation that operates exclusively in the South African occupied territory of Namibia , Numerous International Court of Justice and U.N. Security Council rulings have declared investment in Namibia illegal, and have called on governments to discourage their nationals from doing business in the area until South Africa puts an end to its white-minority colonial rule

But Selection Trust holds about t 17 percent of Tsumeb shares; the merger makes the British government the owner of eight percent of the illegal business.

Although no governments have taken strong steps to enforce the international rulings specialists believe this is the first time any government-aside from South Africa--has held such a large investment in the territory. In mid-July. British groups were considering possible protests against the investment. -

A spokesman for BP said the Tsumeb holding was "not an issue" when BP's directors considered the merger plan. And Simon Fuller, the Namibia specialist in the British U.N. delegation, said he has not been approached about the investment. "It may well come up. It's the sort of thing that people may latch on to."

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