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November 9, 2005

Conservation International with Mining Companies BHP Billiton Maatschappij Suriname and Alcoa Host Workshop on Conserving the Environment in Paramaribo, Suriname

PARAMARIBO, Suriname--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 9, 2005--Conservation International announces today that they jointly hosted a two-day multi-stakeholder workshop with the Mining Joint Venture of BHP Billiton Maatschappij Suriname and Alcoa. Participants at the workshop discussed preliminary results from biological studies and research conducted on the Lely, Brownsberg and Nassau plateaus and made recommendations for conservation in these important areas. Attending the workshop were representatives from Surinamese government, civil society, National University of Suriname, and companies working in the area.

Ambassador Wim Udenhout, Executive Director of Conservation International (CI), Suriname and Warren Pedersen, Managing Director of Suriname Aluminum Company LLC (SURALCO) gave opening addresses at the workshop, followed by presentations on the importance of biodiversity in the region and its socio-economic situation from Surinamese and international scientists. Continuing conservation initiatives in Brownsberg, Lely and Nassau were also discussed.

"CI's mission is simple, as is everything that is important in life: Preserve the biodiversity and ecosystems that sustain life on earth. And this mission will not be compromised," said CI Suriname Executive Director, Ambassador Wim Udenhout. "We believe it is important to engage the private sector in our mission to conserve global biodiversity, given both the threats and opportunities they present to achieving our desired conservation outcomes."

"Balancing economic development and biodiversity is not always easy," said Warren Pedersen, Managing Director of SURALCO. "Through our work with Conservation International, SURALCO and BHP Billiton Suriname can better understand the environment in the Lely, Nassau and Brownsberg regions. This learning process will assist us in making informed decisions on potential future mining projects in Suriname."

Before the workshop, and with funding from the Mining Joint Venture, CI conducted biodiversity surveys and socio-economic studies in the three areas. CI worked jointly with students and scientists of the National University of Suriname to conduct a rapid biological survey of the Lely and Nassau plateaus, which generated a preliminary description of the biodiversity values and socio-economic dynamics in Brownsberg, Lely and Nassau in the context of the broader bio-geographic region in which they are situated. Because there have been few biological studies carried out of Lely and Nassau compared to Brownsberg, the team focused on these two plateaus. The scientific team included experienced tropical biologists from national, regional and international institutions.

Significant preliminary findings of the survey included a record of a fish species that had only previously been noted in a 1949 survey of Nassau, as well as seven possible new species of amphibians. Findings from the survey, characterization study, and feedback from the workshop will be used to inform conservation strategies for the Brownsberg, Lely and Nassau plateaus.

Andy Witcomb, Environmental Manager of BHP Billiton Suriname, said "The work being conducted by Conservation International will add to the ecological knowledge of these three areas, which have not been investigated in detail previously. This knowledge will be to the benefit of Suriname and science, irrespective of the possibility of mining."

In 2003 a Priority Setting Workshop for the Guayana Shield was conducted to promote effective biodiversity conservation in the region. As a result of the 2003 workshop it was determined that the area containing the three plateaus (Brownsberg, Lely and Nassau) was designated as one of the highest priority areas for conservation in the entire Guayana Shield. Ecosystems in all three plateaus are relatively intact owing to low population density, which presents many unique opportunities for conservation over a large landscape area. The plateaus also face a number of present and future threats including logging, hunting, small-scale mining and potentially large-scale mining.

Bauxite is the raw material for manufacture of aluminum. In other regions of Suriname, bauxite mining and refining represents a major economic activity for the country and its people.