Statement on GCM Resources’ AGM, 18 January 2023
GCM Resources plc will hold its AGM (Annual General Meeting, or shareholders’ meeting) on Wednesday 18 January 2023.
GCM Resources wants to extract 572 million tons of coal at Phulbari in Bangladesh. If it is allowed to proceed with its plans, up to 130,000 people would be displaced from their lands. Coal would be extracted for 30 years from Bangladesh’s only flood protected location.
The Government of Bangladesh remains officially opposed to further open pit coal mining. Critics of the Phulbari project note that the relevant government minister has stated that there is no contract with GCM for the project. This suggests that investing in GCM is financially risky.
GCM’s Annual Report for 2022 presents the Phulbari project as a ‘Green’ mine. It says that opening the Phulbari mine would reduce Bangladesh’s CO2 emissions by up to 30% because it would reduce the need for importation of lower quality coal from elsewhere. The company aims to use electrically powered mining equipment, develop a large-scale solar power park within the project area to provide power to the grid and to power the mine itself, and provide extra carbon offsetting through progressive development of an extensive forest plantation as part of the land rehabilitation plant. It would end up, says GCM, being a net zero mine.
But the coal being imported from elsewhere will still be mined, sold and burned. The climate arguments against the Phulbari mine are the same as against any new coal mine: the very fact of constructing a new coal mine will increase the amount of coal mined, and all that coal will be burned. Coal burned anywhere affects the climate everywhere, and low-lying Bangladesh will suffer more than most countries from the consequent rises in sea level. It is in Bangladesh’s interests to move away from coal use, not to mine more coal.
The Annual Report says that GCM’s Resettlement Action Plan “was prepared as part of the coal mine’s comprehensive Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and involved several rounds of surveys covering families within and immediately adjacent to the Project Area. A demographic survey was also carried out in 2019 to update the population and household trends. GCM is committed to lift the amenity of its local community and will ensure the RAP will deliver:
Full and fair compensation
Full compensation prior to displacement
Fairness, transparency and choice
Higher living standards (town/village sites improved amenities)
Financial grants to enhance livelihoods
Training and preferential employment
Support of farmers to enhance agricultural production.”
We are aware of no mining project anywhere in the world which has been able to deliver benefits such as these, including projects run by enormous multinationals with huge amounts of cash and long experience. What makes GCM confident that it can deliver all this despite its small size and lack of experience?
The Annual Report also claims that the majority of the people at Phulbari want development of their area (rated as one of the poorest in Bangladesh); they want job opportunities; and above all they want a better life for their children. It says that the mine would deliver over 17,000 jobs directly and indirectly and more jobs would come from having an expansive reliable power supply enabling new industrial development.
It does not mention the catastrophic loss of tens of thousands of agricultural livelihoods through destruction of fields, surface and underground water systems and forced relocation of farming families, the negative impacts of sudden and total social dislocation and imposed cultural change.
Nor does it mention the fact that, from the beginning, huge numbers of local people have made known their implacable opposition to the development of a mine. On 26 August, 2006, the Phulbari Massacre took place. More than two hundred people were injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people who protested against the proposal. Three young people, Al Amin (11), Mohammad Saleqin (13), and Tarikul Islam (18) were shot dead by police.
Critics of the project deny that there has been any significant survey of public opinion in the area since 2006.
Anu Muhammad, former Member Secretary of the Bangladesh National Committee, points out:
“Any project for mining or importing coal is not welcome in Bangladesh. After the Phulbari uprising people’s protests continued against Rampal Coal Fired Plant for more than a decade. In Banshkhali twelve people were killed by police when they protested different irregularities and repression. With this national spirit the Bangladesh National Committee submitted an alternative master plan in 2017 that definitively showed that Bangladesh does not need coal mining and/or coal power plants, these are not at all financially and environmentally viable, there are much better alternatives, mostly by renewables. … In recent months people in the project area have made renewed demands to implement Phulbari agreement that includes expulsion of GCM from the country, ban open pit mining and trial of the officials of Asia Energy (GCM) for killing people in 2006, for continuing illegal business in the name of Phulbari mine and for continuing conspiracy against people.”
GCM remains, as it has always been, a model of poor corporate practice. We call on the London Stock Exchange to delist the company from the Alternative Investment Market. We call upon the Bangladesh government to take legal action against GCM and to implement the 5-point Phulbari Verdict, which the government signed with community representatives on 30 August, 2006. We call on the company to get out of Phulbari; to get out of Bangladesh; and to get out of London. We call on the company’s Board to do something more constructive with their time than pursuing a project which would wreck the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in Phulbari and contribute to the climate catastrophe which threatens to wreck life for everyone on this planet.
London Mining Network
Phulbari Solidarity Group.