PRESS RELEASE: Phulbari Solidarity Coalition
21 March 2020, London
For immediate release
Three thousands climate justice campaigners from across the world have taken online action against the AGM of GCM Resources, as GCM planned meeting neglecting social distancing during London lockdown last Friday.
The four-fold online-action was launched on Wednesday 18th March to expose GCM, by a wide coalition of 13 organisations led by the Phulbari Solidarity Group, involving social media and mass-Emails which forced the company’s three directors and Executive Chairman Datuk Michael Tang to stand back from attending the AGM. Despite directors stood back, the company’s CEO Gary Lye who was appointed Alternate Director on the night before the AGM, has gone ahead with the meeting.
GCM Resources, formerly Asia Energy plc, is one of the two London-listed mining companies that plan to build a massive open pit coal-mine by displacing upto 220, 000 people from Phulbari. Their 2019 AGM saw two postponements before it was held on 20th March 2020, at an imposing venue in the QEII Centre in Westminster. Bangladesh’s Deputy Energy Minister claims that GCM has no valid asset to operate in Phulbari, and that government will take legal action over GCM’s selling shares in London on Phulbari project’s name without permit.
“Even in the absence of an agreement, GCM or Asia Energy is trading shares in London by providing information that coal would be extracted from Phulbari, which is false. The government has taken this into notice. The government is proceeding to take legal action against them.”
The Phulbari Solidarity Coalition had organised loud picket at the AGM of GCM for what would have been the 11th consecutive year. As social distancing is key at this time of pandemic, the campaigners have changed the event into online to avoid in person picketing. They protested online as a cross-network action for resisting mining, colonisation, the protection of indigenous peoples, land and environmental justice, and public health.
Some 3,000 Facebook users have taken action by holding placards “GCM:Hands Off Phulbari”, while hundreds were tweeting and calling on instagram #ExposeGCM. Others have emailed GCM’s official email, by calling on GCM’s directors and CEO to withdraw all legal cases against the community leaders, and to stop selling shares and signing contracts with external corporations on the basis of Phulbari coal project.
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, the Phulbari communities outraged. In a written press statement, Joy Prokash Gupta, the spokesperson of the Phulbari chapter of the National Committee of Bangladesh, stated:
GCM’s AGM in London is insane and unethical. Its fraudulent business must be stopped immediately. Government must implement the 6-point demands of Phulbari verdict 2006, and take legal action against the company by ensuring harassment of and false legal cases against community leaders will be withdrawn immediately.
Sanjit Prasad, a community organiser who participated in PSG’s online-action via Facebook last Friday, said:
Asia Energy plc, thereafter GCM, has been abusing us since mid 2000. This company inflicted violence that killed three of our young boys in August 2006. Al Amin, Saleqin and Tarikul were shot dead. My co-worker, Bablu Roy, who was a van driver, is now in wheelchair because of GCM. It’s CEO, Gary Lye, filed false legal cases against me and 18 community leaders in Phulbari and Dinajpur. Our Mayor is also abused by GCM. Gary Lye claims 1Billion Bangladeshi Taka from us for so called damage of his business intentions.
Dr Rumana Hashem, the Chair of Phulbari Solidarity Group who coordinated the Coalition’s online picket, said:
GCM’s forced AGM indicates that it has scant regard for its investors. The London Stock Exchange guidance asked all brokers to avoid business last Monday and London is in lockdown. GCM’s directors have heard our online calls and they stood back but its reckless CEO went ahead. How is this possible for a CEO to take over charges of directors before an AGM? I had never heard of any other London-listed company to appoint alternate director the night before the AGM. They are running scared because they do not have a valid license for business. London Stock Exchange now needs to investigate whether the company is in breach of the law. What does the company have to hide, postponing their AGM at peace time and holding meeting during emergency lockdown?
Richard Solly, the Coordinator of London Mining Network, said:
I attend lots of mining company AGMs and none is as pathetically badly organised as GCM’s. Every time GCM holds its AGM, I think ‘this must be the last GCM AGM’. The company seems to have no licence for its planned operations in Bangladesh and there is massive community opposition. Why would anyone trust them to organise a mining operation when they can’t even organise an AGM in usual business time? They’ve postponed their 2019 AGM twice because of ‘security concerns’ being expressed by the planned venues. Didn’t they tell the venues there would be a protest? There’s always a protest! Why has our protest come as a surprise? Would you trust these people to sell you a used car? I wouldn’t!
Despite no contract GCM have signed three Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chinese companies attempting at coal mining in Phulbari in 2019. Ahead of the GCM AGM on Friday, their share price indicated a significant decline from a high of around 28.25 GBX* in March 2019 to a lowly figure of 7.10 GBX* at close of trade. GCM’s share price hiked upto 2 GBX after the AGM.
Friday’s four-fold Online-Action was co-hosted by the Global Justice Rebellion, London Mining Network, XR Universities, Environmental Justice Bloc, Labour Campaign for Human Rights, Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network, XR Youth, XR Slough, Extinction Rebellion London, XR Scotland, and Extinction Rebellion. The action was supported by 350.org, Stand Up To Racism, No Tar Sands,Christian Climate Action, and Urgewald.
Darren Gens, Phulbari Solidarity Group: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 753356963.
Notes to Editors
GCM Resources (then ‘Asia Energy’) is listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange in 2004, following the granting of a two year permit (license) from the Bangladesh Energy Department’s Bureau of Mineral Resource Development on 27 January 2004 for exploration and surveying of a 572 million tonnes open cast coal mine at Phulbari in Dinajpur, Northwest Bangladesh. A Scheme of Development was submitted to the Government of Bangladesh in 2005 but has never received approval. The original permit expired on 27 January 2006 and has not been renewed, yet the company has continued to sell shares and raise capital in London based on claims that a contract will be forthcoming. GCM Resources has no other assets or projects in its portfolio.3
On 26 August 2006 three young people – Al Amin (11 yo), Mohammad Salqin (13 yo) and Tarikul Islam (18 yo) were shot dead, and more than two hundred injured by paramilitary forces in a peaceful demonstration of 80,000 people against the mine.(4) Phulbari communities maintain that GCM is responsible for the murder of three young boys and 220 injured in a 2006 demonstration. Annual ‘Phulbari Day’ rallies have been held every year in Phulbari and across Bangladesh, commemorating the deaths and protesting the company’s continued plans. In December 2019 the communities in Phulbari have handed a memo to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (who is also Bangladesh’s Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources) via the UNO, asking her to take legal action against GCM immediately.
Earlier this month, on 9th March, Phulbari communities have demonstrated in the town centre opposing GCM’s London AGM, and demanding trial of its officials, to withdraw false cases against community organisers, and full implementation of their six-point agreement with the government. The two-hour demo also demanded that the government must take legal action against GCM immediately.
In support of the communities, last year activists had glued themselves to the entrance of the AGM preventing some shareholders from entering. This year the Phulbari Solidarity Coalition had organised loud picketing at the AGM of the AIM-listed GCM Resources. Protesters planned to demand that GCM is de-listed from the London Stock Exchange as it has no viable asset to its name, and has not held a license for coal exploration or mining in Bangladesh since 2006. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders would again dominate the meeting, accusing the company of misleading shareholders and the London Stock Exchange. The in person picket has transformed into online action as protesters, in their good conscience, would not risk Covid-19 pandemic.
[iii] Sample letter to GCM’s directors: https://phulbarisolidaritygroup.blog/2020/03/20/call-on-gcms-directors-and-ceo-to-handsoff-phulbari/
[iv] See report of 2018 AGM protest here: https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/environmental-activists-confront-coal-mining-executives-at-shareholders%27-meeting-in-london