PRESS RELEASE : GCM AGM Postponed Due To Risk Of Protests

Tuesday, 17 December 2019, London, UK.

  • British mining company GCM Resources has postponed tomorrow’s London AGM due to security risk from protests.
  • In Phulbari, Bangladesh, protests today blocked roads demanding the Bangladesh government take immediate legal action against the company.
  • Phulbari UNO joined rally with community leaders and stated that the resistance movement in Phulbari is democratic and peaceful which demands attention of the government.
  • Bangladesh Deputy Energy Minister confirms that GCM has no valid license or asset in the country, and claims government will be taking legal action against them.

Phulbari Rally outside of UNO’s office in Phulbari on 17 Dec 2019. Photocredit: Biplob River Down

GCM Resources yesterday issued this statement postponing Wednesday’s AGM indefinitely due to the risk of protests threatening the security of the venue:

“The decision to seek to adjourn the AGM follows consultation with the venue over access and security issues, which has resulted in the venue being withdrawn as the location for the AGM.”

Loud protests had been organised by Phulbari Solidarity Group alongside a wide coalition of seven organisations at the AGM of the AIM listed British mining company GCM Resources Plc for the 10th consecutive year. 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. Last year activists had glued themselves to the entrance of the AGM preventing some shareholders from entering.

Phulbari Rally outside of UNO’s office is joined by the UNO who came out of office and accepted the memorandum from the community leaders to be delivered to prime minister and energy minister of Bangladesh on 17 Dec 2019 . Photocredit: Biplob River Down

 

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, communities from Phulbari, Barapukuria and Dinajpur, many of whom are threatened with displacement by the planned mine, today demonstrated outside of the UNO (Phulbari District Office) and blocked the Nimtoli roundabout demanding that the Bangladesh government categorically end speculation on whether GCM can obtain a license, remove the GCM Resources office from Phulbari, and take legal action against the company for fraud and harassment of Phulbari residents.  Community leaders have handed a memorandum to Phulbari UNO, who has joined the rally himself and stated that “the protesters are peaceful and the movement is justified and democratic”.

The community memo also demands an immediate withdrawal of all arbitrary cases against 19 community leaders, which Gary Lye has filed in 2014 by claiming that the community leaders must pay him 100 crore Taka, Bangladeshi money (GBP 1 billion), as he felt insulted and faced reputational damage when community activists stopped him from re-entering the township. Protesters maintain that GCM is responsible for the murder of three young boys and 220 injured in a 2006 demonstration. They have handed a memorandum 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.

Professor Anu Muhammad, the leader of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports of Bangladesh said:

“People’s resistance against GCM is still strong despite an environment of fear and surveillance. GCM’s fraud and illegal business must be stopped immediately by de-listing it from the London Stock Exchange to stop its continuing manipulation and corrupt attempts at coal mining along with Chinese companies, its harassment of community leaders, and preparations for violent crimes against people and environment in the form of open cast coal mining and displacement.”

Dr Rumana Hashem, Chair of Phulbari Solidarity Group, who organised the London protests says:

“GCM’s postponement of their AGM shows that they are running scared from activists and academics who would expose the fraudulent nature of their London listing and trading on the LSE. People in Phulbari have lived under the threat of displacement, and with the trauma of the Phulbari killings for more than 13 years. Yet the London Stock Exchange has continued to list and generate capital for this company despite its total lack of any viable mining asset in Bangladesh. We are calling on the Bangladeshi government to categorically end the speculation, remove GCM’s office from Phulbari, launch legal action against them, and pressure the London Stock Exchange to finally de-list this criminal and fraudulent company. It is time to end the suffering for the residents of Phulbari.”

 

Phulbari Rally against GCM attended by Phulbari Labours and Indigenous Workers’ leader, Hamidul, on 17 Dec 2019.  Hamidul is a victim of two arbitrary cases filed by Gary Lye in 2016. One of these charges claim that Hamidul must pay 1 billion$ for Lye’s reputational damage in 2014.  Photocredit: Sanjit Prasad Gupta.

 

GCM Resources (then ‘Asia Energy’) 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 tonne 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 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.

 

On 26 August 2006 three teenage boys were shot dead, and more than two hundred injured by paramilitary forces in a peaceful demonstration of 80,000 people against the mine. Annual ‘Phulbari Day’ rallies have been held every year in the community and across Bangladesh, commemorating the deaths and protesting the company’s continued plans. Recently, GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has filed multiple cases against 19 community organisers in Phulbari and Dinajpur claiming he has felt ‘harassed’ when he visited the area in an attempt to continue coal mining plans in 2014.

In August 2019 the Deputy State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, made this statement to the daily Prothom Alo newspaper:

“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 .”

He stated that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s clear instructions are that the government has no plans to extract coal from Phulbari, and the future extraction of coal would only be considered if any advanced and environmental mining or coal burning technology emerged.

According to GCM’s 2019 annual report and its Regulatory New Service submissions to the London Stock Exchange, the company signed an MOU with Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) in November 2018 to develop a 4,000MW power plant at Phulbari as part of the One Belt, One Road Initiative of the People’s Republic of China. In January 2019, the Power entered into a Joint Venture Agreement with the GCM for the first stage of development, leading to a hike in its share price, despite the lack of government approvals for the project.

      Phulbari Rally outside of UNO’s office on 17 Dec 2019. Photocredit: Sanjit Prasad Gupta.

GCM is not only selling shares on Phulbari’s name in London, the company is one of a string of London listed mining companies linked to the murder and ‘massacre’ of protesters, including Lonmin, Glencore, Kazakhmys, ENRC, Essar, Vedanta, Anglo Gold Ashanti, African Barrick Gold and Monterrico Metals. They have recently announced three new strategic partnerships with two Chinese firms – China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Company (NFC) and Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina), and a Bangladesh based company DG Infratech Pte Ltd. to develop the mine and conspiring in Bangladesh.

Wednesday’s London protests were to be co-hosted by the UK Committee to Protect the Natural Resources of Bangladesh, Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Global Justice Rebellion, Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network, Christian Climate Action and Reclaim the Power.

 

For further information, contact:

Lydia James: <contact@londonminingnetwork.org>

Phulbari Rally outside of UNO’s office on 17 Dec 2019. Photocredit: Sanjit Prasad Gupta

#ExposeGCM  #ProtestCoalMining  #PhulbariResistance

 

 

Press Release

PHULBARI DAY PROTESTS IN LONDON AND BANGLADESH MARK MASSACRE BY BRITISH MINING COMPANY

  • Sombre protests will be held at London Stock Exchange on 23rd August and at Phulbari Memorial in Bangladesh on 26th August to mark ‘Phulbari day’, commemorating the massacre of protesters by GCM in Phulbari in 2006.
  • A letter from a coalition of groups demands that GCM is de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for fraudulent activities.

London, 14th August 2019: Sombre protests will take place at the London Stock Exchange in London and in Bangladesh on the 23rd and 26th of August to mark the 13th anniversary of the murder of three teenage boys and abuse of hundreds of people by AIM listed Global Coal Management Resources plc (GCM) during a non-violent protest by communities around a proposed coal mine in Phulbari in 2006. The anniversary is officially declared Phulbari Day in Bangladesh. A creative rally, a human chain and a performative vigil will be held at the London Stock Exchange organised by Phulbari Solidarity Group and the UK Committee to Protect Natural Resources in Bangladesh with a coalition of seven other organisations. Protesters will echo calls in their letter to Chief Financial Officer of the LSE, David Warren, demanding that GCM is de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for fraudulent and criminal activities.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, indigenous communities and thousands of anti-mine activists will commemorate the lost lives by forming Red and Black vigils under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh on 26th August. The communities and families of victims will pay tribute with flowers to the memorial of the three dead at the Phulbari Memorial. The vigils demand that government must ban open cast coal mine, that Phulbari Day must be declared as the National Fossil Free Energy Day and government should implement the Phulbari Day Verdict by taking legal action against GCM immediately.

On 26 August 2006 three boys Amin (13), Salekin (16) and Tariqul (19) were shot dead, and more than two hundred injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people against plans for an open cast coal mine by GCM’s subsidiary Asia Energy. The eight million ton mine would forcibly displace 130,000 people from Phulbari in northwest Bangladesh. Construction of the plant is dependent on approval from the Bangladeshi government who previously shelved plans for the development following huge protests. Subsequently GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has filed multiple cases against 26 community organisers in Phulbari and Dinajpur claiming he has felt ‘harassed’ when he visited the area in an attempt to continue coal mining plans in 2014.

Nuruzzaman, a survivor of Phulbari shooting and a local community organiser of the 2006 Phulbari Day protest in Phulbari says:

GCM is a fraudulent and murderer company who killed three of our young people for simply watching over a non-violent demo. The company’s CEO, Gary Lye, laughed after the killing on television. They bribed our police and border security guards to kill us and poison our society. They created violence which left three killed and 220 injured even before the company was awarded approval for mining in our Phulbari. They do not have a license, there is no project in Phulbari. We halted the mine 13 years ago. But GCM are selling shares in London Stock Exchange in the name of Phulbari. They continue abusing us. GCM’s arbitrary court cases against myself and 25 other community organisers in Phulbari claimed 1billion taka (BDT 100 crore) for so called harassments that Gary Lye and his men faced after they killed people in Phulbari. 9 of the 11 cases against me have already been dismissed by the courts. We want justice in our fight against this criminal company which has destroyed so many lives already. ”

Protests are ramping up in the UK following 13 years of campaigning for GCM to be de-listed from the LSE. Responding to the massacre and widespread protests, the Bangladeshi Government declined to renew the GCM subsidiary Asia Energy’s license to extract coal from Phulbari in 2010. Despite aggressive lobbying and public claims that they have government approval for coal extraction, GCM continues to have no valid contract with the Bangladesh government. However GCM recently announced a strategic partnership with two Chinese firms – China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Company (NFC) and Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) to develop the mine, which created a hike in its share price1. GCM has no other operation or assets, yet the company continues to sell shares on the LSE on the basis of the Phulbari coal project.

Rumana Hashem from Phulbari Solidarity Group in London, who was present at the 2006 demonstration, says:

London Stock Exchange is complicit in the criminal activities of GCM by allowing them to retail shares and cheating on ordinary people for a decade. I have witnessed Asia Energy’s violence in Bangladesh, heard the cries of the victims and seen tears of non-violent protesters who were injured in GCM’s inflicted violence in one of Bangladesh’s most harmonious, flood protected and green place. GCM want to destroy the region and livelihood of the people in Phulbari. GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has been targeting local opponents. They must be held to account. ”

The London rally is co-hosted by a wide coalition of groups including Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network, Foil Vedanta, Christian Climate Action, Extinction Rebellion Youth, and Reclaim The Power. The protest is expected to be theatrical and hard hitting with participants wearing black clothes and masks, forming human chain, paying tribute with red roses to the memorial of the three killed, and singing songs of mourning and resistance from the Phulbari struggle to commemorate the lost lives.

Akhter Khan from the Committee to Protect Natural Resources of Bangladesh – UK branch (4), says:

We demand that London Stock Exchange must de-list GCM as the company do not have valid license to conduct business in Phulbari. LSE must not allow GCM’s deceitful money grabbing from the share market. ”

Kofi Mawuli Klu from Extinction Rebellion International Solidarity Network UK says:

XRISN-UK stands with the Phulbari Solidarity Group, the National Committee and all Environmental Justice campaigners in and outside Bangladesh in solemn remembrance not only of those martyred but also of those who survived to continue fighting up till now for real Change for a better World! It is with the blood of the heroic likes of the Phulbari martyrs that our XR International Rebellion is fuelled; and this gives us the assurance that the Struggle will continue relentlessly through the turbulence of this dangerous time of Climate and Ecological Emergency; it will continue till we overcome to usher in the victories they deserve.”

A letter signed by 12 transnational climate justice organisations under the coalition of Phulbari Solidarity has been sent to LSE Financial Director, demanding that GCM is investigated and de-listed for its crimes and fraudulent selling of shares without any valid asset. The letter points out that GCM is one of a string of London listed mining companies linked to the murder or ‘massacre’ of protesters, including Lonmin, Glencore, Kazakhmys, ENRC, Essar, Vedanta, Anglo Gold Ashanti, African Barrick Gold and Monterrico Metals. It notes the failure of the Financial Conduct Authority or the London Stock Exchange to investigate or penalise any London listed mining company on these grounds, and notes that this is bringing the LSE into disrepute.

 

 

More information on the Phulbari massacre can be found at:

Video footage of killings in Phulbari: https://phulbarisolidaritygroup.blog/videos/

Facts about Phulbari coal project at a glance: https://www.banktrack.org/download/the_phulbari_coal_project/iap_factsheet_footnotes_the_final_0.pdf

 

Contact for further information: Miriam Rose ( miriam.rose@outlook.com ) to organise statements or interviews with any of the host organisations or case studies.

 

 

#PhulbariDayVigil #CoalMurder

 

 

 

LANDMARK JURISDICTION CASE WON BY ZAMBIAN FARMERS AT SUPREME COURT

PRESS RELEASE by Foil Vedanta

Historic victory opens the door for global claimants to seek justice against British multinationals in the UK

 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday the 10th April announced its verdict in the landmark case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta Resources Plc, allowing them to have their case against the parent company and its subsidiary tried in the UK. The ruling sets a strong legal precedent which will allow people with claims against subsidiaries of British multinationals to sue the parent company in the UK.

The judgment by Chief Justice Lady Hale, and four further judges, re-affirms the rulings of the Court of Technology and Construction in 2016 and the Court of Appeal in 2017. Lady Hale refused Vedanta’s pleas in appealing the former judgments stating that, contrary to the claims of Vedanta’s lawyers:

  • the claimants do have a bona fide claim against Vedanta

  • the company does owe a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of company wide policies on environment and health and safety.

  • that the size and complexity of the case, and the lack of funding for claimants at ‘at the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world’ means that do not have substantive access to justice in Zambia.

The 1,826 claimants, represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, are from farming and fishing communities downstream of KCM’s mines and plants. They claim to have suffered continual pollution since UK firm Vedanta Resources bought KCM in 2004, including a major incident in 2006 which turned the River Kafue bright blue with copper sulphate and acid, and poisoned water sources for 40,000 people(2). 2,001 claimants took KCM to court in Zambia in 2007. The courts found KCM guilty but denied the communities compensation after a nine year legal battle. As a result the victims took their case to UK lawyers.

James Nyasulu from Chingola, a long term campaigner in the case, and lead claimant in the Zambian cases, issued this statement:

The Supreme Court judgment will finally enable justice for the thousands of victims of pollution by KCM’s mining activities, who have suffered immensely since 2006 to date, in the Chingola district of Zambia. Their livelihoods, land and health have been irreparably damaged by pollution which has rendered the River Kafue completely polluted and unable to support aquatic life. Some have already died as a result.

We are very grateful to the British Supreme Court for allowing the case to be tried in the UK where we trust that justice will finally be done. As our thirteen years of legal battles have shown, we have been unable to get justice in Zambia.”

Now that the Supreme Court has confirmed their permission to have the case tried in the UK the case itself can begin.

Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta said:

As the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals recognise, sustainable development and access to justice go hand in hand. The judges ruling today recognises and enforces that principle.

Criminal companies like Vedanta can no longer so easily whitewash their reputation and assume a ‘cloak of respectability’ by virtue of a London listing. This is an historic day for victims of British multinational’s abuses worldwide.”

In a further development Vedanta Resources de-listed from the London Stock Exchange on 1st October 2018, amid global protests following the killing of 13 people, shot by police during protests against the company’s copper smelter in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Commentators (including Foil Vedanta in their comprehensive report on the company’s global operations entitled ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’)1 claimed the company were fleeing regulation in the UK. However, Vedanta remains liable in the UK for damages arising from the Zambian case.

It is now possible that claimants from some of the many of the Indian communities affected by pollution and human rights abuses by Vedanta may also seek to get justice in the UK.

In April 2016 a High Court ruling granted the claimants jurisdiction to have their case against KCM and Vedanta heard in the UK, citing KCM’s uncertain and opaque finances as one reason they may not be able to get justice in Zambia. The Court of Appeal upheld this verdict in July 2017.2(3)

2 Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe and others vs Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc. (13 Oct, 2017)

Call out – JOIN Protest at Vedanta’s Last London AGM on 1st October!

Monday 1st October, 2-5 pm Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED

On 1st October Vedanta will hold their last AGM in London before de-listing from the London Stock Exchange, under pressure from MPs and activists following the Thoothukudi massacre in Tamil Nadu May.

 

At this final AGM, Foil Vedanta will be celebrating the notable victory of Vedanta’s de-listing (which seriously curtails their corporate ambitions), and the success of grassroots activism which has shut down Vedanta’s operations in Goa, Tuticorin and Niyamgiri, with a carnival theme.

 

Please join  kick Vedanta out of London protest once and for all!

 

Bring drums, whistles and colourful flags and clothes!

 

Monday 1st October, 2-5 pm Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED

 

Decry the complicity of the City of London in Vedanta’s corporate massacre of 13 environmental protesters at Thoothukudi in May, the latest in a long history of corporate murders and massacres of activists by London mining companies.

Vedanta’s exit from London is in fact a ‘divorce of convenience’ for the City, who have totally failed to regulate Vedanta, or any other criminal mining company to this day.

 

We will also be releasing our report ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’ – which gives a comprehensive account of the company’s crimes at all of its operations, and the City of London’s complicity, on Thursday 27th Septmber, before the AGM.

 

On 1st October the company will also sign contracts for 41 new oil and gas blocks in India, where their subsidiary Cairn India (part of Vedanta Ltd) have already been using unconventional extraction methods (fracking) in Rajasthan.

We must hold them to account before they run away!

 

Please join the facebook event if you are able to attend!

#KickVedanta #BanSterlite #BringAnilAgarwal2Justice 

 

For further information about Vedanta, read a latest report here: Vedanta’s Billions- Regulatory failure, environment and human rights

:http://www.foilvedanta.org/news/vedantas-billions-regulatory-failure-environment-and-human-rights-report-released/

Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory Failure, Environment and Human Rights

Centre for World Environmental History &

Academia and Activism Forum launch Foil Vedanta’s latest Report

Thursday 27 September 2018  2:30pm-4:30pm,  Room Fulton 203, the University of Sussex, UK.

You are all cordially invited to the launch of Foil Vedanta’s latest report, ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory Failure, Environment and Human Rights’, co-authored with a variety of contributors and to be held on Thursday 27th September at  the University of Sussex.

Speakers will include: Foil Vedanta’s co-directors, Samarendra Das and Miriam Rose, and lawyer Krishnendu Mukherjee.

Anil Agarwal with polluted water at the Vedanta AGM 14 August 2017. Photo credit: Foil Vedanta

The report will be released online on Wednesday 26th September.

The discussion following the launch of the report will describe the rise of the mining corporation Vedanta registered in the City of London, the impact of mining on tribal and local communities in India and Zambia, the environmental costs, and grassroots informed activism which exposed Vedanta’s operations in Goa, Tuticorin and Niyamgiri, and resulted in the recent de-listing of the company from the London Stock Market exchange following sustained campaigning.

Please join the launch of an important report prior to the Annual General Meeting of the notorious multinational company, Vedatna Ltd.

RSVP and for further information, please contact:

Zuky Serper        actacdforum@sussex.ac.uk

Artist in residence, CWEH-Academia and Activism Forum

PROTEST AGAINST GLOBAL COAL MANAGEMENT PLC. AT THEIR AGM

By Raaj Manik

 

Despite the cold weather, a loud and theatrical protest was again held outside the AGM of British mining company Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) at the Aeronautical Society in 4 Hamilton Place in London at 10am today. In solidarity with the communities in Phulbari, where three people were shot dead as paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006, protesters reaffirmed that they will not sleep until GCM is ousted from Bangladesh. A parallel protest followed by a press conference was held in Phulbari against the plans by GCM, an AIM-listed company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. Inside the AGM in London, dissident shareholders asked questions on behalf of the communities in Phulbari and Dinajpur by accusing the company of human rights abuses as the CEO of the company has filed multiple arbitrary charges against 26 frontline defenders, indigenous farmers, small entrepreneurs and local leaders who opposed the mine.

Please see a short video of today’s protest in London!

Watch accounts of activists from Bangladeshi community and eye witness to Phulbari shooting here: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh NOW!

Read minutes of GCM’s AGM 2017: Flogging a Dead Horse

Coal play outside the AGM. Photo credit: Keval Bharadia, South Asia Solidarity

Climate activists and community defenders under the banner of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group , calling for three-point demands, blocked  the pavement at the main entrance of the Aeronautical Society for two hours. They demanded that GCM’s Chief Operating Officer, Gary N Lye, must withdraw all cases against activists in Bangladesh with immediate effect, that GCM must stop selling shares in the name of Phulbari project in London’s Alternative Investors Market, and that GCM must Leave Bangladesh immediately. The demo ended with a comedy coal show where activists wearing masks of coal thieves, Gary N Lye (CEO of the company) and Michael Tang (the Executive Chairman of the company), attacked a Bangladeshi woman holding coal from Phulbari. Protesters forced the maskmen to leave the premises and sang Phulbari jingles against coal mine: “your home and my home, Phulbari Phulbari”.

 

Dissident shareholders inside the AGM poured scorn on GCM’s 2017 Annual Report which claims that the company “Continued to make progress with principle partner China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co Limited [CGGC, ultimately owned by China Gen Engineering Ltd.]”and that they are “Working on proposal for mine mouth power plant to provide integrated power solution for government of Bangladesh.”  The company claims, overlooking the declining of share price over the last month from £43.00 on 14 November to £26.38 today, that “Last month [it] raised 2m pounds before costs enabling all shareholders to participate and to enable GCM to continue pursuing strategy of joint mine and power plant proposal.” The report concludes by acknowledging “There are significant challenges ahead”, not least achieving approval to go ahead. They still believe that they are “in the right direction and hopes to continue momentum into New Year.” Shareholders condemning the report say that it represents a poor attempt to cover up the fact that they lost credibility and market confidence. The company has been drowning in bank loans, but still borrowing money and facing continuous loss.  GCM was again found violating human rights and disregarding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights  at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights Report 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is the global platform for yearly stock-taking and lesson-sharing on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper into practice. The Phulbari case was highlighted at the 6th UN conference held on 27-29 November 2017 in Geneva and GCM’s failure was noted in Annual Report of UNFBHR 2017. Shareholders also note the Bangladesh government has not given the company the go-ahead because of a lack of a “social licence to operate” in Phulbari and anywhere else in Bangladesh. There was also an OECD complaint about GCM failing to keep obligations. An internal review of the UK governments investigation affirmed that the OECD 2011 guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead. GCM’s Board of Directors failed to respond to shareholders scrutiny. Today’s meeting ended in a rush, lasting less than an hour, as the Board was exhausted by questions.

 

Today’s protest echoed the demands made by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh . Activists from 12 grassroots organisations, including Foil Vedanta, Grow Heathrow, London Mining Network, K M Protectors (North-east England),  Communist Party of Bangladesh – UK branch, Bangladesh Socialist Party, UK branch, Reclaim the Power, Plane Stupid, South Asia Solidarity Group, and the Socialist Party of England and Wales, joined the protest outside or inside the AGM.

 

Global Coal Management, formerly known as Asia Energy, has been allegedly involved in abuse and harassment of opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media reports on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq, the former executive director of Action Aid, revealed that Huq was killed brutally in her car park because of her strong opposition to the project.[i] Later in August 26 in 2006, three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by the company. It has been 11 years since the powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against an open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license but the company has been pushing the government to give them a go ahead.

 

Rumana Hashem, the PSG spokesperson and an eye witness to the Phulbari outburst in 2006, said:

“the company is abusing our people and criminalising society in Bangladesh. We will hold them to account here. We will not give up until London Stock Exchange de-list GCM. We will ensure that this company could never go back to Bangladesh.’”

Akhter Sobhan Khan of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh said that:

“The company does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh; nevertheless they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. London Stock Exchange must de-list GCM as they are doing deceitful marketing of the project”.

 

If the mine is built, it would not only displace 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari but also would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans. In February 2012, seven UN rapporteurs expressed grave concerns to the project, and at national and international level. The UK National Contact Point has acknowledged the strong opposition to the project in an assessment in 2015.

[i]               The mystery death of Nasrin Huq – a report to which the company was not able to respond, was derived from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/03/bangladesh, last cited on 01. 01. 2013

 

For further information on GCM and Phulbari resistance:

Visit PSG Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/phulbarisolidaritygroup/

Watch accounts of activists from Bangladeshi community and eye witness to Phulbari shooting: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh NOW!

Check out the Facebook event page for updates and more photos

Read full report of GCM’s AGM 2017: Flogging a Dead Horse

Read the memorandum of Tuesday’s demo outside the AGM: GCM Must Leave Bangladesh Now

Read News about GCM’s paperless business in Bangladesh here

Read also how GCM’s CEO Gary Lye was evicted from Phulbari: Prothom Alo News

News about Bangladesh government’s latest position about is here: Asia Energy/GCM

Read also report of LMN about previous AGM of GCM here

Socialist Party’s London Youth Organiser Helen Pattison explains why GCM must be stopped here:  https://youtu.be/CzoXC4MNdx0

Watch a Bengali version, featuring statement by the member secretary of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch, of the demo 2017: https://youtu.be/v35x0Tr0bC0

Sun Has Shone On The Communities At The Vibrant Demo Against Vedanta Resources

By Rumana Hashem

Monday, the 14th August, was apparently a bright day for the communities oppressed by a notorious British mining company, called Vedanta Resources. Protests held by communities in Zambia, India and London while activist-shareholders, representing the communities, were interrogating the Vedanta board at their Annual General Meeting at the Lincoln Centre in Lincoln Inn Fields in London. Although residents of Lincoln Inn Fields have seen lousy weather with gusty wind and non-stop rain across London for weeks before Monday, the gorgeous sun has shown up to brighten the colourful and powerful protest of communities against Vedanta Resources last Monday.  Loud and theatrical protest was held outside the AGM of the British mining company, for three hours, accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. I was one of the late comers though there were numerous protesters with noisy instruments and colourful banners and placards till late afternoon who greeted me in smiling face. They said, as were determined, that: “We wouldn’t leave the venue hitherto the miners are out of the block”.

 

Parallel protests and meetings were held by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders in London asked questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, and tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India, who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion. Organised by the Foil Vedanta, the protest in London was joined by many grassroots organisations and community activists from the global South.

 

The shareholders, representing communities, poured scorn on Vedanta’s 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company ‘demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility’. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the “cloak of respectability” of a London listing noting that Vedanta was again excluded from the Norwegian Pension Fund’s investments this year following an investigation which found “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements”1 at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia. The report concludes that: “there continues to be an unacceptable risk that your company will cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”

 

On Sunday, a day before the AGM, farming communities living downstream of copper mines run by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola, Zambia, held a meeting in Hippo Pool to renew their resolve in their twelve year struggle against the company for severe water pollution which has caused major health problems, and rendered land uncultivable. Police had refused them permission to hold a protest. Government officials visited their villages in Spring this year asking them to drop their London case against Vedanta and settle out of court with the company. The Headmen of Hippo Pool village submitted a statement to the Vedanta board and shareholders which was asked by Shoda Rackal from Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike. The statement notes:

 

The people here are sick and tired of pollution which is killing us through illness and loss of our crops and fish. The pollution must end at all costs. Whether we receive compensation or not, we are asking you to stop polluting us now.”

 

Another dissident shareholder asked why Vedanta’s Annual Report makes no mention of its liabilities relating to the landmark legal case in which 1,826 of the farmers have been granted jurisdiction to sue Vedanta in London for gross pollution by KCM. At the July appeal hearing in the case, Vedanta’s lawyers claimed that the company’s sustainability and human rights reports are only produced for show as a requirement of London Stock Exchange rules. Instead they claimed Vedanta Resources has very little actual oversight or involvement with subsidiary operations such as Konkola Copper Mines.2

 

Meanwhile in Zambia debate rages over KCM’s secret finances as the company on Thursday announced it would retrench a further swathe of workers in favour of contract labour at its Nchanga underground mines. KCM have never filed Annual accounts in Zambia according to the recent London judgment.3 Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta says:

The UK Government and London Stock Exchange are directly responsible for failing to investigate Vedanta’s corporate crimes in India and Zambia since its London listing in 2003. The Zambian State’s threats to polluted farmers demonstrate the ongoing colonial power of this British corporation which acts more powerful than the Zambian State.”

“Britain is profiting from the financial transactions of non-domiciled family-run business houses like Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta, while appearing to provide them a service. The opaqueness of the British financial system is gaining directly from giving Anil Agarwal “a cloak of respectability” and in exchange Britain itself is gaining from appropriating the resources of the third world”, adds Das.

 

Anil Agarwal with polluted water at the Vedanta AGM 14 August 2017. Photo credit: Foil Vedanta

In Chattisgarh the organisation Adivasi Resurgence held a protest at Ambedkar Chowk in Raipur, decrying Vedanta’s suppression of the Bakshi Commission report into the death of between 40 and 100 workers when a chimney collapsed at their Korba power plant.4 The inquiry found Vedanta as guilty of negligence and using sub-standard materials and construction methods which caused the death of the workers.5

 

At the University of Hyderabad the group Odisha Scholars for Social Justice held a protest and meeting today in solidarity with communities affected by Vedanta’s operations worldwide. In Delhi, students from Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) held a solidarity demonstration at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) calling for an end to the displacement and repression of Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi communities across India by Vedanta.

 

While their Annual Report claims to respect the right to ‘Free Prior Informed Consent’, Vedanta has not given up its plans to mine the Niyamgiri hills, despite a unanimous referendum against it by tribal inhabitants in 2013. The Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has filed a new plea with the National Green Tribunal to overturn the referendum, claiming it overstepped the provisions of the Forest Rights Act by allowing Palli Sabhas to decide on mining, rather than merely settling their claims.6 In September 2016 a group of Dongria Kond had burned down a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) camp, opposing construction of a road connecting Niyamgiri to Kalyansingpur, which they claim is to aid Vedanta’s mine plans, and opposing ongoing harassment by the force.7

 

Last Friday five villages around another Odisha bauxite mountain – Kodingamali – held a palli sabha (village council) opposing the proposed mining of the mountain by OMC to feed Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery.8 They passed a resolution “not to give any patta land, forest land and community land to any mining company” under the banner of Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan.

 

The Dongria Konds also held a protest on Tuesday in Lakhpadar village on Niyamgiri mountain under the banner of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS). They demanded the dismantling the Lanjigarh refinery since Vedanta did not get permission to mine, and an end to its illegal expansion. They also demand an end to the militarisation of Niyamgiri, claiming that the anti-Maoist programs are in fact targeting the tribal activists. Ongoing abductions, false arrests and State sponsored murders of tribal activists against Vedanta’s mine have been highly publicised in recent months.An NSS spokesperson Lingaraj Azad said:

 

Vedanta didn’t get permission to mine so why are they keeping the Lanjigarh refinery? which continues to pollute our communities, affecting our ecology and water resources and making people and animals sick.”

In August 2016 Vedanta Head, Anil Agarwal, told a press conference that he had asked Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to deal with the ‘disruptive elements’ holding up bauxite mining in the State, suggesting he follow the Tamil Nadu government’s approach with protesters at Kudankulam, where widespread police brutality was reported.9 In February 2016 Vedanta employed the services of former Iraq war General Sir Richard Shirreff, and Lord Peter Hain, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in ‘handling local protest groups’.10

 

Vedanta Resources are again the subject of multiple major scams and several international arbitrations this year. An international arbitration is underway for Vedanta’s withholding of $100 million in dividends from Cairn Energy, owner of 9.8% shares in Vedanta controlled oil company Cairn India.11 In December 2016 London courts ordered Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines to pay $103 million in withheld dividends to Zambian State entity ZCCM-IH.12

 

The Rajasthani High Court has uncovered a Rs 600 crore ($96 million) tax evasion scam in which Vedanta subsidiary Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) benefitted from tax fraud at the hands of shamed IAS officer Ashok Singhvi in 2015.13 HZL is the subject of another major scam in which it closed its Visakhapatnam Zinc smelter on false grounds to enable the sale of the land for high value realty. HZL is also accused of major toxic pollution at the site.14

 

In Punjab, Vedanta subsidiary Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd is the subject of a major power purchase scam in which the Akali Dal government bought power at inflated prices from the private company over cheaper State owned companies.15 Former Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, will step down from Vedanta’s board at this year’s AGM along with executives Euan MacDonald and Aman Mehta. Vedanta’s CEO of Zambian operations Steven Din has recently been accused of offering bribes for the Simandou iron ore mine by the former Guinean mining minister, as part of a major corruption investigation. Din was head of Rio Tinto’s Guinean operation at the time the scandal unfolded, while Tom Albanese was CEO.16 Recent analyst reports highlight Vedanta’s high debt, lack of bauxite at Lanjigarh refinery, and operational issues in Zambia.

Reports have detailed how twelve years of pollution by KCM has turned the river Kafue into a ‘river of acid’19 20 and left the farmers with no access to clean water. As well as suing KCM and Vedanta in the UK for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution, the villagers are demanding that KCM de-silt and remediate the contaminated areas so they can return to normal life.

An estimated 40,000 people in total are affected by contaminated water which also affects the municipal piped water system21. A number of scientific papers have documented the extent of contamination, with acid pH and heavy metal content regularly tens and even hundreds of times above legal limits.22 23 24

 

One villager Judith Kapumba appears in a youtube video testifying to how contamination has destroyed their livelihood and their lives, has claimed that many have ‘collapsed and died’ as a result of illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water, and that crops can no longer grow leading to starvation and extreme poverty. 25

 

 

For further details visit Foil Vedanta website:  www.foilvedanta.org

For photos and a short film of London demonstration, visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoilVedanta/