We Call on the Bangladesh Government to Implement Phulbari Verdict, Take Legal Actions Against GCM Resources, and End Coal Power Now!

Memorandum of 15th Phulbari Day Remembrance Rally, 26 August 2021

Bangladesh High Commission, London

28 Queens Gate, SW7 5JA.

We are here as transnational climate justice campaigners, representatives of Phulbari communities from Northwest Bangladesh, and anti-racist and anti-mining activists, to express our concern about the delay in implementation of the Phulbari Verdict, the banning of coal mining and coal-power in Bangladesh.

This 26th August marks the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari killings when three young people were shot dead and more than two hundred injured during a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against coal mining in Phulbari and the displacement of 130,000 people from the region by London-listed Asia Energy, thereafter GCM Resources. The day has nationally been called Phulbari Day since. Powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting in Phulbari has put a 15-year long halt to the project. Following the killing of the three young people the Bangladesh government signed a contract with the people in Phulbari on 30th August, 2006. The contract, nationally known as the Phulbari Verdict, suggested that the government would ban coal mining in Bangladesh. The government thus overturned GCM’s right to operate in Bangladesh.

Despite lacking a valid contract for mining, GCM Resources plc (GCM) is selling shares on the UK’s share market. The company is currently listed as a mining company on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). They have extended mining contracts with two China based companies and they are selling shares in London in the name of a “Phulbari coal project”, a project which does not exist. This is an insult to the affected communities who lost their children in the violence in Phulbari. Selling these shares is also unfair to all Bangladeshi and transnational climate justice campaigners.  

GCM does not hold any valid licence to operate in Phulbari and does not have permission for mining anywhere else in the world. The Bangladesh government is fully aware of GCM’s fraudulent activities. Speaking in August 2019 to the Prothom Alo newspaper, Nasrul Hamid, the Deputy State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh said:

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.”

We have previously written about this to the Chief Executive of London Stock Exchange and we proposed a meeting to discuss the matter in 2016, 2019, and 2020. The London Stock Exchange wrote to Phulbari Solidarity Group on 1 September 2020 that AIM was looking into the matter. But there has been no progress since.

It is time for the Bangladesh High Commission to act on this. The High Commissioner of Bangladesh in the UK should take action and write to the London Stock Exchange, telling them to de-list GCM immediately. The government of Bangladesh overturned GCM’s right to operate in Bangladesh more than a decade ago, and wanted to take legal action in August 2019. It has been two years since. Government delay in taking legal action against the company allows GCM to sell shares on the basis of a fake project, Phulbari coal mine, in London’s share market. The Bangladesh government should take urgent action to prevent this from happening. The government should implement the Phulbari Day Verdict urgently.

Instead of implementing the Phulbari Verdict, the government is implementing four destructive coal-fired projects across the country. Despite nationwide and international outrages and outreach to the government to save the Sundarbans, the government is moving ahead with the 1,320 MW Rampal coalpowerplant planned for construction near the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. We understand that Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFPCL) is planning this project and a joint venture between National Thermal Power Company (NTPC) of India and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) is going ahead, enabling an additional 154 industrial constructions to be built in southwest Bangladesh near the Sundarbans.

Likewise, the government is failing people across Cox’s Bazar coastal area in Southeast Bangladesh. The plans for the construction of a Japan-financed coal-power-plant, Matarbari Phase 2, in Matarbari will ruin livelihoods of communities, destroy three-cops land, pollute water resources, and harm ecosystems essential for farmers and fishermen and women in villages across the Cox’s Bazar. The government is also letting another China-funded coal-power-plant, a 1,224 MW coal-power-plant (currently under construction), in Bashkhali in Chittagong near Cox’s Bazar where seven plant workers were killed for protesting to receive their due wages earlier this year. Two Chinese firms – SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG – are financing US$1.75 billion of the plants’ estimated $2.4 billion cost. This is happening via a US$1.739 billion loan from the Exim Bank of China. Previously five more people were killed for protesting against the same coal-power-plant in 2016 and 2017. Several companies are involved in the Bashkhali coal-power-plant constructions and killings. These include S Alam Group, PowerChina, and S.S. Power I Ltd. The latest incident of violence and murders on the premises of S.S. Power I Ltd. happened on 17 April. This cannot go on.

The government is also looking into other coal mining options in other regions in Bangladesh. In between, the government has allowed police to torture people in Parbatipur, for protesting against the Barapukuria shaft mining, within the neighbourhood of Phulbari. The mine workers in Barapukuria were protesting a pay gap by a Chinese company in 2011. Currently the government is looking into options for reopening Barapukuria mine through open cast mining. This is a complete violation of the Phulbari Verdict 2006.

We demand the Bangladesh government implement the Phulbari Verdict fully, immediately,  take legal action against GCM, and ban coal-power.

We call on the Bangladeshi government to urgently:

1.  Ban coal mining and fully implement the Phulbari Verdict.

2.  Take legal action against GCM Resources, urgently.

3.  Write to London Stock Exchange Plc. and the UK government informing them that the Phulbari coal project does not exist, and that GCM is cheating on the share market.

4.   Withdraw from the move to build coal-power plants near the Sundarbans and Bashkhali, and all coal projects in Matarbari and anywhere in Bangladesh.

5.  Stop plans to build Barapukuria open cast coal mine, stop the Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Ltd.  Corporate, and compensate Barapukuria coal mine workers who were tortured in  2013 and 2014.

6.  Consult the Alternative Power and Energy Plan for Bangladesh as a way forward for meeting energy needs of the country.

We ask the High Commissioner to convey our demand to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and demand that the government respond to our call immediately.

Sincerely,

We the undersigned:*

1.   Rumana Hashem, Coordinator, Phulbari Solidarity Group.

2.   Richard Solly, Coordinator, London Mining Network.

3.   Kofi Mawuli Klu, External Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network.

4.   Sanjit Prasad Jitu, Spokesman, Phulbari Chapter of National Committee of Bangladesh.

5.   Mafizur Rahman Laltu, Coordinator, Biborton, Dhaka.

6.   Sumana Nandi, International Coordinator, XR Affinity Network of Asia (XRANA).

7.   Aminul Haque, Spokesperson, Phulbari Krishak Mukti Songram.

8.   Abdul Razzak, Convenor, National Democratic Workers Federation.

9.   Alfredo Quarto, Program & Policy Director/ Co-founder, Mangrove Action Project, USA.

10.  Alauddin, President, Phulbari Construction Workers Union.

11.  Alejandra Piazzolla, Spokesperson, Extinction Rebellion Youth.

12.   Angela Ditchfield, Director, Christian Climate Action.

13.  Anne Harris, Campaigner, Coal Action Network (UK).

14.  Alex Burton, Spokesperson, Global Justice Bloc.

15.  Baccu Islam, President,  Phulbari Upazilla Garments Workers Union.

16.  Bappy Das, Tabla Teacher of Surobani Songgit School.

17.  Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy and Development Manager, Gerente,  Recaudación de Fondos y Programa de Defensa, Cultural Survival, USA.

18.  Dr Samina Luthfa, Spokesperson, Sarbajan Katha, Dhaka.

19.  Esther Stanford-Xosei, Coordinator General,  Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide

20.  Fe Haslam, Co-Principal Organising Secretary, Global Justice Forum.

21.  Hamidul Haque, President, Phulbari Kuli (day Labourers) Workers Union.

22.  Hasan Mehedi, Member Secretary, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED).

23.  Himel Mondal, Coordinator, National Gonofront.

24.  Jargis Ahamed, President, Cable Operators Association, Phulbari.

25.  Joy Prokash Gupta, Phulbari Kali Mondir Committee.

26.  Julie Begum, Chair, Swadhinata Trust, UK.

27.  Mahamud Alam Liton, Mayor of Phulbari Municipal. Dinajpur.

28.  Manik Sarkar, Mayor of Municipal (Former), Phulbari Municipal.

29.  Nils Agger, Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion

30.  Nicholas Garica, Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Slough.

31.  Nurul Islam Fokir, General Secretary,  Phulbari Rickshaw Van Workers Union.

32.  Peter Burgess, PhD Candidate, King’s College London.

33. Rowan McLaughlin, South Tees Green Party, UK.

34.  Sara Callaway, Coordinator, Women of Colour and Global Women Strike.

35.  Sara Cordovez, Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity.

36.  Samarendra Das, Chair, Foil Vedanta.

37. Saiful Islam Jewel, Convenor, Phulbari Chapter of National Committee of Bangladesh.

38.  Shakoat Hossain, General Secretary, Phulbari Dokam Employees Union (Local Business and Entrepreneurs Association in Phulbari).

39.  Shafiul Islam, President, Phulbari  Upazilla Decorator Workers Union.

40.  SM Nuruzzaman, General Secretary, Trade Union Center Of Dinajpur.

41.  Syed Samiul Islam Shohel, Councillor of Phulbari Municipal.

42. Syed Enamul Islam, Co-ordinator, European Action Group on Climate Change in Bangladesh.

*Note: Names of signatories do not follow alphabetical order. Signatures are added as and when signatories signed the letter online.

Join Remembrance Rally Mark the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Massacre

Join Remembrance Rally Mark the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Massacre

Today, Thursday 26 August, marks the 15th anniversary of coal murders in Phulbari where three young people Al Amin (11), Mohammad Saleqin (13), and Tarikul Islam (18) were shot dead for protesting against a 600MW open cast coal mine in 2006. More than two hundred people were injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against London-listed mining company, GCM Resources Plc. GCM wants to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people, to extract coals for 30 years from Bangladesh’s only flood protected location, Phulbari. The day is nationally known as Phulbari Day since the murders of Al Amin, Saleqin and Tarikul.

Powerful resistance by women, children, indigenous men, farmers, workers and teachers and students against the coal project has put 15-year long halt to the mining project in the aftermath of the shooting. The Bangladesh government has declined all contracts with GCM in 2007. But the company is selling shares in London share market in the name of Phulbari coal mine. Despite having no valid contract with Bangladesh, they are moving ahead with their devastating plans. GCM continues its dodgy deals for 15 years. They announced extensions of a joint venture agreement with PowerChina and the MoU with NFC by 12 months, and recruited a local agency called the DG Infratech Pte Ltd, a Bangladesh based agency to lobby with the government. GCM is hosted by the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM).

Today we are going to the Bangladesh High Commission in London to report this and to pay tribute to the victims of Phulbari Day. We demand that the Bangladesh High Commissioner should tell the London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM immediately. The LSE has the power to suspend or expel a company from AIM for breach of the AIM rules. Despite our repeated calls to investigate GCM’s rights to business, the LSE is reluctant to do so.



JOIN US at 10:30AM on Thursday 26 August!

Wear A BLACK Mask!

Wear BLACK  clothes!

Bring along your own HAND WRITTEN placards!

The rally is organised by the Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network with support from Foil Vedanta, Fossil Free London, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network UK, Global Justice Bloc, Women of Colour, and XR Affinity Network of Asia. In this Black August, we will pay tribute to Amin, Saleqin and Tarikul with sun flowers, candles, music. We will read our joint statement together to de-list GCM.


Join us!

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be displaced, 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land would be destroyed (1 hectare =2.58 acres). Clean water resources be threatened. One of the world’s largest mangrove forests, the Sunderbans, would be damaged. In return GCM offers only 6 percent tax to the government. They plan to export 94 percent of 572 million tons high quality coal. They would enjoy 9-year tax holiday. After extracting coal for 36+ years, all of the remainder coal would be owned by the company and be exported.


Communities in Phulbari are holding silent vigils and commemorative rallies across the region. Civil societies in Dhaka, Dinajpur and Phulbari will be joined by the Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network in online protests and witness sessions, demanding the government bans coal mining and take legal action against GCM. We stand in solidarity with the affected communities in Phulbari and demand the London Stock Exchange must de-list GCM. We also demand that the Bangladesh Government bans mining and all coal power plant constructions, and takes urgent legal action against GCM.

Come with your friends and family to pay tribute together to the victims of the Phulbari massacre.


Contact for further information: +44 7309 555950, +447767757645.
Email: contact@londonminingnetwork.org, phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com.

Mark the Decade of Resistance, Mark Phulbari Day!

Celebrating 10 years of Halt to Open Cast Mining, Commemorating the lives of brave Villagers

What? RED Vigil at London Stock Exchange

 When? 11am to 1pm on Friday, 26 August 2016

Where? London Stock Exchange HQ for International Trading , 10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LS  (nearest tube station: St Paul’s)

Find Map

Phulbari 2014

 

Friday, the 26th of August marks a decade of the Phulbari outburst. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management , who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, a location in northwest Bangladesh. The day has been called Phulbari Day since, and powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license. Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh.

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It 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.  Despite grave concerns at national and international level, and declaration made by seven UN rapporteurs, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh has called upon national and global environmentalists to observe 10th anniversary of Phulbari outburst and to protest against GCM’s dodgy business and to mark the decade of Phulbari Resistance.  In conjunction with the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources, we will celebrate the decade-long struggle in London.

Phulbari Day POster by NCBD 2016

We will hold a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari outside the London Stock Exchange at 11am next Friday. We will ask London Stock Exchange to De-list GCM Plc and to show cause Gary Lye’s gang for selling fake shares. We will commemorate for the lost lives by rallying against GCM. We will celebrate our decade-long resistance by turning the commemoration event into a powerful rally against dark coal business.

JOIN US at London Stock Exchange (nearest tube station: St Paul’s).

Bring your organisation’s banner, noisy/music instruments and flowers for the victims if you can. Wear Red, Black or Blue as symbols of Resistance, Anguish and Celebration of struggle!

Please confirm participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/641147849383562/

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036

Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch     Phulbari Solidarity Group

Download Mark the Decade of Halt, Observe Phulbari Day Flyer August 2016

LMN call out for Phulbari Solidarity demo in London on 19 dec 2012

Local women, men and children cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari in the aftermath of the GCM-provoked shooting in Phulbari. Photo: 28 August 2006

Mothers, sisters, wives and all the effected women vowed to protect  Phulbari through outburst after the shooting on 26 August 2006. Copyright: PSG

 

UK Government Highlights Powerful Opposition to GCM’s Destructive Plan for Bangladesh Coal Mine

Victory of Phulbari Once Again!

Pupils at Oxford's Rose Hill Primary School painted banner against open cast mine to express solidarity with Phulbari people . 18 June 2015. Photo: Andy Edwards

Pupils at Oxford’s Rose Hill Primary School painted banner against open cast mine to express solidarity with Phulbari people . 18 June 2015. Photo: Andy Edwards

The UK government has published a statement yesterday that highlights the fierce opposition to British company GCM Resources’ plans for a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, north-west Bangladesh. The statement notes that protestors are “calling strikes, blockading roads and occupying the company’s local offices”.

The statement by the UK National Contact Point also expresses “regret” that the company had failed to update its plans or produce a human rights impact assessment for the project, as recommended in the findings of its investigation under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises in November 2014.

The AIM-listed British corporation GCM Resources Plc.’s planned coal mine in Phulbari has provoked repeated protests by local people and communities for nearly a decade. Three people were killed and more than 200 were injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration against the project in 2006. Even so, powerful protests by resilient communities in 2013 and 2014 forced the company’s notorious CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon visits to the area.

Campaigners in Bangladesh are clear that any moves by the company to enter Phulbari would provoke further protests.

The UK government’s investigation has followed a complaint submitted by the Global Justice Now and International Accountability Project in 2012. It has condemned the company for breaching international guidelines on ethical corporate behaviour, stating that the project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there”.

Yesterday’s statement also notes recent statements from ministers and officials at the Bangladesh Government’s Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Division that GCM does not have a valid contract with the Government of Bangladesh, and that the Government of Bangladesh has no intention for open cast coal extraction to take place in the region, which includes some of the country’s best agricultural land. These statements follow demands made by protesters against the project that the Bangladesh government should ban open cast mining and remove GCM from the country.

Christine Haigh, campaigner at the Global Justice Now, said:

Today’s statement is further evidence that the Phulbari coal mine cannot go ahead. If it does, it will be a human rights disaster. Local people have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want it and any moves by GCM to move this project forward will be met by further resistance.”

She added: While GCM are claiming this report vindicates them, in reality it does anything but. The main problem is the inability of the British government to enforce human rights standards on companies like GCM, leaving people affected by British companies around the world with no right to legal redress for the injustices they face. This must change.

Rumana Hashem, the founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the 2006 shooting in Phulbari, stated:

It is good that the UK government has eventually recognised that GCM has failed to develop appropriate communication with the communities in Phulbari. It was a mistake for the NCP to take this long to understand the power of people. They have previously undermined the powerful opposition that exists and that has made possible a halt to the detrimental project of the British company.

Rumana added: I have seen how resilient the movement is in Phulbari. Bangladesh government has expressed solidarity with the community’s view and said ‘no to GCM’. GCM must forget this project. It is reassuring that UK government has recognised that local people will not give in. They will fight for their land until last breath.

The mine would force up to 220,000 people from their land, destroying their homes and livelihoods, and would threaten the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The UK government states that GCM must take into account the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that no developments can take place on indigenous peoples’ land without their ‘free, prior and informed consent’. Bangladesh’s National Indigenous Union says the mine would displace or impoverish 50,000 indigenous people from 23 villages

Seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of indigenous peoples.

Read Press Release by Global Justice Now here: http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2015/sep/10/uk-government-highlights-community-opposition-gcm-resources-plan-bangladesh-coal

Govt says ‘no’ to open-pit mine in Bangladesh

Another day of victory for Phulbari, another day of loss for Global Coal Management

On Sunday, 23 August, 2015 Bangladesh’s state minister for energy and mineral resources stated that there is no hope for any mining company to extract coal from the coal deposits of Northwest Bangladesh in Phulbari. In a published report yesterday, the country’s national daily newspapers reported the news widely. We have reproduced a detailed report by the staff correspondent of New Age below.

DSCF7409

The state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid, on Sunday said that the government was not interested to extract coal from the deposits in the north Bengal region using open-pit method.
‘We have decided not to extract coal right now… We must consider high density of population and the agro-based economy of the mining area,’ he said while addressing as the chief guest a seminar on ‘Energy Challenges to Vision 2030.’ The discussion was organized by weekly Energy and Power magazine.
Instead, the government is planning to use imported coal to run large power plants to be installed with a combined generation capacity of about 20,000 MW by 2030, he said. Nasrul’s remark came three days ahead of August 26, the 9th anniversary of the killing of protesters who had opposed in 2006 a move for open pit mining by London-based Asia Energy company at Phulbari of Dinajpur.
The then Bangladesh Rifles men had opened fire on a peaceful rally and killed at least three people. On that day, police, RAB and BDR indiscriminately had beaten people, injuring over 200 children, men and women who attended that peaceful rally and demanded cancellation of the project.
The inhabitants feared it could destroy the underground water aquifer, biodiversity, and agriculture of the region.
The government, under the Power System Master Plan-2010, had contemplated to exploit coal through open-pit method from two coal deposits located at Phulbari and Barapukuria of Dinajpur to run power plants with total capacities of 11,000 MW. The plan, however, was dropped from the revised PSMP in 2015.
Energy expert and a professor at Geology Department of Dhaka University Badrul Imam said that it would not be fair to compare the socio-economic and geological realities of Dinajpur with any location in Australia, Germany or even in West Bengal while mining coal, using open-pit method.
He said that the top two leaders of Awami League and BNP had made a commitment to the people of Phulbari that they would not allow such method in future. At the seminar, a number of open-pit campaigners, however, spoke in favour of open-pit method to ensure supply of primary fuel.
Energy expert Khandkar Saleque Sufi and M Tamim presented two papers addressing the potential crisis of energy sector, particularly while ensuring supply of primary fuels to power stations, industries, households and transport sector.
At the seminar, speakers along with Sufi and Tamim argued that the country was going to be entirely dependent on imports of primary fuel as the reserve of natural gas was depleting. Tamim also said that there was a huge disparity in electricity consumption by the rural and urban people.
Tamim showed that the rural people, who constitute 66 per cent of the total population, consume 31 per cent of electricity with only one per cent growth while the urban people, who represent 34 per cent of the population, consume 69 per cent of electricity with four per cent yearly growth.

See more at: http://newagebd.net/150774/govt-says-no-to-open-pit-mine/#sthash.3l1YnBcw.3tVplMM4.dpuf

Or visit: http://newagebd.net/150774/govt-says-no-to-open-pit-mine/#sthash.3l1YnBcw.3tVplMM4.dpbs

In defence of national and environmental interest

By Samina Luthfa, 18 January 2015

Phulbari is not a controversy. It is the name and symbol of a successful resistance by community people threatened with displacement by a proposed open-pit coal mine by GCM Resources in 5,600 hectares of land (including arable land with high cropping intensity) in four thanas of Dinajpur. Open mining requires stripping off the soil over the deposit that lies at least 150 meter or deeper (upto270 meters) under the earth. The mining company has changed its names twice after a community protest rally against the Phulbari project was attacked and protestors shot at, killing three young protestors in 2006.

Grand rally  of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Grand rally of locals in Phulbari town on 27 December. Photo credit: Kallol Mustafa

Although the company’s revised documents say that the stripping will be done in phases, two highly placed government-led expert committees were not convinced in favour of the mine that will directly affect the lives and livelihoods of at least 1,00,000 people (2006). Foreign environmental experts extensively criticised the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment for being incomplete and vague. The human displacement and environmental costs are so high that United Nations’ rapporteurs also made statements expressing opposition to the proposed mine.

‘Self-proclaimed’ or not, local communities and environmental justice platforms like the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port must have had logical objections against the proposed project; why else would international financiers like the Asian Development Bank and Barclays Capital feel compelled to withdraw their financial support from the project since 2008? Long before the incident of November 24, 2014, the project based in London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market had been termed ‘risky’ by industry experts like Rosie Carr in 2006 (Identify the Risks, The Investors’ Chronicle, the Financial Times).

My own doctoral research from the University of Oxford quantitatively compared incidences of community-based protests against 398 open-pit mines in South Asia. Factors like density of population, proportion of area under forest cover, and ownership by a multinational company predicted the highest probability of protest in the proposed Phulbari deposit. This research result was formally conveyed to the shareholders of GCM in their Annual General Meeting of 2011. This means that the investors are well aware of the financial risks they are taking by investing in the Phulbari project.

When such a volatile project with a high degree of environmental, political and social risks and very strong local-national-transnational opposition is supported by a quarter, what I see is unfettered greed of profiteering by some people with no environmental, social and cultural conscience at all. No matter how strongly the locals protest it, or how persuasively the experts explain that the mine would be devastating for the water aquifers, for example, they will not stop. Because they do not care about Bangladesh or its FDI rates; they are only worried about their profit, with every pence increasing their share value in the AIM. The ranting of these ‘investors’ about our country and our politicians in their discussion forums clearly show that all they care about is profiteering through stock manipulation in London that is independent of what the marginalised protestors at Phulbari do or do not do.

Placard used in a protest against the exploitative British company. Photo: Golam Rabbani

Placard used in a protest against the exploitative British company. Photo: Golam Rabbani

The company, as erroneously suggested by some, does NOT have a ‘permission for mining’ yet from the government. A letter from the government that is often used as an evidence of contract clearly states that the permission to mine is dependent on the following: “on receipt of the Feasibility Study Report, the technical aspects of the project will be examined and evaluated by experts and on the basis of this government will take final decision regarding real mining operation…Within this time, the lessee will not conduct any commercial activities of the mine.” On one hand, the expert committee formed after this letter expressed opposition to the project, and on the other, the Phulbari Chukti that said ‘no open mine anywhere in the country’ was signed by the BNP-led government representatives in 2006 and was supported by the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. It is an obligation for any incumbent politician to uphold these.

The local resistance started in 2005, gathered momentum and peaked in 2006. National committee joined the locals later to support their resistance. The locals successfully showed how the mine was not only threatening for them but also for our national interest. It wouldonly benefit the company as it would have owned all the coal, giving a small amount of royalty to Bangladesh (much lower than the convention) and some supply of coal for our power generation. 80% of the coal produced was earmarked for export to India through a very vulnerable eco-system in Southern Bangladesh — the Sundarbans. The far-reaching probable effect of this on the mangrove forest is probably clearer now after the oil tanker spill in Shela river in December 2014.

There exist several doctoral and post-graduate dissertation-based research from well-reputed western universities like Chicago, Sussex, Amsterdam, and faculty and NGO level research in Bangladesh, UK and USA, that show how strong the opposition against the mining project is and why it is the case: too costly for communities due to huge displacement, high environmental risk in a riverine area like Bangladesh where any seepage or extraction of water table has a far reaching environmental impact and increase in food insecurity with the loss of highly active arable land to the mine. All these for whose benefit: to produce electricity to export to India! Farewell to national interest, eh?

Last but not the least, FDI inflow increased 98% over the last fiscal year according to the Board of

Bangladeshi activist protests against the company outside the AGM. Photo: Paul V Dudman

Bangladeshi activist protests against the company outside the AGM. Photo: Paul V Dudman

Investments’ own records, which proves that although Phulbari is in stalemate for the last 8 years, the national investment scenario looks pretty good. I am no economist but my common sense suggests that first, foreign investment depends on global trends and is therefore dependent more on global crises than one single project. Second, GCM’s investment is not that big given the country’s whole investment scenario. Third, there are other more profitable sectors in the country where foreign investment is less risky and better-suited for investors who care for long-term returns rather than the short term return required by GCM’s short-sighted investors, whom I closely observed for one year in 2010-11. Finally, increase in FDI in power sector without a concern for sustainable growth often is responsible for creating a ‘resource curse.’ Experiences of countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Columbia and Afghanistan tell us how an increase in FDI in the energy sector negatively trapped the countries into poverty and dependence. Are we to welcome any investment that intends to export our resources at high financial, environmental and social cost and benefit only a few investors and some corrupt government officials? Or are we to bid farewell to the bad investments and welcome those that propose to extract responsibly keeping in mind the prospect of future generations to come?

**The above article is reproduced, with thanks to the Daily Star

The writer is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Dhaka. She earned her doctorate from the University of Oxford, UK, in 2013 on the Phulbari Resistance. The research was funded by the Commonwealth Commission.

Challenging the Invisible and Invalid Contract

Response to ‘Farewell to FDI?’ Reproduced op-ed from the Daily Star  

By Kallol Mustafa, 20 January, 2015

The op-ed piece (‘Farewell to FDI?’,The Daily Star, Jan 13, 2015) is based on some misleading and partial information regarding Asia Energy’s (GCM) Phulbari Coal Project and the peoples’ protest against it. The writer termed the peoples’ protest against Asia Energy chief’s visit to Phulbari as ‘vandalism’ but did not mention how, for a long time, Asia Energy has been trying to bribe the local youth, provide them with drugs and destabilise the local situation. He blamed the government and local administration for not taking action against the protesters and warned that this might harm foreign investment, without even mentioning the responsibility of the government to implement the Phulbari agreement signed with the local people and honour expert opinion against open pit mining on different occasions.

The writer declared the government official’s denial of existence of mining contract with Asia Energy as “erroneous,” as he completely relied on Asia Energy propaganda published in Energy & Power, but failed to present the correct picture based on original documents and experts’ opinion already submitted to the government.

Based on the article ‘Records Need making Straight’, published in Energy & Power, widely known as lobbyist of Asia Energy, the writer states that Asia Energy has valid contract for mining with the government of Bangladesh and it obtained ‘mining lease’ in April 2004.  But the April 2004 letter, which the Energy & Power article referred to as evidence of Asia Energy’s mining contract, was indeed issued “…in the interest of preparing feasibility report and submitting to the government” and in no way can be used as a valid contract for mining operation. It was very clear in its following statement:

“(c) On receipt of the Feasibility Study Report, the technical aspects of the project will be examined and evaluated by experts and on the basis of this government will take final decision regarding real mining operation.

(d) Within this time, the lessee will not conduct any commercial activities of the mine.” (Emphasis added)

He also missed the evaluation and recommendation of the expert committee (formed by the government and headed by Prof. Nurul Islam) on the development plan submitted by Asia Energy. The expert committee in its report rejected the development plan of Asia Energy saying that:

According to the Mines and Minerals Rules prepared in 1968 under East Pakistan Mines & Minerals act 1967 (Regulation & Development) and amended in 1987 and 1989, royalty rate was fixed at 20% of the price of produced coal at the mine mouth. Accordingly, the Bureau of Mineral Development (BMD) signed an agreement for Boropukuria coalmine on 10/07/1994 at 20% royalty rate. Yet, on 20/08/1994, only a month and ten days after having signed this agreement, the BMD signed another agreement with BHP for coal mining in Dinajpur and Rangpur areas at only 6% royalty rate. This agreement with BHP is illegal as per the then existing mining law. In this situation, this illegal contract may be declared invalid and steps should be taken against concerned persons according to Article 5 of Mines and Mineral Act 1992.

According to Article 32 of Mines and Mineral rules 1968, which was in effect during the signing of the contract, as 3 years had already passed after first issuance of the license, the authorities did not have any right to extend the license period beyond 15/01/1998. For that reason the license renewal order on 26/01/98 for Area ‘B’ was illegal. During handover of the license for Area ‘B’ under the Assignment Contract [the transfer of contract from BHP to Asia Energy], BHP did not have any valid license to transfer as the license was already expired. That’s why all actions taken by the Asia Energy in that block are illegal. BHP lost permission for all kind of activities in Block ‘B’ on 15/01/98 in consequence of which Asia Energy did not have any valid permission to work in that block. So Asia Energy never had any right to apply for mining lease.

For the above two reasons, the Assignment contract signed with Asia Energy on 11/02/1998 has no legal basis. Alternatively, if it is considered that the application for the mining lease will be operated under Mining Rules amended in 1995, the government still cannot consider the Mining Lease Application because 3% of the estimated cost of the scheme has not been deposited with the application as Bank Guaranty as required by the Rules. It is to be noted that 3% of the total estimated cost — $12,460 million (capital cost $2090 million + operating cost $10,370) is $373.8 million, i.e Tk. 2, 616 crore.

(Source: Article 5.2, Report of the Expert Committee (REC) to Evaluate Feasibility Study Report and Scheme of Development of the Phulbari Coal Project, submitted by Messieurs Asia Energy Corporation, (Bangladesh) Pvt. Ltd. (AEC), 20 September 2006 [Author’s translation])

In brief, according to the expert committee, the contract and exploration license which Asia Energy received from BHP have no legal basis and the so-called mining lease (without permission of mining!) granted to Asia Energy under this contract is also legally invalid. That’s why there was nothing wrong or erroneous when Energy and Mineral Resources Division Secretary Abu Bakar Siddique said: “Asia Energy has no valid licenses to develop Phulbari coal mine” (Daily Sun, 8 Dec 2014).

Therefore, the government of Bangladesh (GOB) has no legally binding obligation to allow Asia Energy to do open pit mining and mining related activities in Phulbari, and there is no question of damage payment to Asia Energy for scrapping the Phulbari project as feared by Mr. Syed Mansur Hashim. Rather, the GOB can easily reject its Feasibility Study and Mine Development Scheme for open pit mining following the recommendations of the expert committee.

In fact, the GOB has legal and moral obligation to scrap Phulbari coal project according to the agreement signed between the government of Bangladesh and the people (National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Port and Power represented the people) on August 30, 2006. The agreement was fully supported by the then opposition leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The main point of the agreement was: “Phulbari coal project will be scrapped and Asia energy will be ousted from the country.” It is now the duty of the GOB to implement its legal and moral obligation to the people by taking action against illegal activities of Asia Energy.

Read this article on the Daily Star (20/01/15): Response to ‘Farewell to FDI?’

Updated List of Recent News Stories in Relation to Phulbari

Demo goes  fantastically well by passionate protesters chanting slogans

Demo goes fantastically well by passionate protesters chanting slogans. Photo Credit: Samarendra Das.

The following represents an updated list of new stories in relation to the Phulbari issue:

The Bangladesh Chronicle (31/12/2012): Asia Energy awaits PM’s Phulbari nod

Priyo News (31/12/2012):  Asia Energy awaits PM’s Phulbari nod

Coal Guru (24/12/2012): GCM Resources update on AGM

Coal Guru (24/12/2012): Phulbari deal not in hurry – PM aide

Bdnews24 (22/12/2012):  Phulbari deal not in hurry: PM aide

The Financial Express (21/12/2012):   Complaint filed against GCM over Bangladesh mine

New Age (21/12/2012): Complaint filed against Asia Energy in London over Phulbari Project

London Mining Network (21/12/2012): Coal play: inside the GCM Resources AGM, 20 December 2012

The Daily Sun (21/12/2012): Complaint filed against Asia Energy in London over Phulbari Project

Bdnews24 (21/12/2012): Asia Energy awaits PM’s Phulbari nod

Bdnews24 (21/12/2012): Protests in London over Phulbari mine

Foil Vedenta (20/12/2012)  – From Phulbari to Niyamgiri!

Economic Voice (20/12/2012): Complaint filed against British coal miner GCM over Bangladesh mine

New Internationalist (20/12/2012):  Angry Santa interrupts AGM over Phulbari mine

The Guardian (20/12/2012):  Bangladesh mine activists dump coal outside GCM meeting in London

Daily Mail (UK) (19/12/2012):  Miner GCM hit by protests over Bangladeshi mine that could displace up to 220,000 people
Read more:

These links will also be posted on our News and Resources Pages.