Mining is in Rapid Fall

People, climate change and future of the industry

By Raaj Manik

An international workshop on mining in South Asia was organised by Activists and Academia Network, called, the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) at University of Sussex in which Phulbari Solidarity Group made a robust contribution. On Wednesday 11 May 2016, a remarkable delegation of activists from the global South has shared their anti-mining community activism, and engaged with experienced colleagues in the global North working to expose the brutality of northern extractive companies in the South.

Speakers included Gladson Dungdung, who was offloaded from the Air India flight on his way to the workshop, was due to report on threats to Saranda Forest in Jharkhand, human rights abuses and the destruction of the environment by iron ore mining companies. Also front-line environmentalists and researchers from Bangladesh and India, including Malvika Gupta from University of Delhi, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group, Roger Moody of Nostromo Research, and Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta delivered insightful work and narratives of excellent grassroots struggles against mining and corporations.

Vedanta demo London 2015

Vedanta demo London 2015

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006.

Phulbari outburst on 26 August 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSG founder and eye-witness to Phulbari carnage in 2006, Rumana Hashem, has delivered a talk,titled “Translating Phulbari Resistance and anti-coal struggles in Bangladesh: A bottom up approach to social movement to protect environment and indigenous rights from corporate excess”. Hashem advocates for and showed how a bottom up, informal and non-bureaucratic approach to anti-mining and environmental movement have become tremendously powerful and successful in north-Bangladesh.   

The drastic increase of privatisation and multinational corporations has not only caused environmental damage and energy injustice but also induced forced-displacement, destitution of indigenous people and farmers in southern countries, such as, Bangladesh. But resistance to extractive corporations and dodgy deals involving government sponsored companies across the South is in the rise. While Bangladesh has been taken hostage for oil, gas and coal by US, China, Indian, Russian and UK corporations, grassroots activism and people’s resistance across the country are remarkable, notes Hashem.

On 26 August in 2006, three people were shot dead at an anti-open cast coal mining outburst of 80, 000 people in northwest Bangladesh but locals were able to form powerful resistance to fight back the miners for decades. Hashem’s talk analyse anti-coal power struggles and social movements for environment and agriculture-based livelihood in Phulbari, and argued that a bottom up approach to environmental and anti-imperialist struggle has been successful in the northwest of Bangladesh.

Hashem illustrated a three-level socio-political movement, called the Phulbari Resistance, against an UK-listed company GCM Resources, formerly known as Asia Energy, that prevented the implementation of a massive open-cast coal mine in the town of Phulbari which would be destroyed by greedy corporate plans. If the mine is built, it would lead to forced-displacement of up to 230, 000 people over the course (30 years) of the project. It would increase poverty and crisis of food production in a country which struggled to provide food supply to nearly one third of its population in 2006-2010. The project would further cause water pollution and would plunder 94 percent of agricultural land in the region.  It would leave devastating impact on environment.

Hashem’s talk revealed how local farmers and indigenous people formed powerful resistance in Phulbari under the umbrella of an open platform of left-environmentalists, called the National Committee of Bangladesh, and fought a dirty extractive company, GCM Resources, in Bangladesh.  Her report exhibited that the impact of Phulbari resistance on grassroots mobilisation across Bangladesh is so that it led several other social and political movements including Save the Sundarbans, Bashkhali anti-coal plant outburst, and movement against onshore and offshore gas blocks.

Hashem insists that “it is possible to prevent forced-displacement and livelihood from increasing corporate excess only if we followed a bottom up approach to balance power at local, national and international levels, and only if a true solidarity and consensus between the northern and southern grassroots activism has been formed.”

The illuminating talk by Hashem was followed by a researcher and advocate for indigenous rights, Malvika Gupta from University of Delhi, who illustrated how indigenous kids are manipulated and re-colonised by the colonial language and English education in India. The narratives of oppression of indigenous communities by British corporation in India and Zambia were explored and discussed by Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta, and Roger Moody of Mines and Communities and Nostromo Research, UK.

All speakers have robustly argued that mining is in rapid fall. Despite pernicious oppression and abuse by multinational corporations in the global south, extractive companies and mining across the world have been facing their downfall.

The day-long conference at the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) has ended with a hope that mining will continue to fall. The director of the centre, Dr Vinita Damodaran  given a vote of thanks to the superb speakers and activists who brought in new hopes to the conference room that extractive companies are likely to be vanished in near future so long as we continue to fight consistently.

The event was facilitated by Zuky Serper, an Activist and Artist in Residence, and chaired by Dr Vinita Damodaran at CWEH at University of Sussex.

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Protesters blockade and shut down UK’s largest open-cast mine in Merthyr Tydfil

Report on Powerful Campaign Against Open-Pit Coal Mine at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales

By Paul Dudman (@PaulDudman)

A red line was drawn by the bodies and banners of passionate protesters through the existing mine to halt open-cast coal mining. Copyright: Reclaim the Power

Tuesday, the 3rd May, has witnessed the successful blockade of the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Ffos-y-fran, by several hundred protestors as part of a climate change movement organised by the Reclaim the Power oragnisation to help showcase the damage caused by opencast coal extraction to the environment.  This was the outcome of a week-long camping of passionate climate change action organised by the climate action network of Reclaim the Power to highlight issues surrounding the damage caused by mining companies using invasive techniques to harvest the last remaining coal reserves and the impact these procedures can have on the natural environment.  The coal company in question, Miller Argent, are looking to significantly increase their coal mining production in this area of South Wales, which would have a devastative effect on the local environment and wildlife.

The aim of Tuesday’s action was to undertake a mass civil trespass at the existing Ffos-y-fran opencast mining complex, which began at 5:30am on Tuesday morning and has continued through the day.

This is how protesters have drawn a red-line on coal mine at Ffyos-y-fran #EndCoal. Copyright: Reclaim the Power.

A press release by the Reclaim the Power stated that this is “the largest ever action in a UK opencast mine” with activists traveling from all across Britain and internationally to peacefully occupy the mine and show solidarity and support.  Having been fortunate enough to visit the site over the bank holiday weekend, the impact of the existing opencast mine is there for everyone to see and any expansion of this opencast method of coal extraction will have serious implications for the local area.  Two huge mountains of waste slag have already been produced as a bye-product of the extraction process. Locals are concerned that the vague promises of this material being returned to the ground once mining is complete will be ignored in the face of the financial benefits of turning the large open-pit mine into a commercial rubbish tip once mining is complete.

Tuesdays protest has been successful in halting coal mining work at Ffos-y-fran. An activist Hannah Smith, on site stated that :

“Today we’ve shut down the UK’s largest coal mine because we must keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop catastrophic climate change [….] We are taking action in solidarity with the local community who have been battling Ffos-y-fran for nearly a decade, and now face the threat of a new mine next door.”

This action represents national and international support for a long-standing local campaign by the United

The Welsh Dragon standing firm in support of the blockade at Ffos-Y-fran and to protect environment. Copyright: Reclaim the Power.

Valleys Action Group, who have been opposing the further expansion of opencast mining at Ffos-y-fran and are now resisting a proposed mine at Nant Llesg. As highlighted in the official press release, “Caerphilly County Council rejected the application in August 2015 but the company Miller Argent is seeking to overturn this democratic decision.”

Indeed, the decision to look to expand the Ffos-y-fran opencast site seems irrational when you consider that the demand for coal itself is facing a downturn globally, especially with the growth in alternatives to coal within the clean energy sector. Equally, “the Aberthaw power station that uses 95% of the coal mined at Ffos-y-fran announced last week that it is scaling back operations” and many locals are vigorously opposed to expansion of opencast mining in the area hives the devastation that has been caused as a direct result of the mine in the surrounding area.

Tuesday’s protest also demonstrated the [assion and climax of Reclaim the Power’s ‘End Coal Now’  climate camp, situated on a hill side adjacent to the opencast mine. Activists from the UK and abroad have braved the wind and the rain to come together and to highlight the importance of fighting to preserve our natural environment and to reduce the impacts of climate change.  Events have taken place for five days to help bring together local residents with UK and international climate change activists, unions, Councillors and Assembly candidates to discuss how to guard against the environmental destruction caused as a result of open-pit mining. Solidarity was expressed by many international organisations to Tuesday’s action to end coal in Wales and the UK. Phulbari Solidarity Group has expressed unconditional solidarity with the protesters who blockaded the open-cast mine at Ffos-Y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil.

Dr. Rumana Hashem holds a red banner to end coal, presented by an activist from Germany at Ende Gelaende, as a form of expressing solidarity on Solidarity Sunday at the End Coal Now camp in Merthyr Tydfil. Copyright: Paul Dudman.

Rumana Hashem, founder of the Phulbari Solidarity Group and executive member of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Respurces, Power and Port in Bangladesh, joined the camp and spoke to a full tent of activists on Sunday evening. Rumana shared her decade-long experience in stopping an open-pit coalmine in northwest Bangladesh, highlighting the successful campaign against Global Goal Management (GCM), a London-based mining company, who wants to build an immense open-pit mine in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh. She discussed GCM’s attempts to obtain approval for Phulbari open-pit mine, which if constructed, would result in the forced displacement of 120,000 people and would cause extensive environmental degradation to prime agricultural land in Bangladesh. By illustrating her eye witness to the shooting on a demonstration of 80,000 people that left three people shot dead in spot and over 200 injured in 2006, Rumana emphasised that strong opposition and long-term constructive actions could stop any mining company and government from destroying our planet.

Rumana also discussed the campaigns against the building of new power stations in the port city of Chittagong, and in Khulna. In describing the threats posed by the to be constructed Rampal power plant close to the Sunderbans in Bangladesh, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a World Heritage site, she said that: “in Bangladesh, coal power plant does not only take away land but also kills people and rare animals.”

In conjunction with speakers discussing the impact of coal extraction on local communities in Germany, the USA and Russia, and the current concerns over the burning of fossil fuels and the impact of carbon emissions on climate change, the Sunday Solidarity panel was organised by the Coal Action Network and Reclaim the Power. The panel went to highlight the importance of environmental activism in order to bring these issues to public attention.  There were many more interesting and action-based workshops which took place or four days prior to the action at the End Coal Now camp in Fochriw.  Tuesday’s action has been an outstanding success of the organisers who were able to achieve wide media coverage and positive response in mainstream national media including BBC, the Guardian, the Daily Mail and many more who highlighted the action as a successful blockade at the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine.

Thanks to the many hundreds of activists who were able to contribute to the climate camp in Ffos-y-fran over the post few days.  The public action at the coal face itself is an example of the amount of hard work and effort that many committed environmental activists are prepared to undertake in support of such an important cause. In addition to this, there has been a large amount of hard work undertaken behind the scenes in order to ensure that the “End Coal Now” camp has been a success. From organising free catering over several days, to inviting speakers from across the world and to the practicalities of arranging this type of open event on a large scale, demonstrate the passion, ability and commitment of the climate activists that they would continue to resist and halt the proposed open-cast mine in Nant Llesg.  This has certainly been an inspirational event to many and we hope this will act as a spur to all of us to continue the fight to protect our environment.

Download the Reclaim the Power Press Statement – HUNDREDS SHUT DOWN UK’S LARGEST OPENCAST COAL MINE.

Follow @reclaimthepower on Twitter or on live blog: www.reclaimthepower/endcoalnow/live

 

Read More:

The Guardian – Climate protesters occupy UK’s largest opencast coalmine – in pictures.

The Guardian – The time has come to turn up the heat on those who are wrecking planet Earth

BBC News – Hundreds protest at Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr

BBC News – Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr Tydfil ‘unbearable’

ITV News – Hundreds gather to halt operations at Ffos-y-fran opencast mine