Press Releases

          Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh and Phulbari Solidarity Group

PRESS RELEASE 12 December 2017

 

          PROTEST AGAINST GLOBAL COAL  MANAGEMENT PLC. AT THEIR AGM

 

*Protests held by communities affected by London based mining company Global Coal Management Plc. in London and Phulbari

* Activist shareholders disrupt the London AGM

*GCM is found in violation of human rights in the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights Report 2017 in Geneva

* Three point-demands by protesters in Bangladesh and London

 

Despite the cold, 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.

 

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 CEO, 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 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.). […] 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. [Still believe to be] 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, 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 Coal Action Network, Grow Heathrow, Foil Vedanta, South Asia Solidarity Group, K M Protectors (North-east England),  Communist Party of Bangladesh – UK branch, Bangladesh Socialist Party, UK branch, Reclaim the Power, London Mining Network, Plane Stupid, 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.

 

Further informaiton:

A short (English) video on the demo outside the AGM can be accessed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vJ3xh1LZvg&t=

A Bangla version, except for titles, of video of the protest is here: https://youtu.be/v35x0Tr0bC0

PSG report is here: https://wp.me/p2ZU1R-lK

Memorandum of the protest can be accessed here: https://wp.me/p2ZU1R-ln

Photos from the protest in London will be available on request.

Further information on company’s abuse, OECD complaint and current situation can be accessed here https://phulbarisolidaritygroup.wordpress.com/important-documents/

 

Contact for further information:

Dr Akhtar Sobhan Khan, Member Secretary of Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com

Dr Rumana Hashem, Spokesperson of Phullbari Solidarity Group, Email:rowshonrumana@googlemail.com, www.phulbarisolidaritygroup.org.uk

[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

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Phulbari Solidarity Group PRESS RELEASE 28 November 2014

Demos rage in London and Bangladesh at visit of CEO of British coal company GCM.

• Two injured, no arrest, in fresh violence in Phulbari after UK NCP’s Final Report
• GCM’s CEO leaves Phulbari under police protection
• Protesters demand arrest and expulsion of Gary Lye
• Phulbari Demo in London on 9 December in Solidarity to Phulbari Resistance

Phulbari, the town in upheaval in northwest Bangladesh where three people were shot dead while protesting an immense open pit mine in 2006, has become volatile again since Gary N Lye, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an AIM-Listed British company, Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources Plc, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in the town centre. Last two days in Dinajpur-Dhaka highway over a thousand people braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s visit, and in Phulbari there were day-long protests outside GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy‘s local office. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured.

Angry protesters demanded for an immediate arrest and expulsion of Gary Lye from Bangladesh. They have declared a month-long programme including nationwide protests on 3 December, submission of Phulbari manifesto to District-Commissioner in Dinajpur on 13 December, and day-long blockade on 27 December 2014.

Phulbari Solidarity Group expressed solidarity with the protesters in Phulbari and called upon everybody to join the demo in London on 9 December, which the UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh initiated to hold outside the GCM’s forthcoming AGM. Bangladeshi activists and protesters of GCM will chant, sing and hold a banner saying – GCM hands off Phulbari, No open pit mine in Bangladesh. Company executives will be heckled, and a theatrical stunt is expected. The demo will end with a manifesto calling for an end of GCM’s Phulbari project, and by criticising the UK NCP’s controversial recommendations to the company.

Dr Rumana Hashem, Co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the protest against the project where three people were killed in 2006, said:
Phulbari Solidarity Group expresses full solidarity to the protesters and will protest against open pit mine in Phulbari. We stand by the people in Phulbari because of the devastating impact that the proposed coal mine of GCM would leave. We will turn this year’s demo into an outburst against both the company and the UK government.

The demo in London has been endorsed by Phulbari Solidarity Group, Foil Vedanta, World Development Movement, and London Mining Network. Outside GCM’s London AGM a group of protesters will play samba while others hold placards painted with defiant anti-company quotes from the Phulbari and Parbatipur tribe in Dinajpur, Bangladesh, where the company has been trying to implement open pit coal mine illegally for fifteen years, and has been stopped in the face of tremendous resistance of people. Others will play investors’ dirty coal mine game by wearing coal helmet and engaging in activities including cleaning coals and falling over the ground.The demonstrators will attempt to enter the AGM to interrogate the investors for a valid contract which Gary Lye has demanded to have with Bangladesh government. Others will stop company executives from entering the AGM of GCM. Artist Stephen Vince will paint the whole event and actions outside the AGM.

Global Coal Management Plc is a company which does not hold any valid contract with Bangladesh though it wants to build a massive open pit mine in the Phulbari chapter, forcibly displacing an estimated 130, 000 people and destroying the homes, lands, and water sources of as many as 220,000 people. If the project is implemented, it will destroy over 14,660 acres of fertile agricultural land that produce three food crops annually, threatening to increase hunger in a country in which over a third of all children and nearly 17 percent of the entire population are undernourished.

GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people.Three people were killed and over 200 injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon a visit to the area.

The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations. 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. But GCM is aggressively moving ahead to implement this project. The situation in Phulbari has been very tense and volatile since Tuesday the 25th November.

Professor Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary of Bangladesh National Committee, stated:
The whole self of Phulbari is fighting for their land, homes and lives. People of all classes including farmers, business entrepreneurs, rikshaw-pullers, teachers and house wives have taken to the street. We did not know anything about Gary Lye’s visit, it is the locals who recognised him. He had to leave the town in two hours. Locals have attacked his car and ransacked his office which suggests that Asia Energy’s day has ended in true terms. Phulbari has embraced to resist open pit mine in Phulbari. It is not only the National Committee this time but also the Mayor of the Phulbari Borough, the Chairman of Phulbari Upazilla and the Business Entrepreneurs have all come to consensus that they will fight against GCM’s proposed project. The UK governments’ recommendations could do nothing to push open pit mine in Bangladesh.

It is notable that the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in Phulbari this Wednesday, 26 November, following advice of the UK government which was released last Thursday, 20 November. The UK government’s statement follows an investigation into GCM’s activities in Phulbari, and it concluded that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine. The investigation does not ask the company to pull off from the devastating project. Its recommendations are reduced to re-evaluation of the risks and impact. It asked the company to foster communication with the locals following a narrow approach, and it failed to consider how the mine would affect the people of Phulbari if it were built.  Its findings and conclusions were limited to GCM’s record in the planning phase of the project to date. An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead.

However, the final report failed to address the concerns of the internal review and did not correct the decision to exclude all potential impacts of the project from the investigation. The recommendations in the final report also fails to address concerns about the high potential for further violence if GCM persists in its efforts to force the project forward – despite the fact that the internal review noted the project “continues to be controversial and has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there”.

The demo in London outside GCM’s AGM will address the demands of Phulbari people.The demands of protesters in Phulbari include a prompt arrest and expulsion of Gary Lye from Bangladesh, and to fully implement the Phulbari agreement 2006.

Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, Member Secretary of the Committee to Protect Oil Gas and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh, the UK Branch, commented:
GCM should quit devastating Phulbari project and must stop unethical business and grabbing of money from the London share market. Local people banned GCM in Phulbari. They will never be able to get back and has no future in Phulbari. This message will be delivered to GCM in a unique fashion on the 9th December in London demo.

Protesters will address both the issues of GCM’s aggressiveness and the UK NCP’s ambiguous recommendations to the company. Some protesters will hold placards painted with the corrupted process of the UK NCP, and calling for a suspension of Liz Napier, the chair of NCP, from her current post at UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. A copy of the manifesto of the London demo will be sent to the NCP steering board later. A delegate of the protesters will meet the UK NCP to hand in the Manifesto of the demo.

Phulbari Solidarity Group will continue to call for the company to be de-listed from the London Alternative Investors Market, a move supported by a number of MPs and financiers.
Ends.

Notes to editors:

Please join us at the demonstration at 10:30 am on Tuesday, 9 December at 4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ.

Photographs and a report of the demo will follow on 9 December by 4pm GMT.
Contact: Raaj Manik, Phulbari Solidarity Group: phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Phulbari Solidarity Group Press Release – 20 November, 2014

UK urges GCM Resources to assess human rights impact of Bangladesh coal mine

Today, Thursday, 20th Nov 2014, the UK government has urged British company GCM Resources to assess how its planned coal mine in Bangladesh would affect the human rights of local people, and has condemned the company for breaching international guidelines on ethical corporate behaviour. Its findings, released today, state that the project “has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there.”

The UK government statement follows an investigation into GCM’s activities in the Phulbari region of north-west Bangladesh, where it wants to open a massive open-pit coal mine. The investigation concluded that the company had breached the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises by failing to “foster confidence and mutual trust” with the people who would be affected by the mine.

The investigation failed to consider how the mine would affect the people of Phulbari if it were built, and its conclusions were limited to GCM’s record in the planning phase of the project to date. An internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines do apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead. However, the final report failed to address the concrens of the internal review and did not correct the decision to exclude all potential impacts of the project from the investigation.

The investigation followed a complaint submitted by the World Development Movement and International Accountability Project.

Christine Haigh, campaigner at the World Development Movement, said:

“The UK government’s investigation is right in pointing to the company’s failures to date. But by omitting to consider the inevitable effects this mine would have on the region’s population, the investigation does little to ensure that their rights are protected. If it goes ahead, the Phulbari coal mine will be a human rights disaster. Local people have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want it and GCM should expect continued resistance if it pushes ahead against their wishes.”

Kate Hoshour from International Accountability Project said:

“There are grave concerns about the high risk of further violence in Phulbari if GCM persists in its efforts to force this project forward despite massive local opposition. The UK government should be taking all possible action to avert further harm, rather than restricting its assessment to harm that has already been inflicted. The government should also recognize and condemn the ongoing violation of the rights to self-determination and to free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples who have been fighting to halt this project since 2006.”

Rumana Hashem, co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the protests against the project where three people were killed in 2006, said:

“It is good that the UK NCP has recognised the considerable opposition to this project in Bangladesh. But the investigators simply failed to highlight the concerns for human rights violations and the severity of the issues. I have seen how local people died protesting about how the project would rob them of their homes and land, and how the locals have resisted the project so far. I am appalled that after receiving several first-hand accounts from Phulbari, the UK government has reduced its recommendations to this narrow framework.”

Locals cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari following the shooting by GCM-provoked shooting by Bangladesh paramilitary. Photo: 27 August 2006

Locals cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari following the shooting by GCM-provoked shooting by Bangladesh paramilitary. Photo: 27 August 2006

She added: “This report is contradictory. The internal review of the investigation affirmed that the OECD guidelines apply to human rights abuses that would occur if the project went ahead but the final report failed to advise their company to stay away from this devastating project. Despite the failure of the UK government to hold this UK-based company to account, it is clear that the people of Phulbari will resist GCM’s project going ahead.”

GCM’s planned Phulbari coal mine has provoked repeated protests by local people. Three people were killed and many more injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a protest against the project in 2006. Protests in 2013 forced the company’s then CEO Gary Lye to abandon a visit to the area.

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.
The original complaint submitted by International Accountability Porject and the World Development Movement

UK NCP final statement: complaint from IAP and WDM against GCM Resources Plc in Bangladesh

Find the press release by World Development Movement here

 

Press releases of Phulbari Demo in London in previous years  can be accessed here NCBD Press release 2012

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