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.

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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?’

Demo raged in London at British coal company GCM

  • Noise-Demo, Drumming, Coal Play and Interrogation at GCM’s AGM
  • AGM Disrupted by Protesters’ Interrogation
  • Protesters Demand Arrest of Gary Lye and De-listing of GCM from London AIM

by Raaj Manik, 10 December  2014

Protesters pledge GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: P V Dudman

Protesters pledge GCM will be de-listed from London AIM soon. Photo: P V Dudman

Yesterday, Bangladeshi activists in conjunction with a diverse group of environmental and left political activists in London, heckled the investors of Global Coal Management Resources by their noise demo and coal play. Activists blocked the entrance to the Aeronautical Society by dumping coal in the doorway. They surrounded GCMs’ CEO Gary Lye and his fellows who are aggressively moving ahead to implement a massive open-pit mine in Phulbari, the northwest region of Bangladesh. At the same time a delegation of protesters disrupted the AGM of GCM by questioning the investors inside the AGM about their fraudulent business in London’s Alternative Share Market (AIM).

Community activists (from left) of Swadhinota Trust, the UK branch of National Committee and Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch) chanted slogans defying the company's CEO Gary Lye's pervasive propaganda about the protesters in Phulbari. Photo: P V. Dudman

Community activists (from left) of Swadhinota Trust, the UK branch of National Committee and Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch) chanted slogans defying the company’s CEO Gary Lye’s pervasive propaganda about the protesters in Phulbari. Photo: P V. Dudman

The demo was organised by the UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group. The event was endorsed by Socialist Party of England and Wales, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, Occupy London, Foil Vedanta, European Action Group of Climate Change in Bangladesh, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, UK, and several community organisations including Nari Diganta, Swadhinota Trust, Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, Jubo Union, Friends of Chatro Union, Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch), Bangladesh Communist Party (UK branch), and Bangladesh Socialist Party (UK branch).

The Sculpture in Tangail and Silk Sari, held three sacks of coals, symbolising the livelihood, culture, struggle, and resistance of Phulbari people. Photo credit: Stephen Vince

The event kicks in with the launch of artist Stephen Vince’s beautiful sculpture, symbolising the protest against the miners and the livelihood, culture, struggle, and resistance of Phulbari people. The sculpture, wearing a Tangail and Silk Sari, held three sacks of coals to symbolise the significance of the number three and a tribute to the three people who were killed in the dirty coal game of GCM in Phulbari.

Bangladeshi activists, carrying the sculpture and holding a banner saying – GCM hands off Phulbari, No open pit mine in Bangladesh- started to chant slogans and sing ‘tomar bari amar bari, Phulbari Phulbari’.  Some protesters played drum and samba when Rumana Hashem and Shahriar Ali gave vocals, deriving slogans from Phulbari in Bangla basat vita dhongsho kore koila khoni hobena [destroying homes and land, no mine no mine]. Others attempted to enter the block calling the investors to come out of AGM and to apologise for their misdeeds and abuse in Bangladesh. Loud protesters were repeatedly warned about potential arrest by the authorities of Aeronautical Society (AS) who did not call police but appeared as racist.

coal dumped on the front door and stairs of Aeronautical Society. Photo: Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Angry protesters dumped coal on the front door and stairs of AS, as they were prevented from taking out Gary Lye. Protesters said that they would not leave the venue before the interrogation of Gary Lye and his fellows was over. Meanwhile, a group of protesters went to check the investors’ vehicles and took over the car park as part of the blockade against Gary Lye, the company’s manipulative CEO, who was expelled from Phulnari for a 3rd time this year, on 26 November, but still continues to abuse Bangladesh government and Phulbari people.

When protesters outside the AGM were checking investor’s vehicles, a delegation of the climate justice activists attending the AGM interrogated Gary Lye and the board inside the AGM about GCM’s unethical business in London and abusive activities in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi activists rattled the investors to an extent that the Chair was fade up and it was Gary Lye who ended up facing the interrogation about the paperless contract and propaganda of GCM. Phulbari activists challenged that GCM does not have valid contract with Bangladesh.

Diverse group of climate activists and protesters holding placards and listening to speeches by community leaders. Photo: P V Dudman

Climate activists of World Development Movement and London Mining Network supported Phulbari activists, and asked numerous questions about the highly contentious Phulbari project, its huge human rights impacts and the OECD Guidelines as GCM has breached 2011 Guidelines, which do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise in terms of prospective impacts on human rights. Activists said that ‘the company was illegitimate, the project illegitimate and the annual general meeting of GCM was illegitimate’. The meeting broke up unceremoniously and the shareholders broken up into two groups.

Richard Solly of London Mining Network is briefing the demonstrators about the interrogation inside the AGM and the failure of GCM board to answer the questions of Bangladeshi activists. Photo: P V Dudman

Richard Solly of London Mining Network is briefing the demonstrators about the interrogation inside the AGM and the failure of GCM board to answer the questions of Bangladeshi activists. Photo: P V Dudman

The delegation of climate activists came out of the AGM and joined the protesters where Golam Mostofa, Richard Solly, Zahanara Rahman and Sam Sender updated the demonstrators that Gary Lye and his fellows have failed to answer the questions of Bangladeshi activists. ‘They are even lying about national media and the government in Bangladesh’, said Mrs Zahanara. Protesters chanted slogans ‘Gary Lye is a Lier, Shame on Gary Lye’, GCM and Asia Energy, hushiar sabdhan [be aware of peoples’ power]’. One angry protester walked into the building with a sack of coal to dump on Gary Lye’s chair, but was prevented from entering the meeting room by the AS’s equally racist authority who received the coal on behalf of the investors.

Speakers in the demo asserted that there is no hope for Asia Energy and GCM in relation to coal business in Bangladesh when the government including the Prime Minister, Energy Minister and Energy Secretary of the country have reaffirmed that Bangladesh will not go for open pit mine in Phulbari. Speakers include  Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, Abed Ali, Ahmed Zaman, Ansar Ahmed Ullah,  Effie Jordan, Ishak Kajol, Mostofa Farook, Nurul Islam,  Peter Mason, Syed Enam, Shah Enam, Julie Begum, and many more. The Masters of the event were Shahriar Ali and Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor. The event was volunteered by a number of left activists and professional photographers including artist Stephen Vince, Golam Rabbani of Diamond Studios, Nicole Meedrum, Patrick, Chris and many more. The chairperson of National Committee’s UK branch, Dr Mokhlesur Rahman, thanked everybody for coming along and for taking on important theatrical roles.

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Diverse group of climate activists kept coming and joining the demo which they found extraordinary in London. Photo: P V Dudman

The demo ended with a manifesto calling for an end of GCM’s Phulbari project, and by criticising the UK NCP’s controversial recommendations to the company. The founder and coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group, Dr Rumana Hashem, read out the manifesto of the demo and called the London’s AIM to de-list GCM. The manifesto concludes by expressing full solidarity with the Phulbari people’s struggle and by condemning the UK government for failing to hold the UK-based company to account.

Dr Hashem reads the statement of the demo. Photo: P V Dudman

Dr Rumana Hashem reads the statement of the demo. Photo: P V Dudman

Miners GCM Resources is the subject of a complaint to the Organisation for Co-operation and Development over the controversial coal mine. They have only one active project, the Phulbari coal project, which awaits permission from the Government of Bangladesh to go ahead. But the people in Phulbari want to put the company out of Bangladesh, ban the Phulbari project and to take the company and its investors to public court for their abusive and fraudulent activities.

Phulbari, the town in upheaval in northwest Bangladesh where three people were shot dead during the protest against immense open pit mine in 2006, has become volatile again since, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the AIM-listed British company, Gary N Lye, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in the town centre. There were two days long blockade in Dinajpur-Dhaka highway, and over a thousand people braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s visit last month.

Phulbari demo and protest in London ends with a pledge that there will be no mine in Phulbari. Photo: P V Dudman

On 26 November, locals in Phulbari surrounded Lye and GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy‘s local office, and the CEO had to leave Phulbari and Dinajpur in police protection. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured. Protesters have demanded Gary Lye’s immediate arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. A month-long programme including nation-wide protests have followed. Protesters will not go back home until their demands are full-filled.

Read also report of LMN about the AGM of GCM here

Watch demo video by Socialist Party of England and Wales  http://youtu.be/pI2_jfGA5wA

Watch News by Channel24 http://youtu.be/srx80GbFQPs

Check out the Photo gallery here

Read also Foil Vedanta report here

Read Campaigners keep up fight to stop Bangladesh coal

More news can be found here on GB News24.com

Read Bangla news about Phulbari demo in London: Prothom Alo news

More news: http://www.m.banglanews24.com/detailnews.php?nid=348121&cid=1018

More Bangla news can be accessed from Protect Resources of Bangladesh

Read News about GCM’s/Gary Lye’s paperless business in Bangladesh here

Read also how Asia energy’s day are ending in Bangladesh

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

News about volatile Phulbari can be accessed here

Surround GCM! Surround the Dirty Coal Miners!

Manifesto of the Demo against the Dirty Coal Miners of Asia Energy/GCM 2014

Tuesday, 9 December, 2014. London

DSCF7379 DSCF7384
Today we, the activists from Bangladesh,  East London, the Borough of Tower Hamlets, and London’s environmental organisations, have gathered to call upon the AIM-listed London-based multinational company, GCM Resources Plc, to end its unethical business. The company, GCM Resources, is desperately moving to implement an immense open pit coal mine in northwest Bangladesh, 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 August 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. On 28 February, 2012, 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.They are selling fraudulent shares in London’s Alternative Investors Market (AIM) without any valid contract with Bangladesh Government.

 

The situation in Phulbari has become tense and volatile again since Tuesday the 25th November, when the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gary N Lye, attempted to visit Phulbari. Gary Lye is the man who called the protesters outsiders in 2006, and commented, after the death of three people shot by police at a demonstration, that “I am a businessman, [ …] I will continue my business in Phulbari’ regardless of whether there was a bloodshed or not. Therefore, people in Phulbari braved cold to raise their protest at Gary Lye’s attempted visit. Over a thousand people blocked the Dinajpur-Dhaka highway for five hours, demanding Lye’s arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. In Phulbari there were two days long protests outside GCM’s Bangladesh subsidiary Asia Energy’s local office. Violent protests erupted where 2 were injured.

 

On Wednesday, 26 November, the company’s CEO, Gary Lye, attempted to conduct consultation with locals in Phulbari following advice of the UK government which was released on 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. We welcome the Board’s affirmation that the 2011 Guidelines on human rights do apply to the planned conduct of an enterprise and its prospective impacts on human rights (para 6).  We welcome also the finding that the 2011 Guidelines would apply if GCM “continued to be “actively involved in the project” (para 19).

 
But we are hurt by the ambiguous conclusion of the investigation. 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. The final-published 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. Although 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, 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. We condemn the UK government for failing to hold their businessmen to account. We condemn the UK National Contact Point for failing to cite the extremely important first-hand accounts from Phulbari. We believe that it is the chair of the NCP, Liz Napier, who played a dirty game in this whole OECD investigation.

 

Liz Napier and her team at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have overlooked many of our first-hand accounts, allowing the dirty coal miners of GCM Resources, Gary Lye, to go back to Phulbari for an unexpected re-evaluation of the situation. The visit of dirty miner, Gary Lye, has sparked protests leading to fresh violence in one of Bangladesh’s most peaceful town, Phulbari. We demand that Liz Napier and her team at UK National Contact Point must take the responsibility for the recent turmoil in Phulbari. We call for a suspension of Liz Napier from her current post at UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

 

The OECD investigation followed a complaint submitted by the World Development Movement and International Accountability Project. We appreciate the initiative of International Accountability Project and World Development Movement (thereafter Global Justice Now) in support of the people in Phulbari. Although the UK government has failed to hold this UK-based company to account, it is clear that the people of Phulbari will resist GCM’s project going ahead. Phulbari people have made it clear by declaring their month long programme in demand of GCM’s CEO’s arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh. We extend our full solidarity to the people in Phulbari.

 

We will continue to call upon the London AIM to delist the dirty miners, GCM Resources, from London’s Alternative Share Market. Our Secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources Division,  Abu Bakar Siddique, reaffirmed that Asia Energy has no valid licence to develop Phulbari coal mine. Miner GCM must stop the propaganda about Phulbari coalmine. Our people do not want to leave their homes and land. Phulbari people will not work in a coal mine. GCM’s propaganda to create 17,000 new jobs in coal mine cannot ensure livelihood for 130,000 people feared to be affected during exploration in open pit method over the next 35 years. We will not let our people to die and our environment to de destroyed by dirty miners of GCM.

 

The UK Committee (National Committee) to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, Foil Vedanta, Socialist Party of England and Wales, Occupy London, European Action Group of Climate Change in Bangladesh, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in UK and all our co-worker organisations, will continue to call for the company to be de-listed from the London Alternative Investors Market. We declare, on behalf of the people in Phulbari, this UK based company will never go back to Bangladesh. Asia Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, Gary Lye, and investors of GCM Resources were ousted from Phulbari.  They will be resisted and the company will be uprooted from London soon.

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‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the energy ministry to wait for ‘new technology’ before going for coal extraction’

‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the energy ministry to wait for ‘new technology’ before going for coal extraction’

Wait for ‘new technology’: PM

Stressing the need to protect arable land, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the energy ministry to wait for ‘new technology’ before going for coal extraction.

She also outlined the ministry’s future challenges and ways to tackle them.

State Minister Nasrul Hamid Bipu briefed journalists on Thursday after her first visit to the ministry in two-and-a-half-years.

“The Prime Minister told ministry officials that new technology to extract coal may become available soon. We will wait for it,” he said quoting the Prime Minister.

Hasina’s directive comes amid controversies on whether Bangladesh should go for open-pit mining along with importing coal to meet increasing power demands.

Hamid was, however, silent on coal extraction issues. He also did not explain how thermal power production could be raised while waiting for ‘new technology’.

He said the Prime Minister wanted protection of farmers’ land first and coal extraction to be left to the future.

Hamid said Hasina, who also holds the energy portfolio, had ordered the stepping up of coal extraction research.

State-run oil, gas and mineral resources corporation Petrobangla claims Bangladesh has five coal mines with an estimated combined reserve of 3.1 billion tonnes.

Currently, an estimated 1.65 million tonnes of coal is produced annually from one of the mines through underground mining.

A group of experts, environmentalists, various Leftist fronts oppose open-pit mining which pollutes the environment, lays waste to arable land and displaces the habitants.

Despite a matter of high priority, the government has failed to formulate a coal policy in the past decade.

About 75 percent of Bangladesh’s power comes from gas while coal is used to produce less than 3 percent.

The government claims electricity generation increased nearly 5,000MW over the past five years. A ‘Festival of Light’ was held in Dhaka last year to mark the production of 10,000MW, hitting a new milestone in the country. It also plans to raise power production to 30,000MW by 2030, half of which would come from coal.

However, according to information presented in Parliament last June, around 40 percent people still do not have access to electricity.

Bipu said the Prime Minister had directed the setting up of a coal-fired power plant near the Paira Port in southern Patuakhali.

The government recently faced a wave of protests when it decided to go ahead with a 1,320MW thermal power plant at Rampal, near the Sunderbans.

Full article – bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2014/02/06/wait-for-new-technology-pm

 

PM’s strategy on coal: Asia Energy’s future with Phulbari bleak

Reported by: UNBconnect
Reported on: February 8th, 2014 12:02:55 am

Dhaka, Feb 7 (UNB) – The future of Phulbari coal mine project of UK-based Asia Energy, since renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM), has become bleak following the Prime Minister’s recent distinct statement on coal mining in the country.

 

While holding meeting with Power and Energy Ministry’s top officials on Thursday (February 6), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “Right now, we want to leave the issue of coal extraction to the future technology as food security and protecting the land of the farmers is the first priority.”

 

The Asia Energy entered Bangladesh in 2003 buying a contract from Australian company BHP to explore coal in Phulbari of Dinajour district. But when Asia Energy moved to execute its project as an open-pit mining, it faced tremendous opposition from local community and environmentalists.

 

The major protests took place on August 30 in 2006, where six protesters were shot dead, allegedly by paramilitary forces, and 300 were injured when a crowd of 30,000 people stormed the local offices of Asia Energy in Dinajpur.

 

The incident forced the government to announce postponement of the operation of Asia Energy’s Phulbari project. The Asia Energy was renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM) in 2007.

 

Recently, different activities of Asia Energy or GCM have been suggesting that the company is planning to come back in a new way to implement its project. Particularly, the GCM, a listed company with London Stock Exchange showing Phulbari coal mine as its project, became active in the country’s northern region where it recently launched some campaigns to garner local public support in its favour.

 

The GCM’s campaign raised serious concern among the anti-Phulbari activists who also threaten to reactivate their protest to resist the UK-company’s move.

 

Meantime, GCM reconstituted its board of directors and brought major changes in its Dhaka as well as London office by putting some new directors and staffs which also suggests the company is really coming up with new enthusiasm.

 

Sources said the company also recast its strategy to win the deal for exploration of the proposed Phulbari coal mine.

 

As part of the new strategy, the company has inducted a young Malaysian tycoon as a Non-Executive Director, removing a Briton from the Board of Directors.

 

With the announcement, Malaysian tycoon Dato’ Md Wira Dani Bin Abdul Daim has replaced British entrepreneur Neil Lindsey Herbert from the board of directors of GCM.

 

“Under the leadership of Malaysian business tycoon, the GCM was eyeing to rearrange its strategy in winning a deal for commercial exploration of the proposed Phulbari coalmine district,” said a source.

 

The GCM appointed Mettiz, an investment company with significant corporate and financial experience in natural resources, power generation, manufacturing and real estate, a lobbyist in Bangladesh last year to get approval of the government for commercial exploration of the Phulbari coalmine.

 

But, energy industry insiders thought the Prime Minister’s statement has made it clear that the project is unlikely to be executed in near future.

 

Quoting the Prime Minister, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid said she has given us a directive regarding coal extraction saying that “first of all we need” food security and land use.

 

“Only after ensuring food security and protecting farmers’ land, we’ll decide which technology we’ll use to extract coal,” he told reporters following the PM’s meeting.

 

Asia Energy Bangladesh’s CEO Gary Lye, however, said Phulbari Coal Project uses the land for mining temporarily. Land is immediately rehabilitated and returned to agriculture after extracting the coal which is a far greater benefit for the country.

 

He said Asia Energy is concerned to ensure food security and the company’s agriculture improvement plan will increase the food production from the area as well as allow coal extraction and jobs.

 

“We (will) welcome the opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on these plans and show how she can deliver for the people and country coal, major power and food security. People from the area want the coal mining and development benefits it’ll bring to them and their region which is one of the Bangladesh poorest regions.”   

 

Bangladesh has five coal fields with an estimated reserve of some 3.0 billion tonnes, industry insiders said. Of the five coal fields, only one in Barapukuria is now in operation.

– See more at: http://unbconnect.com/pm-coal-ld/#&panel1-2

PM’s strategy on coal: Asia Energy’s future with Phulbari bleak

Reported by: UNBconnect
Reported on: February 8th, 2014 12:02:55 am

Dhaka, Feb 7 (UNB) – The future of Phulbari coal mine project of UK-based Asia Energy, since renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM), has become bleak following the Prime Minister’s recent distinct statement on coal mining in the country.

 

While holding meeting with Power and Energy Ministry’s top officials on Thursday (February 6), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “Right now, we want to leave the issue of coal extraction to the future technology as food security and protecting the land of the farmers is the first priority.”

 

The Asia Energy entered Bangladesh in 2003 buying a contract from Australian company BHP to explore coal in Phulbari of Dinajour district. But when Asia Energy moved to execute its project as an open-pit mining, it faced tremendous opposition from local community and environmentalists.

 

The major protests took place on August 30 in 2006, where six protesters were shot dead, allegedly by paramilitary forces, and 300 were injured when a crowd of 30,000 people stormed the local offices of Asia Energy in Dinajpur.

 

The incident forced the government to announce postponement of the operation of Asia Energy’s Phulbari project. The Asia Energy was renamed as Global Coal Management (GCM) in 2007.

 

Recently, different activities of Asia Energy or GCM have been suggesting that the company is planning to come back in a new way to implement its project. Particularly, the GCM, a listed company with London Stock Exchange showing Phulbari coal mine as its project, became active in the country’s northern region where it recently launched some campaigns to garner local public support in its favour.

 

The GCM’s campaign raised serious concern among the anti-Phulbari activists who also threaten to reactivate their protest to resist the UK-company’s move.

 

Meantime, GCM reconstituted its board of directors and brought major changes in its Dhaka as well as London office by putting some new directors and staffs which also suggests the company is really coming up with new enthusiasm.

 

Sources said the company also recast its strategy to win the deal for exploration of the proposed Phulbari coal mine.

 

As part of the new strategy, the company has inducted a young Malaysian tycoon as a Non-Executive Director, removing a Briton from the Board of Directors.

 

With the announcement, Malaysian tycoon Dato’ Md Wira Dani Bin Abdul Daim has replaced British entrepreneur Neil Lindsey Herbert from the board of directors of GCM.

 

“Under the leadership of Malaysian business tycoon, the GCM was eyeing to rearrange its strategy in winning a deal for commercial exploration of the proposed Phulbari coalmine district,” said a source.

 

The GCM appointed Mettiz, an investment company with significant corporate and financial experience in natural resources, power generation, manufacturing and real estate, a lobbyist in Bangladesh last year to get approval of the government for commercial exploration of the Phulbari coalmine.

 

But, energy industry insiders thought the Prime Minister’s statement has made it clear that the project is unlikely to be executed in near future.

 

Quoting the Prime Minister, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid said she has given us a directive regarding coal extraction saying that “first of all we need” food security and land use.

 

“Only after ensuring food security and protecting farmers’ land, we’ll decide which technology we’ll use to extract coal,” he told reporters following the PM’s meeting.

 

Asia Energy Bangladesh’s CEO Gary Lye, however, said Phulbari Coal Project uses the land for mining temporarily. Land is immediately rehabilitated and returned to agriculture after extracting the coal which is a far greater benefit for the country.

 

He said Asia Energy is concerned to ensure food security and the company’s agriculture improvement plan will increase the food production from the area as well as allow coal extraction and jobs.

 

“We (will) welcome the opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on these plans and show how she can deliver for the people and country coal, major power and food security. People from the area want the coal mining and development benefits it’ll bring to them and their region which is one of the Bangladesh poorest regions.”   

 

Bangladesh has five coal fields with an estimated reserve of some 3.0 billion tonnes, industry insiders said. Of the five coal fields, only one in Barapukuria is now in operation.

– See more at: http://unbconnect.com/pm-coal-ld/#&panel1-2