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

 

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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

Homage paid to Brave Protesters in Phulbari

By Raaj Manik

It was Phulbari Day on Thursday. It was the day to commemorate mass protests that prevented a UK-based mining company, Global Coal Management PLC, from building a large-scale open-pit coal mine in Phulbari in north-west Bangladesh. Nine years ago, on 26th August in 2006, three brave protesters were shot dead in the mass protest that took place in opposition to plans by GCM, a London based AIM-listed corporation, who wanted to forcefully displace 130,000 people from their homes by grabbing 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land in Bangladesh. The powerful demonstration in 2006 ended in tragedy when paramilitary force opened fire on a rally of 80,000, people, leaving three people killed and two hundred injured.

The 26th August has been marked as a day for commemorating the protesters in Phulbari since then. On the ninth anniversary on 26 August 2015, the day was remembered with respect, as ever, and people’s resistance was celebrated by diverse groups and rights-activists across Bangladesh and in London. In Bangladesh, campaigners of National Committee at Phulbari, Dhaka, Narayanganj, and several other regions were joined by many other human rights and art groups who paid homage to Phulbari protesters.

Rally in Phulbari on 26 August 2015 . Photo credit: Anonymous

Rally in Phulbari on 26 August 2015 . Photo credit: Anonymous

In Phulbari, nearly ten thousands of people have paid tribute to Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul – the three innocent civilians killed by GCM-provoked shooting in 2006. People have started to gather in the town as early as seven o’clock in the morning to pay homage to those who died that day and to celebrate the people-powered resistance that has prevented the massive mine being built for almost a decade. Schools, colleges, shops and business enterprises were shut for all day in tribute to those brave protesters who forced the British coal miners to leave Bangladesh. The procession of homage, initiated by the Phulbari branch of National Committee, was joined by farmers, agricultural workers, rickshaw-drivers, van-store employees, school teachers, doctors, medical students, professionals, art-activists, business entrepreneurs, and of course local leaders of political parties. Parents of the dead, Al-Amin and Salekin, and the injured men including Bablu Roy and Pradip attended the rally in the town centre.

Families of the victims and women protesters march towards Shahid Minar in Phulbari to pay tribute. 26 August 2015. Photo: Anonymous

Families of the victims and women protesters march towards Shahid Minar in Phulbari to pay tribute. 26 August 2015. Photo: Anonymous

Locals in Phulbari called upon the government to remove fabricated cases against leaders of the Phulbari movement. They demanded for an immediate implementation of the Phulbari deal and called upon a permanent expulsion of Asia Energy, the Bangladesh subsidiary of GCM , from Bangladesh. Activists have also asked government to compensate the affected people in Borapukuria mine. Leaders of National Committee announced fresh programme to be held later this year against government’s destructive policy of coal-powered plant in other parts of the country. The rally called upon the government to implement the 7-point demands of the National Committee and to prevent Rampal coal-fired power project from happening which would destroy the countries only mangrove forest and a UNESCO heritage, the Sundarbans. They demanded that Orion coal-fired plant must be resisted and suspended immediately.

The same demands were projected in the tribute to Phulbari resistance in other parts of the country, and in East London. In London, members of the UK branch of the Bangladesh National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, and activists of Phulbari Solidarity Group were joined by transnational campaigners and environmentalists from Global Justice Now, UNISON, and the Socialist Party of England and Wales. Messages of support and solidarity were delivered by representatives from Tamil Solidarity, National Trade Union and London Mining Network, also.

In the meeting at the Montefiore Centre in East London transnational activists have taken a pledge to resist all sorts of conspiracy for coal-fired power in Bangladesh. The member secretary of the committee in the UK, Dr Akhter Sobhan Khan, has updated the forum about development in Bangladesh. That Bangladeshi government has eventually recognised that due to the high population density and the fact that much of the local economy is based on agriculture and other land-based livelihoods, open cast mining is not a viable project for Bangladesh. The forum welcomed this news of a recent statement by Bangladesh’s state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid that the government does not want to use open pit mining in the region.

Tribute to Phulbari protesters paid in London by following silence. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

Tribute to Phulbari protesters paid in London by following silence. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

The meeting, presided by Dr Mukhlesur Rahman, has started by following one minute silence in the honour of Al-Amin, Salekin and Tariqul. Participants have discussed recent developments in the campaign against the mine. The Chair of the meeting has updated the forum about the invalid contract between the government and the company.

The founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the shooting in Phulbari, Dr Rumana Hashem, gave her eye witness to the tragic event and the deadly shootings. She described how local women and men had made the company to leave the area. She noted that locals are still vocal against the mine as they recognised that the mine, if built, would cause mass evictions and destroy thousands of hecters of farmland in an area that forms part of the country’s breadbasket. Rumana’s statement was followed by speeches by comrades such as Dr Jinnah, comrade Moktar, Mostofa Kamal, Ishak Kajol and several others.

Christine Hague, who joined the meeting to represent Global Justice UK, then delivered a message of solidarity from Global Justice Now, in which she said that Global Justice Now has been supporting the campaign against the mine since 2008. They have been putting pressure on investors, which saw Barclays and RBS withdraw their support, exposing the UK government’s support for GCM and joining protests at the company’s AGM each year. They have also supported US-based International Accountability Project to submit a complaint to the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, in the hope of using this mechanism to hold GCM to account.

Although the complaint was accepted for investigation, the UK NCP failed shamefully to consider the impacts of the project should it go ahead, focusing only on the company’s actions in the planning stage to date. GCM was still found to have failed to “foster confidence and trust” in the local community though it was otherwise let off the hook with a recommendation that it update its plans and carry out a human rights impact assessment. This is, as colleagues in Bangladesh noted, likely to lead further unrest. In fact, within four days of the publication of the final statement on the complaint, a visit by GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye, to the area triggered three days of protests and strikes, including an occupation of GCM’s offices in Phulbari.

Part of the London gathering on 26 August 2015. Photo credit Zahanara Rahman

Part of the London gathering on 26 August 2015. Photo credit Zahanara Rahman

But the failure of high level international mechanisms like this made Thursday’s gatherings in recognition of the mass resistance to the project of Phulbari ever more important. A representative from UNISON, Hugo Piere, told the forum that UNISON would be proud to be part of any campaign or action that the community takes against GCM in future. A full-solidarity has been expressed by both UNISON and the Socialist Party of England and Wales.

Likewise, Isai Pryia from National Trade Union and Tamili Solidarity has sent message of solidarity. The message which Helen Pattison of Socialist Party delivered to the gathering states: ‘Although, unfortunately, Tamil Solidarity couldn’t make the meeting today we stand in solidarity with you. We remember the dead and fight for the living. We hope that we will be able to work more closely together in the future’.

Activists take pledge to stand with Phulbari people. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

Activists take pledge to stand with Phulbari people. 26 August 2015. Photo credit: Rumana Hashem

The meeting has ended with a pledge that any attempt to implement coal-fired plant in Bangladesh will be resisted and solar energy should be promoted. People in both Bangladesh and London have acknowledged that despite the tragedy, people in Phulbari have made an example by preventing the devastating project from happening for almost a decade. It is solid people power. And that’s definitely worth celebrating.

But sadly, the news of celebration and commemoration in Phulbari remains under-covered in mainstream media. Professor Anu Muhammad, the member secretary of National Committee and a leading economist in Bangladesh stated: ‘while the significance of Phulbari resistance has been recognised by national and international environmentalists, with the exception of a few newspapers mainstream media has ignored the news of Phulbari Day.’

The fight for people’s right, nature and environment must move forward. Activists in London have now decided to hold a symbolic protest this September when the Bangladesh’s Energy Advisor Toufiq Elahi visits London.

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.

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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

Massive human chain against open-pit mine, GCM’s consultant , RWE, in Germany

On Saturday, 25 April, A mass action held in Germany, with over 6000 people coming together to create a 7.5 km human chain that passed through deserted villages in western Germany’s Rhineland to the open cast Garzweiler coal mine owned by  the German utility company RWE.

The chain is to protest RWE’s planned expansion of the mine and passed through  “almost deserted villages” that “have gradually become ghost villages as residents have been bought out and communities broken down by utility company RWE.”

RWE was Contracted by GCM as an advisor for the Phulbari Coal Mine throughout project implementation? This very same RWE mine has been promoted in Bangladesh as a model for how open pit mining can purportedly be done in a socially and environmentally responsible way, and there was some controversy generated by sponsored trips for key decision-makers in Bangladesh to travel to Germany and visit the mine.  At the time, we noted that claims promoting the mine and RWE as “models” for Bangladesh were contradicted by protests against the impacts of the company’s mining operations in Germany and Belgium.

Read detailed report with photos and video clip here: http://350.org/humanchain/

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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.

‘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