Protesters Call To DE-LIST Global Coal Management PLC.From London Stock Exchange

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photocredit Peter Marshall

Commemoration and celebration go together at London Stock Exchange 26 August 2016 Photo credit Peter Marshall

PHULBARI DAY VIGIL TURNS INTO HEATED DEMO

By Paul Dudman

 

Friday the 26th August, marked a decade of halt to plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM), who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. A four day long Commemoration for victims of Phulbari outburst, where three protesters were shot dead by police in 2006, was held in Dkaka, Dinajpur, Phulbari, London and Germany. On the final day of remembrance, on 30th August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh has declared a fresh programme in Phulbari to kick GCM out of Bangladesh as the CEO of the company has recently filed multiple arbitrary charges against indigenous farmers, small businessmen and local leaders who opposed the mine.

 

In response to the call by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh, community activists under the banner of Phulbari Solidarity Group and Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh held a colourful and powerful commemoration rally and protest at London Stock Exchange , calling for the de-listing of the company from London Stock Exchange. Despite heavy securitization and repeated attempts of interruption by British police, angry protesters blocked the pavement of the main entrance of London Stock Exchange for two hours and demanded immediate de-registration of GCM for its unethical business, deceitful marketing of Phullbari project, and for human rights abuse in Dinajpur and Phulbari. Of what was meant to be a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari has turned into a commemoration come noise demo as the CEO of London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet KBE, failed to respond to the protesters’ call for de-listing of GCM. The Phulbari Solidarity Group has contacted the CEO of London Stock Exchange and submitted evidence of unethical business of the company before the demo.

 

Police objects to PSG Founder Rumana Hashem to remove the banner from the pavement copyright Peter Marshall

Police objects to the blockade of LSE pavement but  PSG Founder Rumana Hashem says:” the banner for the victims will not be removed.” Photo credit: Peter Marshall

A remembrance vigil was held, followed by an angry demo with Santal and Tamil drumming, and ended with tribute by flowers and candles being paid to the three people who were killed by paramilitary force, allegedly paid by the company, in Phulbari on 26 August in 2006. Wearing masks of Gary Lye (CEO of GCM) and Michael Tang (the Chairman of the company), the protesters sang Phulbari jingles against coal mine. The protest observed a three-minute silence for the three victims, Al—Amin, Salekin and Tariqul, who died in the Phulbari shooting. Dressed in red, blue and black, protesters laid down a banner for victims, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN”, on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange. Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining movement and workers rights.

Shameless Gary Lye and Blatant lyer Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty copyright Peter Marhsall

GCM CEO Gary Lye and company Chairman Michael Tang stood as numb and blatant guilty. Photocredit: Peter Marhsall

 

 

Dressed in red, blue and black protesters outside the London Stock Exchange paid a two-hour homage to the victims. A banner, stating “YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE IN VAIN” was laid on the pavement of the London Stock Exchange Group’s Headquarter for International Trading.

 

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Hand-painted banner for victims of Phulbari shooting. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Protesters from Bangladesh were joined by international and British environmental campaigners, and advocates for human rights, anti-mining and workers rights. Among others, Foil Vedanta, European Action for Climate, London Mining Network, Global Justice Campaign, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, Tamil Solidarity and Voice of Freedom have made it explicit that they will stand with Phulbari people in their struggle. The sound of compassion, sadness, empowerment and resistance echoed in the protest, and the firm speeches by passionate activists and outrageous crimes by British multinational companies overseas was heard by the entire Paternoster Square on Friday – although none from London Stock Exchange seemed concerned about these crimes.

 

Simultaneously, tributes were paid to the victims of Phulbari at National Martyrs Monument in Dhaka, and red vigil and cultural events took place in Phulbari under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port in Bangladesh (NCBD in short). In the four-day commemoration events (26-30 August) and celebration of the halt, they demanded the ban of the company in Bangladesh for its ongoing abuse of activists in Phulbari and increasing corruption in Bangladesh.

 

 

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint agaisnt GCM was treated by UK NCP Photocredit Peter Marshall

Christine Hague of Global Justice told how partially OECD complaint against GCM was treated by UK NCP. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

The company has been allegedly involved in various forms of abuse and harassment of local activists and opponents of the proposed Phulbari mine. Media report on the brutal death of Nasrin Huq , the former executive director of Action Aid in Dhaka, revealed that in 2005 Huq was killed brutally in her car park for her opposition to the project. A report to which the company was unable to respond was published in the Observer.[i]  Later 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. Local organisers have reported that the company has bribed the paramilitary personnel and forced them to open fire against the decision of the Police Magistrate on duty who stated that there was no permission for shooting on people. There were over 200 people injured and many abused on the same day. 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. But the company has been pushing the government to give them a go ahead.

 

Shameless Gary Lye and Michael Tang dance with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter MarshallThe company’s CEO, Gary N Lye, has been allegedly harassing opponents of the project and the company has been extremely abusive to indigenous farmers, local organisers of Phulbari outburst, and small business entrepreneurs who demanded the company’s ban in Phulbari. After the shooting and deaths of three people on 26 August in 2006, Gary Lye stated that he is businessman and he understands nothing but coal. In a live interview with Farzana Rupa on ATN Bangla TV, Lye said: “I am a businessman , my business is to extract coal. It is not my business to know who dies and who cries” (ATN Bangla News, 26 August 2006).  Locals have declared that this CEO is unwanted in Phulbari and when he attempted to re-enter Phulbari town he was resisted by locals in November 2014.

 

Last month, a day before the International Mangrove Action Day when Bangladeshis was focused on the controversial deal on Rampal power plant, the company has filed multiple cases against 26 key indigenous organiser’s, local leaders, farmers, small scale business entrepreneurs and students who opposed the mine in Phulbari. The arbitrary charges formed on 25 July, 2016, at Dinajpur Magistrate Court appeared as extremely abusive and the next hearing on 7 September will be a crucial day for all those fighting the fraught.

 

The NCBD has declared a fresh programme on Phulbari Day to fight GCM and ban the Phulbari project. This includes rally demanding a ban of the company in Phulbari on 25 October, blockade of the Dinajpur District Commissioner’s Office on 21 November and half-day strike in Phulbari on 21 December. If demands are unfulfilled by December, intense and unending strike would start. Phulbari Solidarity Group believes that that this will not be needed as activists in London will hold the company to account and will ensure a ban of GCM from London Stock Exchange before the end of this year.

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange

Paying tribute to the victms of Phulbari with flowers and by lighting candles on 26 Aug 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photo credit: Kerima Mohiuddin

 

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 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.

 

 

Arguments with Police who prohibited Rumana Hashem to display the banner for the victims on the pavement Copyright Peter Marshall Gary Lye and Michael Tang shamelessly danced with coal over deadbodies Photocredit Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police - a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photocredit: Peter Marshall

Arguments with Police – a community leader tells Police not to interfere with demonstrators. Photo credit: Peter Marshall

 

Phulbari Solidairty Group Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006 lights a cnadle for the victims of Phulbari on 26 August 2006 at London Stock Exchange. Photocredit : Peter Marshall

Phulbari Solidairty Group’s Founder and an eye witness to the shooting in 2006, Dr Rumana Hashem, lights a candle for the victims of Phulbari at the entrance of London Stock Exchange. Photo credit : Peter Marshall

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791.

Further news, photos and videos:

Ten years of Resistance to Phulbari Open Cast Mine: Peter Marshall’s Mylondondiary.co.uk

A video of the noise-demo to de-list GCM from London Stock Exchange (by Pete Mason of Socialist Party of England and Wales): https://youtu.be/-_cKiRWt9NI

London Stock Exchange targeted by Bangladeshi activists: Foil Vedanta report

Phulbari Day protest outside London Stock Exchange: Begum24.com by Ansar Ahemd Ullah

[i]  The mystery death of Nasrin Huq –a report to which the company was not able to respond to, was derived from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/03/bangladesh, last cited on 01. 01. 2013

An Eye Witness of the shooting and outburst in Phulbari: Keeping Coal Resources under the Ground with Blood, A Different Revolution

New Programme to Kick GCM out of Bangladesh declared on Phulbari Day: BNP is Not our Friend 

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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

 

Feasibility study on Barapukuria open-pit mining sent back

The Independent news on Barapukuria reproduced below  by Raaj Manik

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Author / Source: SHAHNAJ BEGUM

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The authorities of the Barapukuria Coal Mine Company (BCMC) have rejected the feasibility study report of the Institute of Water Modelling (IWM) on open-pit mining at Barapukuria North, as it did not match the study’s “terms of reference (TOR)”. “The study did not reflect the impact of open-pit mining on the groundwater level as a result of dewatering, irrigation and supply of drinking and industrial water. We need a further detailed report,” a senior IWM official told The Independent on Monday.
With the aim of opening up the northern part of the Barapukuria coalfield on a “small scale”, the energy ministry had launched the initiative 10 years ago. To endorse the plan, it formed different committees and completed two studies, but failed to reach any conclusion. In its third attempt, it engaged the IWM to complete water modelling to preclude any controversy over the method of coal extraction.
“This study is not enough to assess the impact of open-pit mining as it is a highly technical issue. Once again, we want to complete a geo-technical feasibility study before taking any decision on open-pit mining in this area,” Petrobangla’s former chairman Md. Mosharrof Hossain, who is the coordinator of the government monitoring committee that guided the IWM’s survey, told The Independent.
“We can go in for open-pit mining in the northern part of the Barapukuria coalfield, subject to the technical feasibility study on mining issues and the economic viability of water pumping with respect to biodiversity and ecological
stress on food production and their impact on the gross domestic product (GDP). Otherwise, how can we assess the profit and loss of a project? The study has failed to discuss these aspects,” he added.
According to Petrobangla, it was mentioned in the TOR that the study, covering an area of 2.81 sq. km, would assess the impact on the groundwater level as a result of dewatering, irrigation and supply of drinking and industrial water. It would find out possible remedial measures for underground sustainability through different opinion studies and recommend developing mine water management systems. “But the report did not touch on the irrigation and crop issues of the affected areas, which have a great impact on mine design,” an official said.
Though the IWM report said an area of some 560 sq. km of Barapukuria would be impacted if the government decides to open Barapukuria North for open-pit mining and the water table of the areas would go down from seven metres to more than 30 metres at different points, but to make it operational, it would require de-watering from 400 million cubic metres (mmc) to 232 mmc every year.
“The IWM report gave us some sort of relief, as we found the water flow to be almost half of what we had assumed. But a geo-technical issue is a must. After that, we will start the other related task,” Mosharrof Hossain said.
Bangladesh has five coalfields with around 2.55 billion tonnes of reserves, but has been unable to extract the mineral since a national coal policy has not been finalised yet. The Barapukuria coalfield has reserves of around 389 million tonnes, but only 10 to 12 per cent of this can be extracted with the underground method.
The report said over 90 per cent of the total reserves can be extracted through open-pit mining. Underground mining can produce less than 25 per cent. The northern part has estimated reserves of 135 million tonnes of coal.
“The surface of the Barapukuria
coal seam has started at the level of 118 metres. It gradually grows in depth up to 503 metres,” geologist Dr Mushfiqur Rahman told the Independent.
The report of the experts’ committee said the coal seam deposited 200 metres under the surface would be extracted through the open-pit method. The underground mining method would be chosen for those deposits when that depth is more than 200 metres.

Original version of the report can be accessed here

PDF version can be downloaded here feasibility-study-on-barapukuria-open-pit-mining-sent-back 19 Nov 2014

News: Anger and honour outside the GCM Resources AGM

From the London Mining Network website:

Anger and honour outside the GCM Resources AGM

Demonstrators from a number of groups gathered outside GCM Resources’ Annual General Meeting in London yesterday. The event was organized by the UK branch of National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power of Bangladesh (‘UK Committee’) with the support of other organizations.

Demonstrators chanted slogans calling for GCM Resources to leave Bangladesh, and for an end to the Phulbari coal mine project.

Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor, Member Secretary of the UK Committee welcomed the demonstrators.

Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group called for two minutes silence. She explained that this was ”to honour the three martyrs, Tariqul, Salekin and Al-Amen, who were killed on 26 August 2006 when paramilitary troops opened fire on the massive protest against Asia Energy in Phulbari; and the 121 victims of the latest garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, who died in late November, because they were denied exit via the main gate when the fire alarm was raised in their factory, which did not have any fire-escape – and were forced to burn to death.”

She added that the silence would also commemorate Catholic priest Bert White, a close friend of some of those involved, who had died in a fire on 20th December in 1999 and who, she said, would have been on the demonstration if he had lived, as he had been very much on the side of the poor, oppressed and dispossessed, and had always opted for the cause of justice and liberation.

She concluded, “As we demonstrate against corruption and human rights violations, we take the spirit of all of the above people in our heart and we demonstrate with the spirit that they are with us on the demo.”

There were speeches by representatives of the groups involved, and a letter (below) to the British Prime Minister was read out. There was anger at the involvement of the British Government in support for GCM Resources’ attempts to push forward the Phulbari project. The letter is to be signed by Bangladeshi organizations and sent to Downing Street.

The Eviction Notice at the end of this posting below was to have been handed over to the company, but the presence of armed police prevented demonstrators from entering the building – it will therefore be delivered to the company by post.

Details and photos of the theatrical events outside the AGM and the police response, can be found athttp://londonminingnetwork.org/2012/12/santa-claus-delivers-coal-to-gcm-board-inside-agm-two-arrests-following-coal-dumped-on-institute-of-directors-front-door/http://www.foilvedanta.org/news/from-phulbari-to-niyamgiri/http://www.newint.org/blog/2012/12/21/phulbari-mine-agm-protest/ andhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/dec/20/bangladesh-mine-activists-coal-gcm.

Letter to the British Prime Minister

20 December 2012

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

10 Downing Street

London SW1A 2 AA

Dear Prime Minister

Subject: call out to hold Global Coal Resources plc and Asia Energy’s business to account

Seeking to prevent a “humanitarian and ecological catastrophe” in the north-west of Bangladesh, Phulbari, we, the Bangladeshi community in UK and the undersigned activists for environment and human rights have been campaigning against the London-based and AIM-listed multinational company, the Global Coal Management Resources (GCM) Plc, formerly known as Asia Energy, for six years now.

We would like to prevent GCM and its subsidiary Asia Energy from building one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines that would forcibly displace an estimated 130,000 people, and would create crisis of drinking water for as many as 220,000 people, and destroy 14,500 acres of fertile farmland in one of the world’s development countries, Bangladesh, in which nearly half of all people currently live below the nutrition poverty line.

Opposition to GCM’s Phulbari project led to bloodshed in August 2006 when paramilitary forces opened fire on tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators, killing three people including a 14-year-old boy and wounding hundreds.

The potential for violence has remained high in this project ever since August 2006. In the aftermath of the killings on 26th August 2006, a national strike shut the region down for four days and was brought to an end only when the government agreed to permanently throw GCM/ Asia Energy out of the country and ban open pit mine in Bangladesh. Despite violence and intimidation aimed at silencing opponents, some 100,000 people participated in a 250-mile Long March from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, to Phulbari, in October 2010.

The project has generated grave concern at national and international levels including the United Nations and among human rights and environmental organisations worldwide. With their concerns about impending and grave human rights violations unaddressed, seven Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations issued a joint UN press release on 28 February, 2012, calling for an immediate halt to the project on the grounds that it threatens the fundamental human rights of hundreds of thousands of people, including entire villages of indigenous people, and poses an immediate threat to safety and standards of living.

The incident was reported to British parliament on several occasions and three submissions, including Rumana Hashem’s eye witness on the violation of human rights in Phulbari by Asia Energy, were made to the Joint Committee for Human Rights in 2009. But the UK government has failed to hold GCM’s business to account. Instead they favoured the corrupted businessmen by publishing misleading response from the investors of GCM. British MP John McDonell recently (28 Nov, 2012) pointed out, ‘what is interesting is that the company is one of those that have been promoted by this Government, as it was by the previous Government. Despite receiving a series of freedom of information requests recently, the Government have refused to provide information about their relationship with the company and about the support they have given it and its operation in Bangladesh. In its response, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office explains it will not provide the information.’

The situation in Phulbari has become very tense and volatile since 14 October 2012, when the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), under heavy pressure of the lobbyists for GCM, approved permission for survey to be conducted in Phulbari for the proposed coal project. The GoB wrongly instructed local officials and police to cooperate with Asia Energy, the Bangladesh subsidiary of GCM, in carrying out surveys in the area.  We view this as a very ominous development, and it is what catalyzed the demonstration last month in defiance of a colonial era ban 144 – slapped in place in an avert to prevent protest.

A 48 – hour general strike called by the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh halted trains, blockaded highways, and closed all shops and educational institutions in Phulbari on 22-23 Nov 2012. Strike was halted only when govt. officials agreed to speak with higher ups to press demands of the National Committee for fulfilment of the 6-point Phulbari Agreement, which includes permanently expelling GCM from Bangladesh and nationwide ban on open-pit mining, and press their demand for withdrawal of the Home Ministry circular.  National Committee has promised tougher nation-wide action if their demands are not fulfilled by 31 Dec.

Despite huge protests and the tense situation in Phulbari, GCM Resources plc is aggressively moving on to implement this immense open pit coal mine. Financed by global hedge fund and banks including UBS, Credit Suisse, LR Global, and Argos Greater Europe Funds, the company claims that they have a valid contract for coal extraction in Phulbari, while the Energy Advisor of Bangladesh has repeatedly denounced this claim.

In this situation, and as part of National Committee’s commitment to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, the Committee in UK, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group, London Mining Network, Corporate Watch, Climate Justice Collective, held a demo outside the Annual General meeting of GCM, at 10:00am at the Institute of Directors, 116-123 Pall Mall London, Greater London SW1Y 5ED. Several international human rights and environmental organisations including Agitartworks, Foil Vedanta, South Asian Solidarity Group, the Socialist Party in UK, World Development Movement, Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, UK, and Nari Diganta – a progressive women’s organisation based in Tower Hamlet, have expressed full solidarity to the Committee’s decision to hold the demo and to block GCM.

We, the Bangladeshi community in London and the transnational activists for environment and human rights, are determined to throw GCM Resources and Asia Energy out of Bangladesh. Today, in our demo, herein we seek to deliver the message to the investors of GCM. We seek to deliver the final words from Phulbari to the investors of GCM/Asia Energy that they must stop their aggression in Phulbari. There is no chance for them to get back to Phulbari or any other part of Bangladesh for coal in future.

We believe that the Government of UK will respect and promote our decision. We call upon the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, to instruct his administration to take necessary steps to hold GCM’s business to account. We demand that the Government of UK tells GCM to end its unethical business in Bangladesh, and ensures that no other UK businessman demonstrates aggression towards open pit mine in Phulbari and Bangladesh.

Department of Housing

Eviction Notice

We regret to inform you that your home has been taken over for the coal reserve found underground

Effective Immediately

If you do not leave now, you will be beaten, tear-gassed and fired upon. If you die, your family should be happy for not obstructing the path of our profit-making spree.

This may sound harsh, but believe it or not, this had happened in the green countryside of north-west Bangladesh. A London-based and AIM-listed company, GCM Resources plc, formerly known as Asia Energy, financed by global hedge funds and banks including UBS, Credit Suisse, LR Global and Argos Greater Europe Fund, is aggressively moving on to displace an estimated 130,000 people from a densely populated and fertile location, called Phulbari, in Bangladesh for extracting coal that they propose to export for their profit.  They will destroy trees, businesses, homes, barns, boundary walls, schools, health facilities, mosques, temples, churches and archaeological sites. They want to displace over 50, 000 indigenous communities who were peacefully living in the region but now are living threats of eviction. People in Phulbari are tremendously resisting these threats. They were brutally repressed on 26th August 2006; when 3 of the protestors were killed and over 200 were injured.

People from Phulbari need your solidarity!  Please join the blockade against the plunderers at GCM and write to:  GCM Resources plc, Level 2, Foxglove House, 166 – 168 Piccadilly W1J 9EF

From: Department of Housing (On behalf of People of Phulbari, Bangladesh)

TO: GCM RESOURCES  plc.

Eviction Notice

We regret to inform you that your office in Bangladesh has been taken over:  Effective Immediately

On behalf of the people in Phulbari, Bangladesh, we serve you this eviction notice to leave our country at once. You have been charged with provocation to violence, corruption, political manoeuvring, and abusive practices to get a deal that is disastrous for people, for environment, and for our national interest. You are unexpected in Phulbari. You have been expelled from Phulbari. You have been expelled from Bangladesh.

WE DO NOT WANT GCM RESOURCES PLC IN PHULBARI!!  WE DO NOT LET GCM RESOURCES IN BANGLADESH!!

WE SHALL PROTECT OUR RESOURCES WITH OUR LIVES!!

NO OPEN PIT MINE IN BANGLADESH! NO DESTRUCTION OF 80% FERTILE LAND IN PHULBARI!

NO FOREIGN COMPANY! NO EXPORT!

GCM, GO AWAY RIGHT NOW! OUR LAND OUR RIGHT, GET OFF NOW!! GCM, YOU HAVE BEEN EVICTED!!!

London mining Network Reports on GCM AGM

Coal play: inside the GCM Resources AGM, 20 December 2012

 

Read the full report on the London Mining network website at:  http://londonminingnetwork.org/2012/12/coal-play-inside-the-gcm-resources-agm-20-december-2012/

Report and reflection by Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Yesterday was nearly the shortest day, and the weather in London was heavy, grey and wet, and inside the GCM Resources AGM everyone felt gloomy.

Company Chairman Gerard Holden had a cold, but hoped his voice would hold out till the end of the meeting. A number of shareholders clearly felt gloomy about the prospects of the company ever getting permission from the Government of Bangladesh to go ahead with its proposed Phulbari coal mine, and were worried that there were things the company was not telling them. Others – people from London Mining Network, World Development Movement and our friends – felt gloomy about what would happen if the mine does go ahead.

The only bit of seasonal cheer was delivered right at the end, when Father Christmas arrived, courtesy (apparently) of the Climate Justice Collective – but more of that in the report below.

Director Steve Dattels, up for re-election, was not there. That may have been wise, given the questions raised by the continuing scandal in Namibia over the sale of assets by Uramin, another company that Mr Dattels was involved with. But nobody mentioned that.

There was plenty of criticism of the company, however, over the potential impacts of the Phulbari mine. And the answers given by both Gerard Holden and Executive Director Gary Lye painted a picture of paradise on earth. If only the pesky locals and their political allies would wise up, accept the enlightened western vision of progress and drop their absurd objections to the mining project, everything would be better for everyone – more houses, more water, more crops, more electricity, more jobs, more money.

What they seemed unwilling to address was what happens if, despite the fact that the company has explained the supposed merits of the project, local people still don’t want it – partly because they don’t believe the company’s assurances (and why should they, given the track record of the mining industry elsewhere?) and partly because they feel an attachment to their land and way of life (and why shouldn’t they?) and don’t want them to disappear down an enormous hole in the ground. And local people, in enormous numbers, have been making clear for years that they don’t want the project. What part of “No” does GCM not understand? To date, local people’s expressions of dissent have been met by armed repression by State forces. Does GCM really want to press ahead with this project at the cost of continued violence? Why not just cut their losses and leave?

The full works: report and commentary on what went on at the AGM

Reportage below is in normal type; commentary in italics.

After a brief introduction, during which he suggested that general questions be left until the end of the meeting, Gerard Holden called for a vote to accept the company’s Annual Report and Accounts. I pointed out that shareholders could hardly be expected to vote on the report without having a chance to ask questions on it. So Mr Holden called for questions.

I asked about access to water. I said that Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, has stated that “Access to safe drinking water for some 220,000 people is at stake,” at Phulbari. The water table may be lowered by 15-25 metres over the life span of the mine over an area extending some kilometres beyond the mine site. Page 4 of the company’s Annual Report, Poised to Deliver, says that “overall water quality and availability for people in the affected area will be improved.” I asked the company to explain how.

Gerard Holden said that the mine will impact on the water table and that the company had done a lot of work in its feasibility study about water table flows. He said that you get a cone depression around an open pit. The mitigation in the company’s plan is to move water so that people continue to have access to it for drinking, irrigation and other uses. In fact, the water table around the mine will be depressed for more than six miles beyond the mine’s footprint, affecting more than 190 square miles. The plan includes diverting the Khari Pul and Namissa rivers, as well as dredging of the Pussur River to allow for coal transport. Details on Water Management on GCM website include this: “To ensure that ground water levels are not unduly affected in the surrounding areas, some of this water is injected into the ground at a distance from the mine.”

Gerard Holden said that the mine site is in an aquifer running from the Himalayas to the coast. This is similar to the situation around Cologne in German, so GCM sought advice from a mining company there on management and modelling of water flows. The German company, RWE Power International, is  the water consultant for the project (the source for this is ‘International Advisers and Consultants’ for the project on GCM’s website.

Gerard Holden said that the UN Special Rapporteur had drawn her information from the public domain and had excluded information based on fact, engineering or modelling. In fact, information was drawn from the Final 2006 Report of the Expert Committee formed by the Government of Bangladesh to assess the proposed project.GCM had offered this information and it had been declined. The UN Rapporteurs had not visited the site. Executive Director Gary Lye added that the UN had not checked the facts and that the company had given them the water management plan. It would be necessary to extract water from the mine pit but GCM would deliver much of this water to the nearby township as tap water. At present, people have to pump water out of the ground but do not have electricity for pumping. Experts are concerned about the risk of desertification in northwest Bangladesh.  Roughly 30% of the tube wells used to access water are already inoperable during the dry season as a result of declining groundwater resources and nearly half of all people in Phulbari report that they do not currently have enough water to meet their needs.

Gerard Holden said that GCM will deliver water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. One third of the water withdrawn from the pit will go back into the ground. The mine will be surrounded by bore holes and about one third of the water extracted from the pit will go back into the ground, ensuring more water is available in the areas where it is reinserted, and maintaining the water supply.

Gerard Holden said that each time he visits Phulbari he is troubled by the poverty of the people who lack sewerage and reliable clean water supplies. Human waste is left on the surface in such a way as it can pollute ground water. GCM is offering a proper water and sewerage system, enhancing water quality and availability. (It also intends to leave a toxic lake (the former pit) that is likely to be contaminated by known carcinogens and toxic heavy metals including mercury, lead, and arsenic.)

Kirsty Wright, of World Development Movement, asked: “Are the investors aware of the OECD complaint that World Development Movement and International Accountability Project jointly submitted to the UK National Contact Point prior to this AGM? Are they aware of the concerns raised by John McDonnell MP in Parliament on 28 November, when he condemned GCM Resources and the Phulbari project as particularly egregious examples of “destructive,” “outrageous” and “shocking” mining company practices, and noted that they are damaging the UK’s reputation abroad? He called upon the UK Government to hold the company to account. Together with the concerns raised by the UN panel of experts on 28 February, investors must surely be aware that the reputation of this company is in serious danger. Could you comment?”

Gerard Holden was dismissive. The company was aware of the criticisms of various groups but these groups refused to engage with the company to discuss these concerns. John McDonnell MP had not bothered to get the company’s side of the story.

Rose Collins, an independent shareholder who said that she was from Guyana, said that water is a problem in all tropical areas and asked whether the mine would create problems of arsenic contamination.

Gary Lye replied that water in the area had been tested by the company’s experts and that there is no arsenic in the water in that part of Bangladesh. He suggested that the potential for the mine creating an arsenic contamination problem was low.

Gerard Holden added that the company had done a “massive suite of tests” on air and water quality and that one of their plans was to distribute water if the monsoon fails. Of course, monsoon failure may become ever more likely as climate change deepens – climate change for which the burning of coal bears a disproportionate responsibility.

Ruth London asked about food security for displaced families. The Phulbari area is very fertile and not subject to flooding. At least 40,000 people will be removed from their land and will not receive land in compensation. She asked about the impacts on nutrition and health, on carers – mostly women – for those who became sick, and about funeral costs and compensation for grieving families. Given the concerns expressed by the UN Rapporteurs and by local people, and given the wider ranging impacts on food stocks in Bangladesh and on climate change, which particularly affects Bangladesh’s low lying flooded areas, how could the company persist with its plans?

Gerard Holden replied that a certain amount of land would indeed be permanently removed from use as a result of the project but that other land would be rehabilitated. The waste dump would be rehabilitated and forested. The plan is to have a continuous process of rehabilitation. The German mining company in Cologne has allowed the quality of the land to be improved, leading to better crop yields. Local people around Phulbari do not have decent fertiliser or seed quality, so GCM will improve them and thus enable an extra crop-growing season. This would allow local people to produce more food in a more refined way, partly by giving them much more water.

Ruth said that the directors of GCM might feel unhappy if their own homes were to be continually rehabilitated and they themselves were forcibly removed. She said that local people do not necessarily have the same view of what is good for them and their land as the company has.

Rose Collins intervened at this point. She said she hoped the company would be considerate. US companies had dug out bauxite in Guyana, destroyed forests and left people with nothing but great holes in the ground.

Gerard Holden replied that companies could not behave that way any longer. GCM was not looking to destroy Phulbari but would invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build mosques, community centres and other facilities. He did not mention the fact that GCM intends to destroy or move 138 mosques, temples and churches, 692 graveyards, and 2 ancient archaeological sites.

Ruth expressed doubt that this would actually occur, given the record of other such mining projects.

Gerard Holden replied that the company knows what it is doing. Roger Moody, who in 2008 made a study of the mine’s potential impacts, and the Government of Bangladesh’s Expert Committee, disagree – both expressed concerns about the company’s complete lack of prior experience with mining as a company (individual board members have experience but GCM does not). Among other things, said Mr Holden, the company would create forest land by planting hard wood, soft wood and fruit trees. Gary Lye added that the company’s resettlement plan is not their own. He said that the IFC guidelines include consultation. He said that you build consultation from the ground up. The details of people’s choices are built into the plan Page 4 of the Annual Report talks about the Resettlement Plan, which is dynamic and based on people’s wishes. He said that about one third of the people in the town live in the eastern part of the town and want compensation so that they can leave – although, he added, international standards mean that the company is supposed to monitor their wellbeing. Two thirds of the current town’s inhabitants want to move to the new town. Of the rural families, one quarter want to give up farming and go, because production costs mean they cannot make a reasonable living any more. Most of the farmers are sharecroppers and have to give part of their income to the landowner. GCM will have income generating programmes and will train people and offer preferential employment.

Jake Colman asked about Indigenous Peoples’ rights. He said: “Those likely to be affected include entire villages of Santal, Munda, Mahili and Pahan Indigenous Peoples. UN Special Rapporteurs Raquel Rolnik (who deals with housing) and James Anaya (who deals with Indigenous Peoples) said in February that “Displacement on this scale, particularly of indigenous peoples, is unacceptable without the indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent, and poses an immediate threat to safety and standards of living.” Indigenous communities have been protesting against the mine, so GCM clearly does not have their consent. How can you justify pressing ahead with this project in the light of this?”

Gerard Holden said that a number of villages in the area are inhabited by “’Indigenous Peoples’ in inverted commas.” He said that the people in these villages are visibly different from the majority of the population but that they are not indigenous to the area, having been pushed into it from elsewhere, and they are very poor. The Government of Bangladesh denies that there are Indigenous Peoples in the country. The Bangladesh Supreme Court has issued a ‘Show Cause’ notice to the Government to explain how it reached such a conclusion. By using the term ‘in inverted commas’, the Chairman associated himself with the Government view – a view strenuously challenged by Indigenous Peoples’ organisations in Bangladesh. The consultant who did the anthropological research for the Indigenous Peoples’ Development Plan said that they trace their ancestry in the region back 5,000 years.

Mr Holden said that GCM had done a lot in its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to find out what the people want and to protect their livelihoods. He said that the company comes from the industry perspective of accepting Free Prior Informed Consultation but does not believe in the need for Free Prior Informed Consent, as this could mean that one individual could hold everyone else to ransom. This shows both a complete misunderstanding of the varied ways in which different Indigenous Peoples discuss and decide on matters of concern, and a rejection of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which explicitly recognises Indigenous Peoples right to Free, Prior Informed Consent, rather than consultation. The right to consent does recognise Indigenous Peoples’ right, as Peoples, to say no to development projects on their land. It does not give such a right to individual members of an Indigenous People. 

Mr Holden said that the company knew all about the conflicts in communities – who does not like whom, about family disputes back at least a hundred years. I found this comment rather sinister: why does the company have such detailed knowledge of Indigenous communities’ internal dynamics, and what does it intend to use it for?

Gary Lye added that the company believes that there are 2300 indigenous peoples in the project area, mostly in the south eastern part of it, so they will not be affected for many years. These people want to move closer to the Roman Catholic mission to the south east of them. He said that GCM takes the plight of less advantaged people very seriously. The company’s Indigenous Peoples Development Plan has been given to activist groups in Bangladesh. The company is on top of looking after these people through consultation.

Gary Lye went on to say that there are landless people in the area and that the company will look after them as if they had land title (meaning that both those with and without title will become landless.  The company’s Draft Resettlement Plan  baldly states that “Large tracts of cultivation land will be acquired and most  households will become landless.”) Mr Lye said that there is a lot of scaremongering. Landless people work mostly in the timber industry. A lot of propaganda has been spread to cause these people fear. The company recognises that landless people live there, that many are indigenous people, and that they therefore feel twice threatened. But the company, he said, will improve their lives.

Gerard Holden said that people will be compensated with money, housing and new crop allocations. Nobody will be worse off as a result of the company’s plans.

Jake said that the company was judging by its own standards. Communities would be broken up and the ecology affected. Local people may not agree that this is an improvement.

Gerard Holden said that the company had gone to a great deal of trouble to find out what each family wants and to fulfil it. The mine is a long-term project and the company does not want people being significantly unhappy. He asked why the company would wish to do that.

Jake said that the company’s bottom line was profit. Gerard Holden responded that this was not the company’s only goal, as it had other obligations as well.

The Chairman then brought questions on the Annual report to a close and moved to the resolutions, all of which were passed. Nobody asked any questions or offered any comments. The Chairman then closed the formal part of the meeting. He then read out the following statement.

“As detailed in the Company’s 2012 Annual Report, we have been pursuing approval of the Phulbari Coal Project by engaging directly with the Government of Bangladesh as well as developing and enhancing relations with the local community.

“Over the last nine months we have met with all the appropriate Government officials and potential coal customers in Bangladesh and are currently seeking an audience with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her capacity as Minister for Power, Energy and Natural Resources.

“In the Dinajpur region, where Phulbari is located, the Company continues to open up new channels of communication with the local community. Focus group discussions and agriculture improvement workshops with farmers have taken place across the Project area, and surveys are nearing completion with the support of both the local administration and the Home Ministry.  We are committed to carrying out meaningful, culturally appropriate consultation with potentially affected people prior to development of the Project.

“We are also committed to developing the Project to the highest international and national environmental and social standards.  To that end we engaged international consultants Environmental Resource Management to review the Project’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment in light of the new performance standards released by the International Finance Corporation. Those “gaps” identified will be addressed in the coming months.

“We understand from press reports today that complaints have been made about the development of the Phulbari Project to the OECD.  We have not received any OECD complaint and this is the first we have heard of it.  It is therefore hard to comment on the substance of this allegation. We stated at our AGM last year that we were available to meet with any group interested in a constructive dialogue and to discuss their concern but no group has taken us up on this offer.  We would therefore welcome the opportunity this process would provide to discuss the project and respond to the allegations and incorrect information being circulated.

“We are committed to developing the project and managing its social and environmental impacts to the highest international standards. Not only will the project address Bangladesh’s energy needs, it will also deliver significant benefits for the local community.  These include an estimated 17,000 new jobs, improved living conditions and livelihoods for project affected people with approximately 40,000 progressively resettled as the mine develops (as opposed to the figure of 222,000 suggested); abundant high quality water for irrigation and drinking, and expected increased agricultural production from the excavated land which will be progressively rehabilitated.

“Over the last 12 months the Company’s financial resources have been significantly impacted by the fall in share prices of the investments held, in line with other junior mining companies. However we continue to have sufficient resources for the foreseeable future.  GCM is in discussions to obtain further equity funding while management are undertaking a thorough review of operating costs.

“The share price of GCM has fallen substantially since the last Annual General Meeting and we are aware of the frustration felt by shareholders.  We believe the fall in share price can mainly be attributed to the sale of shares by a large investor who are rebalancing their portfolio, and certainly does not reflect the progress we feel has been made in pursuing approval.

“A developed Phulbari Coal Project in a responsible and sustainable way will generate the most benefit for shareholders, for the local Phulbari community and for the country.  Accordingly, our aim is to receive Project approval and then to commence mine development and the associated community programmes as soon as possible.”

He then invited general questions.

One shareholder asked him if the company would get project approval before the next election in Bangladesh. Gerard Holden said it would. The shareholder asked what had changed in Bangladesh to give him this confidence. Gerard Holden said that communication with members of the Government of Bangladesh had improved significantly over the past two months.

The shareholder said that the press in Bangladesh is controlled by Anu Muhammad’s group. The company kept inviting them to come to them to enter into dialogue, but would it not be better to go to the group and dialogue with them?

Gerard Holden replied that the media in Bangladesh is controlled by a number of different factions. Gary Lye and his team have spent a huge amount of time talking to the media but some editors would never change their views. Gary has often been on local television talking about how the Phulbari project will impact positively on Bangladesh. The Home Minister and others have been very supportive of the project.

The shareholder asked if there had been an open commitment from the Prime Minister or other ministers that the project would go forward.

Gerard Holden answered that the Prime Minister and other ministers had not stopped the project. He said that the Energy Advisor has his own agenda and that GCM “would not play his game.” He had brought the country to its knees. GCM is working around the Energy Advisor in many ways. He is an advisor, not a minister. He is under huge pressure for what he has done with rental power stations. He may be forced to resign because people do not have electricity.

A shareholder said that the Chairman seemed very confident that the company would get project approval before the election. In an election year, something which has a lot of political opposition would be a risk for the party in government to approve prior to an election. He asked how much cash the company had, and how long it could continue without raising more cash.

Gerard Holden said that the company had cash up to June 2014, six months after the next election. The company is in discussion with people who may bring new cash to the project. He said he could not go into further detail.

The shareholder asked again whether the company could be confident that it would get approval before the election. Gerard Holden said that the company was working flat out to get approval but that it relies on the Prime Minister. He said that he could not give specific reasons why he was confident.

The shareholder said that shareholders need more information than this. He said there had been a void in communication with shareholders over the past year.

Gerard Holden said that he could not put out rumours until the scheme of development had been signed off.

The shareholder said, “So you are confident that there will be approval before the election?”

Gerard Holden replied that the company is working very hard to get project approval before the election and that the shareholders would be the first to know once it had been achieved.

Another shareholder said that there was a lot of material in the press about the Government’s coal policy. The Government wanted further studies on the water table and had apparently hired the same company that had done the original study for GCM.

Gary Lye said that the Government’s Technical Committee had released its report to the media. The Committee works within the Energy Ministry and the report has not been handed over. Underground mining is not appropriate at Phulbari. Barapukuria is struggling and unsafe. It produces less than one million tonnes of coal a year and there is ground subsidence. The management at Barapukuria would love to do open pit mining. They know that they have to do studies. They have engaged technical experts to undertake a water modelling study, but the experts employed are good on flooding issues and not on ground water studies. The Government is doing what it must do. Under Bangladeshi law, the project proponent must do studies, produce a report and wait for a decision. That is what GCM has done.

The shareholder said that press reports had spoken of the Chinese company managing Barapukuria wanting to mine at Phulbari.

Gary Lye said that there was a lot of media hype about this. One part of the Energy Ministry would like to get into mining and would like Phulbari, but nobody had approached GCM about this.

Rose Collins asked if the company had any thoughts about renewables. She had travelled through Germany and was amazed at their use of renewables.

Gerard Holden said that the German Government had brought in new laws which increased everybody’s electricity bills to pay for the rollout of solar energy. This caused chaos for people in the cloudy parts of Germany. It was funded by consumers.

Rose asked if the Board had any plans to use renewables.

Gerard Holden said that some mining companies have put solar in place to power their operations but that this would take up even more land if they were to do it at Phulbari. GCM had thought about using both wind and solar for electricity generation for the mine.

Another shareholder stood up and congratulated the company for all that it was doing and said that the company was about to receive a reward from someone who needed no introduction. At this point, a man dressed up as Father Christmas burst in to the room through a door behind the table at which the Board was sitting and asked the Board whether or not they had been naughty. Suggesting that in fact they had been, because of the potential impact of their plans at Phulbari, he emptied a small sack of coal over the table at which they were sitting.

The room then became quite active and it became difficult to note all that was being said. Security personnel moved swiftly to expel Father Christmas. Several shareholders stood up and confronted the shareholder who had introduced the award, accusing him of not listening to the company and not knowing what he was talking about. He responded by saying that the company’s plans at Phulbari were outrageous. The Board stood up and some began to leave the room. The meeting ended in chaos.