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)

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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

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

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.

Challenging the Invisible and Invalid Contract

Response to ‘Farewell to FDI?’ Reproduced op-ed from the Daily Star  

By Kallol Mustafa, 20 January, 2015

The op-ed piece (‘Farewell to FDI?’,The Daily Star, Jan 13, 2015) is based on some misleading and partial information regarding Asia Energy’s (GCM) Phulbari Coal Project and the peoples’ protest against it. The writer termed the peoples’ protest against Asia Energy chief’s visit to Phulbari as ‘vandalism’ but did not mention how, for a long time, Asia Energy has been trying to bribe the local youth, provide them with drugs and destabilise the local situation. He blamed the government and local administration for not taking action against the protesters and warned that this might harm foreign investment, without even mentioning the responsibility of the government to implement the Phulbari agreement signed with the local people and honour expert opinion against open pit mining on different occasions.

The writer declared the government official’s denial of existence of mining contract with Asia Energy as “erroneous,” as he completely relied on Asia Energy propaganda published in Energy & Power, but failed to present the correct picture based on original documents and experts’ opinion already submitted to the government.

Based on the article ‘Records Need making Straight’, published in Energy & Power, widely known as lobbyist of Asia Energy, the writer states that Asia Energy has valid contract for mining with the government of Bangladesh and it obtained ‘mining lease’ in April 2004.  But the April 2004 letter, which the Energy & Power article referred to as evidence of Asia Energy’s mining contract, was indeed issued “…in the interest of preparing feasibility report and submitting to the government” and in no way can be used as a valid contract for mining operation. It was very clear in its following statement:

“(c) On receipt of the Feasibility Study Report, the technical aspects of the project will be examined and evaluated by experts and on the basis of this government will take final decision regarding real mining operation.

(d) Within this time, the lessee will not conduct any commercial activities of the mine.” (Emphasis added)

He also missed the evaluation and recommendation of the expert committee (formed by the government and headed by Prof. Nurul Islam) on the development plan submitted by Asia Energy. The expert committee in its report rejected the development plan of Asia Energy saying that:

According to the Mines and Minerals Rules prepared in 1968 under East Pakistan Mines & Minerals act 1967 (Regulation & Development) and amended in 1987 and 1989, royalty rate was fixed at 20% of the price of produced coal at the mine mouth. Accordingly, the Bureau of Mineral Development (BMD) signed an agreement for Boropukuria coalmine on 10/07/1994 at 20% royalty rate. Yet, on 20/08/1994, only a month and ten days after having signed this agreement, the BMD signed another agreement with BHP for coal mining in Dinajpur and Rangpur areas at only 6% royalty rate. This agreement with BHP is illegal as per the then existing mining law. In this situation, this illegal contract may be declared invalid and steps should be taken against concerned persons according to Article 5 of Mines and Mineral Act 1992.

According to Article 32 of Mines and Mineral rules 1968, which was in effect during the signing of the contract, as 3 years had already passed after first issuance of the license, the authorities did not have any right to extend the license period beyond 15/01/1998. For that reason the license renewal order on 26/01/98 for Area ‘B’ was illegal. During handover of the license for Area ‘B’ under the Assignment Contract [the transfer of contract from BHP to Asia Energy], BHP did not have any valid license to transfer as the license was already expired. That’s why all actions taken by the Asia Energy in that block are illegal. BHP lost permission for all kind of activities in Block ‘B’ on 15/01/98 in consequence of which Asia Energy did not have any valid permission to work in that block. So Asia Energy never had any right to apply for mining lease.

For the above two reasons, the Assignment contract signed with Asia Energy on 11/02/1998 has no legal basis. Alternatively, if it is considered that the application for the mining lease will be operated under Mining Rules amended in 1995, the government still cannot consider the Mining Lease Application because 3% of the estimated cost of the scheme has not been deposited with the application as Bank Guaranty as required by the Rules. It is to be noted that 3% of the total estimated cost — $12,460 million (capital cost $2090 million + operating cost $10,370) is $373.8 million, i.e Tk. 2, 616 crore.

(Source: Article 5.2, Report of the Expert Committee (REC) to Evaluate Feasibility Study Report and Scheme of Development of the Phulbari Coal Project, submitted by Messieurs Asia Energy Corporation, (Bangladesh) Pvt. Ltd. (AEC), 20 September 2006 [Author’s translation])

In brief, according to the expert committee, the contract and exploration license which Asia Energy received from BHP have no legal basis and the so-called mining lease (without permission of mining!) granted to Asia Energy under this contract is also legally invalid. That’s why there was nothing wrong or erroneous when Energy and Mineral Resources Division Secretary Abu Bakar Siddique said: “Asia Energy has no valid licenses to develop Phulbari coal mine” (Daily Sun, 8 Dec 2014).

Therefore, the government of Bangladesh (GOB) has no legally binding obligation to allow Asia Energy to do open pit mining and mining related activities in Phulbari, and there is no question of damage payment to Asia Energy for scrapping the Phulbari project as feared by Mr. Syed Mansur Hashim. Rather, the GOB can easily reject its Feasibility Study and Mine Development Scheme for open pit mining following the recommendations of the expert committee.

In fact, the GOB has legal and moral obligation to scrap Phulbari coal project according to the agreement signed between the government of Bangladesh and the people (National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Port and Power represented the people) on August 30, 2006. The agreement was fully supported by the then opposition leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The main point of the agreement was: “Phulbari coal project will be scrapped and Asia energy will be ousted from the country.” It is now the duty of the GOB to implement its legal and moral obligation to the people by taking action against illegal activities of Asia Energy.

Read this article on the Daily Star (20/01/15): Response to ‘Farewell to FDI?’

Updated List of Recent News Stories in Relation to Phulbari

Demo goes  fantastically well by passionate protesters chanting slogans

Demo goes fantastically well by passionate protesters chanting slogans. Photo Credit: Samarendra Das.

The following represents an updated list of new stories in relation to the Phulbari issue:

The Bangladesh Chronicle (31/12/2012): Asia Energy awaits PM’s Phulbari nod

Priyo News (31/12/2012):  Asia Energy awaits PM’s Phulbari nod

Coal Guru (24/12/2012): GCM Resources update on AGM

Coal Guru (24/12/2012): Phulbari deal not in hurry – PM aide

Bdnews24 (22/12/2012):  Phulbari deal not in hurry: PM aide

The Financial Express (21/12/2012):   Complaint filed against GCM over Bangladesh mine

New Age (21/12/2012): Complaint filed against Asia Energy in London over Phulbari Project

London Mining Network (21/12/2012): Coal play: inside the GCM Resources AGM, 20 December 2012

The Daily Sun (21/12/2012): Complaint filed against Asia Energy in London over Phulbari Project

Bdnews24 (21/12/2012): Asia Energy awaits PM’s Phulbari nod

Bdnews24 (21/12/2012): Protests in London over Phulbari mine

Foil Vedenta (20/12/2012)  – From Phulbari to Niyamgiri!

Economic Voice (20/12/2012): Complaint filed against British coal miner GCM over Bangladesh mine

New Internationalist (20/12/2012):  Angry Santa interrupts AGM over Phulbari mine

The Guardian (20/12/2012):  Bangladesh mine activists dump coal outside GCM meeting in London

Daily Mail (UK) (19/12/2012):  Miner GCM hit by protests over Bangladeshi mine that could displace up to 220,000 people
Read more:

These links will also be posted on our News and Resources Pages.