MAC: Mines and Communities

When will GCM Resources be put out of its misery?

Published by MAC on 2014-12-11
Source: Statements (2014-12-10)

When will GCM Resources be put out of its misery?

Report on the GCM Resources AGM, 4 Hamilton Place, London W1, Tuesday 9 December 2014

by Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network

9 December 2014

(GCM Resources has only one active project, the Phulbari coal project: this is a plan for an opencast coal mine in north western Bangladesh. The project has been stalled for years as it awaits permission from the Government of Bangladesh. It would probably be kinder to put the company out of its misery, ban the Phulbari project and let the company go into administration, but the saga drags on and on and on and on…)

Same old story

There’s a tedious repetitiveness about GCM Resource AGMs.

It began this year with an apology for absence from two out of the three directors, Guy Elliott and Dato’ Md Wira Dani Bin Abdul Daim. They were absent from last year’s AGM as well. One absence can perhaps be excused, but two in a row begins to look like carelessness.

Then there was company Chair Michael Tang’s demand to know how many shares questioners possess. We dealt with that one last year and established that shareholders have no legal obligation to disclose how many shares they own. I reminded him of this fact, and he dropped the demand. But just in case he is reading this post, I’ll repeat exactly what I wrote last year:

“It’s clear why Tang wanted the information – if you have only got a few shares, everyone can assume you don’t care about the company’s profits and they can discount your opinions. But I am sure that shareholders know that those of us who attend its AGMs to raise objections to the Phulbari project have only got a handful of shares between us. We are there to support the tens of thousands of people in Phulbari and elsewhere in Bangladesh who object to the company’s plans and deserve to have their views conveyed to shareholders.”

Out of his element

Dear old Michael Tang doesn’t really seem to enjoy these kinds of meetings. He frequently took advice from Chief Operating Officer Gary Lye, who sat next to him and seemed to have more of an idea about what was going on.

As last year, Tang tried to get away with passing all the resolutions before discussing the Annual Report. I pointed out that this is very poor practice: how can shareholders decide whether or not they want to vote for proposed directors before we have examined the company’s record over the past year?

“Here, here!” shouted one of the ordinary shareholders. So Mr Tang relented – though he still kept his extraordinarily short report on the company’s activities until after formal business. How different from the larger mining companies! Their Chairmen and CEOs usually give lengthy speeches at the beginning of their AGMs, boring shareholders rigid and testing our will to live. You’d have thought Tang might have taken a leaf out of their book.

One thing that Michael Tang is clearly jolly good at is persuading people to part with their cash. The first question was about the company as a ‘going concern’. A shareholder was worried that the company would soon run out of cash. What’s the plan? Tang said he would undertake a fundraising exercise in the early part of next year. The shareholder suggested that if GCM is so short of cash, it should not be paying Tang so much money. Tang said that the only reason the company is still a going concern is that he raised the cash for it single-handedly. He must be a hugely persuasive man.

An invisible contract

Golam Mustafa then said that he understood that no legal contract exists between GCM and the Government of Bangladesh. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has said that the government would not give a contract to GCM or any other company at present before developing the country’s own skills base. Even yesterday, the Secretary for Energy said that GCM had no contract to do anything in Bangladesh. What right does the company have to sell shares on the basis of a supposed open pit coal mining operation in Phulbari. Is this legal?

Michael Tang said that GCM’s wholly owned subsidiary Asia Energy does have a contract with the Government of Bangladesh.

Zahanara Rahman waved a newspaper article saying that the Bangladesh Government would not allow the project to go ahead. She demanded that Michael Tang show shareholders the paper saying it has permission. If Michael Tang did not have such a paper, Gary Lye should have it.

Gary Lye thanked everyone for their comments and questions – a rather masochistic thing to say, I thought, given the general negativity towards the board and management. He said that when Asia Energy listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), a lot of due diligence had been done, and the primary component of it was the contract with the Government of Bangladesh.

Zahanara demanded to see it. Gary Lye said that there are references to it in the listing documents. The Energy Minister is new in his job and is ill informed. It is the Bureau of Mineral Development which has responsibility and it awarded the company the contract. Copies of it exist in Bangladesh and the UK. The mining lease cross references the contract. The company has operated in Bangladesh since 1998 with a registered office and with bank accounts. It has work contracts for expatriate staff. He concluded, “We don’t have to give you proof.”

Golam said that shareholders surely have the right to see the contract if it exists. It was extraordinary to say that the Minister of Energy is unaware of the contract – it is part of his job. He deals with contracts, and both he and the Prime Minister have said there is no contract. So do shareholders have the right to see the contract?

Why are you here?

Tang then demanded to know why Golam had come to the AGM and why he invested in GCM. Tang is not a very smooth operator. Chairmen of the larger companies know full well that there are those who attend company AGMs to speak up for those negatively affected by the company’s operations. Tang seems to think that the only legitimate reason for attending an AGM is sharing a desire to make loads of money. It’s a good thing that not everybody thinks that way. But Golam rightly pointed out that if there is no contract, shareholders will not gain anything.

Tang asked him again why he was attending the meeting. Zahanara Rahman pointed out that shareholders and their proxies have a right to attend it. Gary Lye had just come back from Bangladesh, where he had visited the Phulbari area and people had protested. Gary Lye had called the protesters ‘terrorists’ in a press release published in the Energy Bangla newspaper. If GCM thinks local people are terrorists, why invest in Bangladesh?

There was a bit of back and forth about what Gary Lye had said and why he had said it. Lye said that there had been meetings with different groups in Phulbari and that the protest had been led by three people who do not represent the community’s wishes and do not speak for them. Around fifty youths had joined the protest and “behaved like terrorists, not like normal people.” A security guard had been badly beaten up. The matter was now in the hands of the authorities.

As for the contract, Michael Tang said it was a confidential document which the company is not at liberty to share.

Golam said that he concluded from this that there is no contract.

Several shareholders advised Golam to sell his shares if he believed there was no contract. But one shareholder said that if a government minister is saying that there is no contract, surely the company’s public relations people need to challenge it.

Protests in Phulbari

Sam Brown asked whether it was surprising that there was a protest last week in Phulbari, given what several United Nations Special Rapporteurs had said about the damage the project would cause.

Gary Lye (who by now really appeared to be running the meeting, while the Chairman faded into the background) retorted that the UN Special Rapporteurs did not understand the project, had reacted to a letter from a campaigning group, did not visit the area and had not responded to GCM’s attempts to communicate with them. GCM responded in detail to their comments but was unable to get a meeting with them in Geneva. Reporting in the press was unbalanced.

Zahanara Rahman asked the name of the injured security guard as she would be in Bangladesh soon and would like to visit him. This provoked a flutter of protest from some other shareholders. But Zahanara explained that she had spoken with local people and they had said that in fact nobody was injured, so she questioned the veracity of Gary Lye’s account.

Studies and delays

Matin Sarker said that the latest study on water modelling at the nearby Barapukuria coal mine had been rejected by the authorities. That area is less heavily populated than the Phulbari area, so how can we expect that the plan for water management at Phulbari would be accepted?

Gary Lye replied that the Phulbari study, conducted by international experts, encompasses Barapukuria as it has to cover 10 kilometres around the proposed mine. He could not comment on the Barapukuria study as it was not yet public and he understood that it was still being finalised. But the coal deposits at Barapukuria and Phulbari represent over a billion tonnes of coal and must be tapped.

Sam Brown commented that tapping them would destroy productive agricultural land and displace up to 130,000 people.

Lobbying the government

Shareholder Brian Mooney, who used to work for GCM in Phulbari, pointed out that the Government of Bangladesh was supposed to have approved the plan of work within a short space of time but that the company has now been waiting ten years. When and how will GCM get the contract implemented?

Michael Tang replied that GCM continues with its efforts to lobby the government. It has increased its activities in the local community and the board believes it is in a better position than before to secure approval. He said that in Bangladesh many projects are constantly delayed. Meanwhile, half the country does not have power. But the government has awarded two large new coal fired power projects to international companies in the hope of improving the standard of living of the people of Bangladesh and enhance the country’s economic development. Phulbari is able to produce up to 15 million tonnes of coal a year, equivalent to 4,000 Megawatts of power, so he hoped that the governmment would support GCM’s efforts.

Mr Mooney asked why the company was more hopeful now than at any time in past ten years.

Gary Lye replied that when the feasibility study was produced the company did not realise that coal had not made it into Bangladesh’s energy mix and there was a belief that the country was floating on gas. It had taken a few years for that myth to be dispelled but the fact that the government is now assuming that half the country’s power will be provided by coal means that finally it is all on the table (presumably meaning plans on the table, rather than coal on the table; though GCM’s 2012 AGM did indeed end with coal on the table…). Barapukuria had shown that underground mining is not very successful and is quite dangerous. The mine is combating flooding at present. It can never produce its target one million tonnes of coal a year and this is too small a quantity to make much difference to the country’s energy needs.

Another shareholder asked him to comment on recent suggestions that the country should import coal.

Gary Lye replied that the suggestion had been that coal imports could be a start up. If you begin to build a coal fired power station at the same time as you begin constructing a mine, the mine would beat the power station. Domestic coal is 25% to 30% cheaper than imported coal. Bangladesh has river ports on mighty rivers which produce the largest volume of ocean sediment in the world, so coastal waters are shallow and this makes it difficult to bring in big ships.

I thought, but did not say, that the continued burning of coal is guaranteed to raise sea levels considerably and that this may help with coal imports – though it will also, of course, flood a huge proportion of southern Bangladesh, causing tens of millions of people to have to move. I assume that mention of climate change or ‘stranded assets’ at a GCM Resources AGM would be particularly unwelcome.

The OECD complaint

Kirsty Wright of WDM said that the findings of the complaint against GCM Resources under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises had recently found that GCM had breached the guidelines by failing to develop self-regulatory practices and management systems that foster confidence and trust in the societies they operate in. She asked what GCM Resources was doing in response to this finding, and whether it would be done by May 2015, when the OECD’s UK National Contact Point (NCP) would issue its follow-up report.

Gary Lye replied that the detail on the NCP’s website shows that the problem concerned communication between 2006 and 2012 – there was a partial breach of the guidelines because the level of communication with the local community was insufficient because of the instability in the country and the company’s inability to maintain a presence in the field. But GCM had already addressed that and was present again in the communities so people can ask questions and receive answers as they have the right to do.

Michael Tang’s report

With this, Michael Tang put the resolution that the annual report and accounts be accepted, and they were. All the other resolutions were also carried, the formal business of the meeting concluded and the AGM closed. Only then did Michael Tang give an update on the company’s business.

He said that as detailed in the annual report, since the last general election the Government of Bangladesh had been moving towards use of coal for energy generation. There is increased support for the Phulbari Project from local communities. The recent unprovoked attack on GCM’s offices was in no way reflective of local feeling. GCM welcomes the OECD verdict, which was almost wholly in support of the company and rejected the assertions of the groups bringing the complaint. The board will build on this result. The share price has risen slightly in the last year but remains depressed because of overall problems in the industry. Despite the delay in project approval, the board believes that pressing on is the best way of delivering value to shareholders. GCM will continue to talk to the Government of Bangladesh.

The invisible petition

Golam Mostafa said that the report was misleading. Most shareholders have no clue about the community movement in Phulbari. In 2006 people died in protests against the project and the movement is still going on. The present Prime Minister has said that the government will not support this project and the opposition is saying the same thing. Golam said he would find out about the existence of the contract from other sources. He asked which groups in Phulbari the company had consulted.

Gary Lye said that the Phulbari Project cuts into four upazilas (sub-districts). The township of Phulbari sits to the west of the deposit and is where GCM’s office is located. The community that GCM talks to is not just Phulbari township but people across parts of the other three upazilas. More than 70 people in the area provide feedback and disseminate information so the company has a good handle on who it is talking to and when. Gary had been told by community representatives that they had handed in a petition, said to contain 50,000 signatures in favour of the mine, to the upazila head, and had given a copy to the local MP. Mr Lye had not seen the petition.

Zahanara Rahman asked him how he could be sure that so many people had signed the petition. If GCM had such support, why did the police escort him out of the area when he visited recently? He should show shareholders the petition.

Gary Lye replied that the majority of people in the area keep silent but want a job. GCM has a good understanding of their needs. They want to know about how their livelihoods will be affected, what the compensation package is. Nobody could criticise the company for attempting to give people the right to information. If Jahanara wanted to see these groups of people, she should go there.

Zahanara said she would. People are worried that they will lose their livelihood because of the destruction of farming. How many jobs will there be in the mine? Surely not enough for everybody. So what will happen to the others? What about protection for mineworkers’ health?

Gary Lye then asked Zahanara whether she lived in Bangladesh. She replied that she visits frequently. Michael Tang said the company would be happy for Zahanara to visit the company’s office. She accepted, but said she would speak to local people independently.

Concluding arguments

There was a brief discussion about whether the police did or did not escort Gary Lye and his wife out of the Phulbari area after his recent visit. Gary Lye said that the issue had been over-dramatised in the press.

A further question returned to the matter of lobbying. Gary Lye was asked whether he had ever met with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. He replied that he had not. GCM had been told to work at the level of state ministers.

Golam said that he knew a few ministers in Bangladesh and that MPs and ministers are asking questions about the project. What is the timeline for implementation of the project?

Michael Tang replied that GCM has no timeline but hopes to shorten the process as much as possible.

Another shareholder asked whether GCM is hamstrung by being a UK company. Would it not be better to have a large Bangladeshi shareholder on board? Should it not be based somewhere else or have a sizeable Bangladeshi shareholding?

Michael Tang replied that there is a group that holds this view. It makes some sense and GCM has received similar comments in country. GCM is listed in the UK but has some Asian presence. He said the point was taken. More local involvement may improve the situation. GCM is consulting influential people inside and outside the government.

Sam Brown said that it was clear that the company, condemned by the UN as a danger to the people of Bangladesh, is not wanted there. As a Londoner, Sam said that he would like GCM to move out of London – it is not welcome here either.

Brian Mooney retorted that what makes London great is that “we accept everybody.”

I thought, but did not say, that among the companies that London has accepted are Bumi and ENRC, both under investigation for corruption, and Vedanta, accused of numerous crimes. MPs and financial commentators are among those calling for UK Stock Exchanges to be considerably more discerning in who they accept.

Sam said that London may accept everybody but people judge them by their actions and the UN report says that the Phulbari project would create severe problems for local people.

Brian Mooney said that the UN report was one sided. Critics should read the company’s own reports and listen to the other side of the story.

The meeting then began to break up into arguments between different shareholders. One concerned the recent OECD report’s failure to evaluate the impacts of the project if it starts. Another was over whether the people of Bangladesh actually want the project: there was a clear division between those – all English – claiming that the people of Bangladesh DO want to the project and those – all Bangladeshi – explaining that they do NOT.

Sam Brown had nearly the last word, though it was greeted by angry shouts. He said that the company was illegitimate, the project illegitimate and the meeting illegitimate. And then the meeting broke up unceremoniously.

Oh, I hope we don’t have to sit through another GCM AGM. Let’s hope that by next December this company and the Phulbari project will just be unhappy memories…

Meanwhile, on the cold street outside, a lively demonstration took place…


In Defense of their Homes and Lands

Demanding Human Rights in Phulbari Bangladesh

By Kate Hoshour

https://medium.com/@accountability/in-defense-of-our-homes-and-lands-c17833d56ea7

10 December 2014

“Let us respond to the cries of the exploited, and uphold the right to human dignity for all.”- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

Today we observe International Human Rights Day to celebrate the day on 10 December 1948 on which countries around the world proclaimed their commitment to promote and protect the human rights of all people thorough the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Important gains have been made in the more then six decades since, including a growing body of international human rights law and standards, and the recent work led by Professor Ruggie, as the Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, which culminated in the UN’s ‘Protect, Respect, and Remedy,’ Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Recognizing these gains, it is also critical to grapple with the enduring reality that development — or destructive projects justified and advanced in the name of “development” — has posed and continues to pose one of the greatest threats to the rights of people worldwide since the adoption of the UN Declaration.

Each year, some 15–20 million people around the globe are forcibly evicted, their homes and lands destroyed, in order to make way for destructive mega-projects advanced on the basis of dubious or false claims to serve “the greater good.” To halt this ongoing violation of human rights, it is vital to press for policy changes that will require genuine assessments of these “public interest” claims, particularly in projects involving massive forced evictions.

It is equally vital that we do our utmost to support the communities that courageously stand their ground to resist such projects. These grassroots community-led struggles have the power to reveal the policy changes that are most critically needed and to inspire us to intensify our efforts to ensure that human rights are upheld by states and multinational corporations alike. And so, on this International Human Rights Day, I am moved to write to highlight one of the most vibrant and sustained movements to challenge mass destruction in the name of development — the community-led fight to halt a proposed open-pit coalmine in northwest Bangladesh, known as the Phulbari Coal Project.

If allowed to go forward as planned, the Phulbari Coal Project would involve forced eviction on a massive and nearly inconceivable scale. An Expert Committee formed by the Government of Bangladesh to assess the project estimated that it would immediately affect some 130,000 people, and may ultimately displace some 220,000 people as mining operations lower groundwater levels and deplete their existing water sources. The National Indigenous Union states that the project would displace or impoverish 50,000 indigenous people in 23 villages.

The Phulbari Coal Project would also destroy over 14,600 hectares of land, most of which is verdant and fertile farmland that serves as the nation’s rice bowl. Although 80 percent of all households threatened by the project have land-based livelihoods, the Resettlement Plan prepared for the company baldly states that their farm lands will not be replaced and most affected households “will become landless.”

Massive protests against the mine began in 2006 and continue through today. On 26 August 2006, state-backed paramilitary forces opened fire on some 70,000 people marching against the project in Phulbari, killing three people and wounding many more.

Responding with outrage, people across Bangladesh enforced a nation-wide general strike that shuttered shops, markets, offices, and educational institutions. The UK-based company backing the project, GCM Resources, was forced to close its Phulbari office and its employees fled under police escort as strikers shut down roadways into the region.

The strike was halted after four days with the signing of a six-point document, known as the Phulbari Agreement, with terms that include cancellation of the Phulbari Coal Project, the permanent expulsion of GCM from Bangladesh, and a nation-wide ban on open-pit coal mining. Since that time, efforts to finalize a new national coal policy have been repeatedly snagged on whether it will incorporate the ban on open cast mining called for in this historic document.

Meanwhile, resistance on the ground has succeeded in stalling GCM’s proposed coal project for over eight years. This sustained community-led resistance is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that the state has continued to resort to violence and intimidation in its ongoing efforts to quash it. Social movement leaders and project opponents have suffered public beatings by police, death threats, and arbitrary mass arrests and detention. The state has more than once imposed a colonial era ban to prohibit gatherings of five or more people in Phulbari in a futile attempt to prevent further demonstrations. As people have continued to protest in defiance of the ban and police barricades, the state has repeatedly deployed its notorious Rapid Action Battalion — denounced as a ‘death squad’ by Human Rights Watch — to demonstrations in Phulbari.

Neither state repression nor the bloodshed and loss of life in August of 2006 have dampened GCM’s enthusiasm for open-pit mining of coal under Phulbari or its determination to push its project forward despite massive and sustained opposition from the communities it threatens — and despite expressions of grave concern and urgent appeals by international human rights bodies, organizations and experts regarding the high potential for further violence against people resisting the project.

In 2012, GCM informed its shareholders that it was intensifying its efforts to gain government approval for the project — the very year in which seven UN human rights experts took coordinated action to issue a joint UN press release calling for an immediate halt to its project on the grounds that it threatens to violate the human rights of tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. The Phulbari Coal Project, they warn, “poses an immediate threat to safety and standards of living” and “will exacerbate food insecurity, poverty and vulnerability to climate events for generations to come.”

Each renewed effort by the company to move the project forward has provoked further resistance from the communities it threatens, triggering the emergence and growth of what is now one of the most vibrant and sustained grassroots resistance movements worldwide. Just last month a visit to Phulbari by the company’s CEO Gary Lye sparked a full day of outraged protests on November 26th. In a statement from Lye published in an industry newsletter the following day, the CEO notes that police arrived at GCM’s office and “were trying to persuade me and our staff to leave the premises.” Despite Lye’s declaration that he had “no intention” of leaving, local news sources reported that he departed Phulbari under police escort.

In his statement, GCM’s CEO also characterizes angry demonstrators outside the company’s Phulbari office — which, he notes, were “prominently led by the mayor of Phulbari”– as a “mob”, and compares their actions to those of “terrorists.” Yesterday, he repeated these remarks in response to a question from a concerned shareholder at the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in London, where the company is based.

Such statements are extremely concerning in any case, but all the more so when we consider that the company’s CEO made these remarks less that three weeks after a UK government investigation of the company’s conduct in Bangladesh concluded that that GCM was in breach of international guidelines for ethical corporate behavior. More specifically, the government’s investigation found that the company had breached the Human Rights Guidelines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by failing to ‘foster confidence and mutual trust’ with the people who would be affected by their proposed mine.

The UK government finding also advises that GCM must take into account the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that no developments can take place on the lands of indigenous peoples’ without their ‘free, prior and informed consent’. As GCM is well aware, indigenous people have been protesting the project since 2006, and one indigenous leader interviewed during the government investigation stated that indigenous people are prepared to “go to war” to halt the project.

Just this week there are strong indications that GCM’s efforts to force the project forward may be doomed, as Energy Division Secretary Abu Bakar Siddique publicly stated that the company has no valid license or contract to develop its proposed project in Phulbari. The company, he reportedly added, “does not have any valid stake in Bangladesh.” Their visit to Phulbari, “causes unrest in the area, which is not acceptable.” GCM, the secretary reportedly concluded, “should not stay here.”

On this International Human Rights Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urges “we speak out” and “intensify our efforts to fulfill our collective responsibility to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people everywhere.” The courage of people in Phulbari and similar struggles around the globe by people demanding their rights to stay in their homes and on their lands — rather than be swept away by unjust projects justified in the name of “development” — both challenges and inspires us to respond to this call.

 


 

Let’s Stop the Coal Thieves: Phulbari Demo in London

by Golam Rabbani

Phulbari Solidarity Group

9 December 2014

In a cold morning on a week day in December, the Bangladeshi community of London in conjunction with a diverse group of environmental and left political activists heckled the investors of Asia Energy (thereafter Global Coal Management Resources) today. In a successful demonstration outside GCM’s Annual General Meeting at London Aeronautical Society, 4 Hamilton Place, W1, London protesters surrounded GCMs’ CEO Gary Lye and his fellows who are doing a fraudulent business in London’s Alternative Share Market (AIM), cheating with people of Bangladesh and UK. Protesters told that GCM has no contract with the Government of Bangladesh but they are selling illegal shares in the London AIM. Protesters, calling in an end of GCM’s corruption and abusive activities in Bangladesh, demanded the de-listing of GCM from London AIM. They poured coal at the entrance of the Aeronautical Society, and locked the investors into the building for two and a half hours. A group of demonstrators turned back the investors’ taxis, making the investors to walk.

A delegation of protesters interrogated Gary Lye and his fellows inside the AGM. In the share holder’s meeting Gary was asked by the share holders to present the contract of the Phulbari Project which he was unable to produce. Gary does not have any appropriate answer to justify his position in relation to the impact of open pit mining in Phulbari. Protesters demanded his arrest and expulsion from Bangladesh alongside the de-listing of GCM from London’s Alternative Share Market.

The manifesto of the demo reads that GCM is shamelessly lobbying with a few greedy government officials to get the contract yet they fail to recognise the fact that the people of Phulbari will not give their land, their environment and ecology to dirty coal miners. Local people will ensure that GCM is never going back to Phulbari. They will resist the destructive project of GCM, rather than so called jobs, cash and energy flow.

Protestors have successfully delivered the message to GCM’s dirty coal miners that although Bangladesh is eager for energy, they will not make the same mistake as the so-called developed world in terms of climate change and environmental degradation. We will ensure that GCM and Gary N Lye’s dirty hands are off the Phulbari coal mine.

Detailed report of the action at GCM’s AGM and the demo outside the AGM will be followed soon. Meanwhile readers can view photos of our action here


Coal mine issue: Dawn-to-dusk blockade underway at Phulbari

New Age Online - http://newagebd.net/70974/coal-mine-issue-dawn-to-dusk-blockade-underway-at-phulbari/

27 November 2014

Locals declared an impromptu blockade programme as a top coal miner visited Phulbari in his bid to persuade residents in favour of an open pit mine on their farmlands.

A dawn-to-dusk blockade started at 6:00 am on Thursday was passing amid peaceful demonstrations at Phulbari of Dinajpur.

Gary Lye, a senior official of Global Coal Management, the parent company of Asia Energy that had long tried to develop an open pit mine at Phulbari, made a surprise visit to Phulbari Wednesday and irked local people who mostly do not want any mine there.

The daylong programme was declared on Wednesday afternoon by the local unit of the national committee to protect oil, gas, mineral resources, power and ports demanding immediate withdrawal of local Asia Energy office.

Four people were killed while protesting against any open pit mine in 2006.

Another non-political organisation, Sammilita Peshajibi Sangathan and Phulbari Bashi, also extended their solidarity with the blockade programme.

They also demanded full implementation of the previous six-point demands including stopping any move to extract from Phulbari coal mine in open pit method.

The pro-blockade activists took their position along Dinajpur-Govindaganj local highway in the morning and staged demonstration there by burning tyre.

No long-route bus entered Phulbari while train communications were normal, our Phulbari correspondent reported.

Additional police were deployed to avert any untoward situation.

The then BNP-led alliance government had signed a seven-point deal with the national committee amidst protests against open-pit mining.

According to the deal, the government must refrain from using open pit method for coal extraction and the ‘controversial’ international company Asia Energy must be ousted from Bangladesh.

Some vested quarters were still working in favour of Asia Energy, leaders of the national committee alleged.

There is another coal mine at Baropukuria, 7-km away from Phulbari, where long-wall mining method is applied to explore underground coal.


‘Won’t allow open-pit coalmine in Phulbari’

Blockade protesting Asia Energy local chief’s visit underway peacefully

Daily Star Online Report

27 November 2014

Locals at Phulbari today blockaded the upazila in Dinajpur district protesting the visit of Asia Energy’s country chief on the issue of an open-pit coalmine in the area.

The blockade follows yesterday’s reported widespread vandalism and protests after Gary Lye, country director of Asia Energy, went to the area to meet company officials there.

The 12-hour blockade enforced by locals led by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports started at 6:00am, our Dinajpur correspondent reports.

Long route and local bus services, on Dinajpur-Dhaka however, remained suspended. However trains operated normally till filing the report at noon.

Additional police were deployed through all key points of Phulbari, especially around the local Asia Energy office. No untoward incident was reported until noon.

Saiful Islam Jewel, president of the Phulbari unit of the national committee, said people were spontaneously participating in the blockade.

“We will not allow open-pit coalmine in Phulbari and elsewhere in the country.”

Protesters block Dianjpur-Dhaka highway by burning tyres in Nimtola area under Phulbari municipality on
A previous BNP-led government tried to establish an open-pit coalmine in Phulbari in 2005-06, which was thwarted by violent local protests that led to death of three people.

Tension rose again when the government in October last year instructed local authority to cooperate with a London-based company for prospects of coalmine in Phulbari, Nawabganj, Birampur and Parbatipur upazilas of Dinajpur.

Asia Energy’s Bangladesh director Gary Lye is currently on a scheduled visit to Dinajpur. He met local administration and police chief of the district yesterday.

This sparked protests and led to reported vandalism throughout Phulbari as locals said they were adamant about not letting a coalmine in the region.


Asia Energy chief's visit sparks protest in Phulbari

http://en.prothom-alo.com/bangladesh/news/56590/Asia-Energy-chief-s-visit-sparks-protest-in

26 November 2014

Dinajpur Office - Locals vandalised the office and vehicles of Asia Energy Bangladesh, protesting the visit of Gary Lye, country chief of Asia Energy Bangladesh, to Phulbari upazila in Dinajpur on Wednesday.

Sources of Asia Energy Bangladesh said, Gary Lye with his wife came on a visit in Phulbari upazila on Tuesday evening.

He had three separate meetings with Asia Energy officials on that night.

Later, Gary had another meeting with local political leaders including former upazila chairman Aminul Islam and labour leader Nuruzzaman on Wednesday morning.

As the news spread of his arrival, the people under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port, and Sammillita Peshajibi Sangathan staged demonstration and blocked the Dinajpur-Dhaka highway from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Phulbari municipality mayor Golam Mortuza Sarker Manik, also convener of the Sangathan, led the demonstration.

The protesters gave an hour of ultimatum to police and local administration asking Gary to leave Phulbari.

After two hour of the ultimatum, demonstrators vandalised the local office and vehicles of Asia Energy Bangladesh.

Phulbari upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Moniruzzaman and Phulbari police officer in-charge ABM Rezaul Islam said police barricade was also insufficient to control the protesting crowd.

Later, three vehicles carrying Gary Lye along with his wife and 10-12 other officials of Asia Energy Bangladesh were sent to Dinajpur in police protection.

In the afternoon, a meeting took place at Nimtala intersection of the town where the committee called a dawn to dusk blockade of highway and railway for Thursday protesting the arrival of Gary and the activities of Asia Energy Bangladesh in Phulbari upazila.

Earlier in August 26, 2006, thousands of people of Phulbari led by leaders of the 'national committee' staged a violent demonstration centering the coalmine issue. Law enforcers opened fire, leaving three people killed.


Fulbari tense over Asia Energy chief of operation's arrival

Daily Observer

26 November 2014

Dinajpur: Leaders and activists of Phulbari Sammilito Peshajibi Sangathan and National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Minerals, Electricity and Port blockaded the Dhaka-Dinajpur highway, disrupting communications with the capital, and staged demonstrations at Phulbari upazila in the district protesting implementation of Phulbari Coal Mine Project.

Causing mounting sufferings for the passengers, agitated people of the upazila blockaded the Dhaka-Dinajpur highway all through the day from 11:00am to 4:30pm, responding to a news that Asia Energy is taking preparations to implement its coal mine project at Phulbari in the district.

The news spread across the upazila Wednesday when multinational Company Asia Energy’s chief of operation Gary N Lye exchanged views with some officials of Asia Energy’s Phulbari branch.

Sources said hundreds of people of the upazila brought out a number of processions all through the day that paraded the roads of the upazila and took position on the highway. They declared a one hour ultimatum for Gary N Lye to leave the locality.

The agitated people attacked the Phulbari branch of Asia Energy as even after two hours he (Gary) did not leave the upazila. They tried to enter and ransack the office premises breaking police barricade set up in front of the office, according to people present at the spot.

At that time, when the situation was going out of control, municipal mayor Mortuza Sarker Manik, former upazila chairman Aminul Islam Babul, and local leader Abdullah Nuruzzaman, all of whom were leading the agitation, pacified the agitated people from ransacking the Asia Energy office. Kamal Chakrabarty, an activist of the movement, got injured at that while trying to prevent the people from vandalising the office.

At that time UNO Maniruzzaman and Officer-in-Charge of Phulbari police station ABM Rezaul Islam prevented the situation from further deterioration with the help of the leaders of Oil-Gas Committee and Peshajibi Sangathan, local sources said.

The blockade, however, was withdrawn at 4:30pm after getting an assurance from upazila nirbahi officer Maniruzzaman.

According to sources the UNO told the protesters that Gary N Lye had said that the company would not start the implementation Phulbari Coal Mine Project.

Earlier on Tuesday also, hundreds of people blockaded Dhaka-Dinajpur highway hearing the news that Gary N Lye had exchanged views with officials of Asia Energy’s Phulbari branch.

At 4:00pm Tuesday, Oil-Gas Committee’s Phulbari unit convener Syed Saiful Islam Jewel declared to continue the blockade and to stage demonstration from a rally held at Nimtala intersection of the upazila.

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