MAC: Mines and Communities

Amnesty calls for Canadian company disclosure related to Burma "disinvestment"

Published by MAC on 2015-05-10
Source: Statement (2015-05-09)

Amnesty International in Canada has made serious allegations against  Canadian mining corporation Turquoise Hill Resources (formerly Ivanhoe Mines), relating to its past operations in Burma. 

Although the reports below make no mention of  Rio Tinto's role in the affair, they clearly draw on some of the same background materials (see: Rio Tinto 2015 AGM reports: Behind closed doors at Rio Tinto & Report on corporate crime and abuses at Myanmar copper mine).

A team of Amnesty’s Business and Human Rights activists have created a “video letter” to Turquoise Hill. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3pxDTYaWt0https://www.youtube.com/watch...

An Amnesty urgent action addressing ongoing human rights violations around the mining area is online at: http://www.amnesty.ca/get-involved/take-action-now/myanmar-protect-thousands-at-risk-of-forced-eviction

Turquoise Hill must disclose all transactions related to Myanmar divestment

Amnesty Internatonal press release

8 May 2015

Canadian mining corporation Turquoise Hill Resources (formerly called Ivanhoe Mines) should disclose all transactions related to the divestment of its interest in a mining project in Myanmar, which may have breached Canadian economic sanctions on Myanmar, Amnesty International said ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting in Vancouver today (8 May).

Ivanhoe Mines set up a secretive “Monywa Trust” to enable the company to divest its 50 per cent stake in the controversial Monywa copper mining project in central Myanmar, where abuses have included forced evictions and environmental pollution.

Information obtained by Amnesty International indicates that the Trust was set up in the British Virgin Islands, which is well known for its secrecy provisions.

Turquoise Hill claims that the company had no involvement in the Myanmar joint venture after February 2007. However, Amnesty’s investigations have revealed that the Trust was not independent and that Ivanhoe Mines had set up what was described as “a protector company! in Barbados. This protector company had oversight of the Trust and a director nominated by Ivanhoe Mines, also an employee of Ivanhoe Mines, sat on the board of the protector company. These facts were not disclosed in Ivanhoe Mines’ public filings before Canadian regulatory bodies. Information obtained by Amnesty International, reveals that Ivanhoe Mines and legal entities associated with it may have breached Canadian, UK and British Virgin Islands’ economic sanctions against Myanmar, applicable at the time of the divestment.

Amnesty International is also very concerned that Ivanhoe Mines lied in its public filings in Canada and the US when it reported that the copper produced at Monywa joint venture was sold to a Japanese trading company . Amnesty International has obtained reports detailing the company’s actual copper sales. The list of entities to whom copper was sold, reads like a who’s who of the Myanmar security forces and related establishments. Copper was sold to, amongst others, a number of military intelligence units and an organization suspected to be involved in several human rights abuses including the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and Buddhist monks and nuns during the Saffron Revolution and an attack on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters.

Amnesty International Canada’s Business and Human Rights Campaigner, Fiona Koza said:

“Turquoise Hill has a responsibility to its shareholders. As they meet in Vancouver today, the shareholders should demand that Turquoise Hill disclose full details of all transactions related to the Trust and the divestment of Ivanhoe’s interest in the Monywa project.”

“Canadian authorities and the BC Securities Commission should investigate Turquoise Hill’s failure to disclose relevant information in the company’s public filings. They should also investigate all transactions around the sale of Ivanhoe’s assets in Myanmar to assess if sanctions or other regulations have been breached by the Trust, Turquoise Hill and/or directors of Turquoise Hill.”

“If, as Turquoise Hill claims, there was no breach of sanctions, then what does the company have to hide?”

Thousands of people were forcibly evicted by the Myanmar authorities in the 1990s, in violation of international law, to make way for investment by Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines (now Turquoise Hill Resources); the company knew their investment would lead to the evictions, yet did nothing. It profited from more than a decade of copper mining, carried out in partnership with Myanmar’s military government, without attempting to address the thousands left destitute. !Turquoise Hill is responsible for compensating people for environmental damage and forced evictions linked to its joint venture and should put aside funds for such compensation and engage with the government of Myanmar to ensure that compensation is paid! said Fiona Koza.

The controversial Monywa Project

Since its inception, and throughout various changes in ownership, the Monywa project – which includes the notorious Letpadaung mine – has been characterised by serious human rights abuses and a lack of transparency.

In February 2015, Amnesty International released a ground-breaking report exposing how companies linked to the Monywa project have profited from serious human rights violations and illegal activity committed by the Myanmar authorities, including large-scale forced evictions.

The report also documents how community protests about the Letpadaung mine have, on multiple occasions, been met with excessive use of force by the police. In November 2012, security forces used white phosphorous, a highly toxic explosive substance, in a deliberate attack on villagers and monks who were protesting about the mine.

The Monywa project was taken over by UMEHL and Chinese company Wanbao Mining in 2010-2011. In August 2011, Ivanhoe Mines announced that the Trust had sold its stake in the project. But, it has never disclosed who the Trust sold the project to.

Ivanhoe Mines used secrecy provisions in the British Virgin Islands to keep details of the Trust and the subsequent sale of the stake in the Monywa project secret. Rio Tinto, as current majority shareholder of Ivanhoe Mines (now Turquoise Hill Resources), has also never responded to calls to make this information public.

On 5 May 2015, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action because thousands of people are at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and farms to make way for the Letpadaung copper mine. Amnesty is calling on the mine’s operator, Myanmar Wanbao to halt any plans to take over the remaining land for the Letpadaung mine and carry out a genuine consultation with all affected persons on the evictions, resettlement conditions and compensation; to ensure that conditions in resettlement villages comply with international standards on adequacy of housing and that people who have been forcibly evicted from their homes and farm lands receive adequate reparation; and to comply with its commitment in its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment that it will only use the police to protect its operations when the police guarantee that they will comply with international standards and guidelines on use of force.

For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter[at]amnesty.ca

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