MAC: Mines and Communities

HSBC AGM shines light on human rights abuses

Published by MAC on 2016-04-24
Source: BankTrack, London Mining Network

HSBC has often been singled out for its role funding fossil fuels (see for instance Green Climate Fund under pressure to shun HSBC and Credit Agricole).

However, at the bank's recent AGM in London there was more of a focus on the the human rights issues associated with coal, particularly with regard to Drummond in Colombia (although the banks financing of Cerrejon and Rio Tinto's Oyu Tolgoi projects were also raised at the AGM).

Stuart Gulliver ‘has blood on his hands’ as HSBC AGM shines light on human rights abuses

BankTrack & Move Your Money press release

22 April 2016

London, UK – HSBC executives are expected to come under fire today for the bank’s alleged complicity in human rights violations in Colombia, as a result of continued support for the coal mining industry.

Facing questions from investors and campaigners at the bank’s annual general meeting, CEO Stuart Gulliver and other executives are expected to be criticised for continuing to fund controversial coal mining company Drummond, to the tune of $232.5m over the last six years. [1]

Drummond faces allegations of complicity in serious human rights abuses in Cesar, Colombia, including the murder of 3,100 people, and the displacement of over 55,000 farmers from their own land. 95% of Drummond’s assets are in Colombia, so any financing they receive from HSBC necessarily supports their operations there. [2]

Speaking outside the AGM, Fionn Travers-Smith, Campaign Manager for Move Your Money, said:

“For as long as HSBC’s addiction to coal continues to blind them to the human rights abuses this disastrous industry entails, Stuart Gulliver and other executives at the bank are complicit in Drummond’s crimes, and have blood on their hands.

"One major funder has already pulled out from financing Drummond’s continued operations on due diligence grounds, citing concerns over these human rights abuses. HSBC can and must do the same.

"The bank cannot continue to shirk its responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and must cease funding Drummond and all other coal companies immediately.

"Failure to do so not only calls into question the bank’s due diligence policies, respect for inalienable human rights, and approach to the climate crisis, it also undermines the judgment of HSBC’s board members and their ability to manage a compliant and law-abiding bank.”

HSBC are rewriting their Metals and Mining Sector Policy for the first time since 2007, which is expected to be circulated to external stakeholders in May. Campaigners are demanding that the bank respect their climate commitments, including those made at the Paris COP21 Climate Summit in December, by excluding all coal mining companies in this new policy. 300 letters have already been sent to Stuart Gulliver issuing this demand. [3]

The news comes at a difficult time for the bank, with shareholders also expected to criticise the bank’s tax avoidance and evasion policies, as revealed by the Panama Papers and Swiss Leaks scandals.

Commenting on the developments, Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator at BankTrack, said:

“Eleven international banks have already moved in the right direction on coal mining, but we’re yet to see any progress from HSBC on this front.

"HSBC must follow the lead of banks like Natixis and ING and stop financing coal projects and companies around the world – particularly when, as with Drummond, they are implicated in such horrific human rights abuses.

"After so many years of silence, this new Mining Policy is an opportunity for HSBC to step up to the plate and prove that it is a forward-thinking and progressive bank. Any hesitation will lose them shareholder confidence, and expose them to the systemic risks associated with continued exposure to coal.”

For more information, contact:

Fionn Travers-Smith, Campaign Manager for Move Your Money; Tel: +44 7778842565, Email: fionn[at]

Notes for editors:

1. Bank Track – Drummond company information -

See also the new HSBC Coal Banks briefing, which Move Your Money will be handing out to investors at the AGM

2. Pax – Stop Blood Coal -

3. Move Your Money – HSBC, Quit Coal -  

HSBC under attack for coal financing, human rights abuse, dodgy deals and more

By Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network, and member of Colombia Solidarity Campaign

30 April 2016

My colleague from LMN, Richard Harkinson, and I joined friends from Move Your Money at the AGM of international bank HSBC on Friday 22 April. I was surprised and, frankly, amused at the extremely strong language which some independent shareholders used to describe the bank’s board and senior management. You can listen to the company’s AGM webcast yourself and have a laugh. We’ve never used those particular epithets in any mining company AGMs.

I spoke about the bank’s support for coal mining in Colombia and the dire impacts that this has.

“Given HSBC’s recent funding for Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Glencore, is the Board aware of the history of human rights abuse and forced resettlement of farming communities around the Cerrejon Coal mine in Colombia, owned by the three companies?

“Their involvement began in 2000, shortly before the brutal eviction of the small farming community of Tabaco. After many years of local, national and international pressure, Cerrejon Coal has put some effort into improving its community relations, but on 24 February this year there was another brutal eviction of a farming family on behalf of the company by the notorious Colombian riot police squadron, ESMAD. Over a dozen people were injured, including a young man with learning difficulties and a pregnant woman who suffered a miscarriage as a result. The Colombian Attorney General’s Office has been asked to investigate.

“At the same time, the province of La Guajira, where the mine is situated, is undergoing a severe drought, and several thousand indigenous Wayuu children have died as a result. In the face of this drought, as part of its mine expansion plan, Cerrejon Coal is preparing to divert the Arroyo Bruno, the main tributary of the area’s only major river, the Rancheria. This diversion is opposed almost universally by local communities and by the coal mining union Sintracarbon.

“Meanwhile, in Cesar, Colombia, controversial coal company Drummond face allegations of complicity in grave human rights abuses including the murder of 3100 people and the displacement of 55000 farmers from their own land. 95% of Drummond’s assets are situated there, so any financing from HSBC necessarily supports Drummond’s Colombian operations. And yet HSBC have provided them with 230 million dollars since 2010 alone, despite at least one other large bank declining to participate on the grounds of due diligence, citing these human rights abuses.

“The Cerrejón Coal companies should support calls for an independent investigation of the eviction on 24 February and the company’s general relations with local communities, and to abandon plans to divert the Arroyo Bruno, whilst Drummond should seek to remediate the damage caused to communities by their grave misconduct, and to compensate them fairly. This is the only path to justice for communities scarred by coal mining in Colombia. Can you assure me that HSBC will suspend all financial support for both the owners of Cerrejón Coal and Drummond, until they prove themselves willing to remedy their respective abuses in the way described?”

Chairman Douglas Flint replied that the company does do due diligence and would respond to any credible evidence it received. He said “we can and do drop customers for human rights abuses.” I undertook to send him information about Drummond and Cerrejon Coal in Colombia.

Richard Harkinson pointed out that HSBC is making the loan book to finance a copper project in the South Gobi Desert in Mongolia. He said that the project is operated by Rio Tinto and its Canadian subsidiary Turquoise Hill. No Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) has been published. There may be a feasibility study but this is not available either. The plan is to mine copper and export it to China, into a depressed spot market. Would HSBC add its voice to the demand of the affected nomadic herders for an effective ESIA? Coal power is involved in power generation for the mine, even though wind power would be twice as cheap. Richard explained that we had asked to meet with HSBC’s sustainable development department about this but that they had declined. Could we meet with them?

Company Chairman Douglas Flint replied that HSBC had signed up to the Equator Principles. He could not talk about the specific concerns that Richard had raised but would arrange a meeting. Richard should write to him directly.

Later, Richard said that there was a need to have non-executive board members with lived experience of human rights issues. The board needs intelligence on the impacts of its investments, and this should be included in the bank’s Key Performance Indicators.

Douglas Flint said that board member Henri de Castries led insurance companies and that board member Pauline van der Meer Mohr also had experience of these matters. He said that the board’s Conduct and Values Committee deals with these issues.

Move Your Money have written an excellent report on the meeting  and you can read all the official papers for the meeting on the bank’s own website.


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