MAC: Mines and Communities

Australian traditional owners join global protest against Glencore

Published by MAC on 2016-05-22
Source: Guardian, The Point, Green Left

Glencore's Swiss AGM faced global protests, including in Bangladesh, South Africa, Zambia and London, organised under the banner #makethempay.

However, one of the issues that received most coverage was a call to shut down the McArthur River mine in the Northern Territory. The project is no stranger to controversy (see: Australia: The race to avert disaster at the McArthur River Mine).

The AGM was also the last of three where ethical investment funds proposed a resolution calling on the companies in question (Glencore, Anglo American and Rio Tinto) to improve their climate change policies.  Called ‘Aiming for A’, the shareholder resolutions are intended to be ‘supportive but stretching’ for the companies. They cover five different areas of climate change-related strategy, including reducing operational emissions, maintaining a portfolio of assets resilient to future energy scenarios, and supporting low-carbon energy research and development. (MAC has covered reports covering this resolution for Rio Tinto and Anglo American).

Glencore zinc mine must be shut down, say traditional owners

A protest planned outside the company headquarters in Sydney will be matched by others around the world by people affected by Glencore mines

18 May 2016

The McArthur River mine in the Northern Territory – one of the world’s biggest zinc, lead and silver mines – must shut immediately and owner Glencore must cover the clean-up costs, say traditional owners who will protest outside the company’s headquarters in Sydney on Thursday.

Coinciding with Glencore’s annual general meeting in Switzerland on Thursday, a delegation of the four groups that share responsibility for the river – the Gudanji, Garawa, Yanyula and Mara people – will be joined by protests in other communities impacted by Glencore mines around the world. Protests will occur in Bangladesh, South Africa, Zambia and London, organising under the banner #makethempay.

A 2014 independent report found the mine contaminated the McArthur river, concluding 90% of fish stock in a nearby creek had shown dangerously high levels of lead.

Residents and environmentalists have also complained of a large pile of smouldering waste, which the independent report said was polluting surrounding water and emitting poisonous fumes.

Glencore then delayed erecting signs warning of the contaminated fish for over a year, despite members of the clans that control the river fishing extensively from it for food. The mining group, which turned five executives into paper billionaires when it floated on the London stock market in 2011, later said it was waiting for regulatory approval from authorities for the signs.

Government documents later showed the Northern Territory government and Glencore knew about the signs of contamination but did not fully inform the communities.

Glencore now has plans to double the size of the mine, but will need to submit an application to the federal government for approval.

The company has denied polluting the river, pointing to other 2014 findings which did not show evidence of “mine-derived lead” in McArthur river and Surprise creek, and only recorded elevated levels in “small non-eating fish deep within the mine itself”.

“Glencore had no right to poison our river and damage the land,” said Gadian Hoosan, spokesman for the Garawa Land Trust, whose land is situated downstream of the mine. “All four clan groups rely on that river. It was our main food source and livelihood and they took that away from us.”

Lauren Mellor from the Mineral Policy Institute’s legacy mines project, said the mine has been a disaster for people living downstream. “Instead of digging itself into a bigger hole by pursuing expansion plans, Glencore must move its operations to a closure and clean-up phase and guarantee rehabilitation of the site.”

ActionAid helped facilitate the protests, and have been fighting what they say is Glencore’s “tax dodging” around the world.

Archie Law, the executive director of ActionAid, said: “Glencore is robbing communities all over the world of their livelihood and the public funds that should be paying for basic infrastructure and public services.”

NT traditional owners in Sydney join global protest against Glencore

By Laura Murphy-Oates

The Point

19 May 2016

Rally in Sydney calls for immediate closure of Glencore’s McArthur River mine and for clans to be compensated over the damage caused to the land.

Elder Nancy Yukuwal McDinny stands alongside several protestors in gas masks and protective gear in the Sydney CBD, slinging raw fish into barrels labelled ‘Glencore’.

Nancy travelled overnight from Borroloola, 10 hours south-east of Darwin, to protest outside the Anglo-Swiss multinational company Glencore’s Australian headquarters on Thursday.

“This is your mess, not ours! You clean it up!” she says over the microphone to cheers from the few dozen protestors.

She is speaking about Glencore’s McArthur River mine in the Northern Territory - one of the world’s biggest zinc, lead and silver mines - sitting 60 kilometres south-west of Borroloola on the land of four clan groups - Gudinji, Gawarra, Yanyula and Mara.

She wants the mine - which has been plagued by environmental problems over the past few years - to close down immediately, with Glencore picking up the cost of the damage to the land so far.

“We want the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government, please, to close the mine up - we don't want it, you’re polluting our river, your poisoning our people,” she says.

This protest is just one of several protests against Glencore’s mining activities around the world on Thursday including London, Peru, Bangladesh, South Africa, coinciding with Glencore’s AGM in Switzerland.

The Borroloola clans have been raising concerns for over a year that the waste rock dump and tailings dam on the mine site are leaching acid, metals and salts into the McArthur river system which they use for fishing.

“We have to go 100 kilometres east to eat fresh fish,” says Nancy.

“That river is polluted and we are worried about our people’s health.”

An independent report in 2014 found that 90 percent of the fish in nearby Barney Creek had elevated levels of lead beyond the maximum permitted in Australian food standards.

However, Glencore claim that the affected fish are localised within the mine site where fishing is not allowed, and the poisoning has not spread downstream to the local communities.

Waste rock disposal unresolved

In 2013 the NT Government approved the expansion of the mine double its size and an extension to the life of the mine to 2038.

However, within months the waste rock dump on the mine began to emit plumes of toxic sulphur dioxide over the Gulf of Carpentaria, which continued for over a year before the company extinguished the dump fire in 2015.

The amount of reactive rock in the mining waste reached 90 percent, significantly higher than the 12 percent assessed and approved by the Northern Territory Government in 2012.

Glencore protest

The dump problems were referred to the Environment Protection Authority 2014, with Glencore asked to submit a new Environmental Impact Survey which will be handed down later this year.

But representatives from the Mineral Policy Institute say the Northern Territory Government is undermining that process.

“The Northern Territory Government recently gave Glencore permission to build a new waste rock dump on site,” says Legacy Mines Project Coodinator Laruen Mellor.

“Instead of having a solution that they can demonstrate for the current waste rock problem, they’ve allowed them to ... continue mining and make the problem bigger.”

She says the 200 million tonnes of reactive waste rock produced so far needs to be put back into the open pit and sealed off, if there is to be any chance of stopping the acid leaching and rehabilitating the land.

She’s calling on the federal and state government to ensure that happens.

“The Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government needs to step in now and say this is actually an emergency, this isn’t business as usual and Glencore ought not to be given permission to make the problem worse.”

With concerns that the cost of cleaning up the area may one day be left in the Territory government’s hands, Chief Minister Adam Giles threatened to close the mine last year unless Glencore paid a larger security bond to the territory government.

An agreement of an undisclosed sum was reached in October last year.

Borroloola people demand closure of toxic McArthur River mine

By Peter Boyle

21 May 2016

Sydney - A multi-generational delegation from the Borroloola Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory's Gulf Country were front and centre at a protest outside global mining giant Glencore's Sydney headquarters on May 19.

The protesters demanded that Glencore close its McArthur River mine and rehabilitate the site as well as the river and the surrounding land, on which they have traditionally relied for food.

The protest was organised by green groups including the Mineral Policy Institute and ActionAid Australia. There were coordinated protests in other countries with Glencore mines, including Bangladesh, Zambia, South Africa and Peru, on the day Glencore held its corporate annual general meeting in Switzerland.

Concerns about the world's largest zinc and lead mine were heightened after reactive rock in its waste dump began spontaneously combusting in 2013. The company extinguished the fire last year but residents are still worried that the reactive waste rock is polluting the McArthur River system.

Revelations that fish in tributaries of the McArthur River have been contaminated with lead for several years has alarmed Traditional Owners.

One of the delegation from Borroloola, Nancy Yukuwal McDinny, told protesters: “I grew up in that river and now I cannot see any food in the river that we used to eat. They are all gone, dying from the McArthur River mine.

“Instead of keeping the pollution in the mine area they are putting it down to the river, where we used to get our bush tucker, and it is going out to the sea.

“A long time ago, when I was still going to school, our old people fought this mine. I heard them fighting so hard. Now it is our children who we are fighting for. We need that McArthur River mine to be closed.”

To dramatise the pollution of the river by the mine, protesters dressed in white hazard jumpsuits unloaded dead fish outside Glencore's Sydney headquarters.

Another member of the Borroloola delegation, Gadrian Hoosan, explained to Green Left Weekly: “What you see there is happening for real on our land. It is happening right in front of our eyes. We know the river and we can see the fish are dying, the river changing.

“The independent monitor is testing the fish and testing the cattle to see if they have been affected by the mine pollution, but the one thing they didn't do is test the people in our community. That is really bad.”

Hoosan said his community was united in wanting the mine closed down and land and river cleaned up of all pollution. If that were done, he added, maybe in about ten years their land might be back to what it once was.

So far Glencore has refused to acknowledge the mounting evidence of the mine's pollution of the McArthur River and surrounding land. However, it has agreed to a meeting with the Borroloola community, where the community will present its management strategy, and proposal for the closure and rehabilitation of the mine site.


Overwhelming Support for Mining Climate Resolutions

20 May 2016 

Glencore, Anglo American and Rio Tinto are now legally obliged to implement climate change resolutions put forward by shareholder coalition ‘Aiming for A’. The resolution was awarded 98 per cent of support votes at Glencore’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Zug, Switzerland yesterday. Earlier this year the same climate change proposal was supported by 96 per cent of votes at Anglo American’s AGM and 99 per cent at Rio Tinto’s AGM.

This successfully concludes the second round of climate change resolutions filed in the UK by the ‘Aiming for A’ coalition, which last year secured the passing of shareholder resolutions on climate change at the BP and Shell AGMs.

‘Aiming for A’ shareholder resolutions call on companies to make a step change in the way they disclose to investors their strategy on the risks and opportunities posed by climate change.

The ‘Aiming for A’ coalition was founded by church and charity fund manager CCLA and includes the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, the largest members of the Church Investors Group, Hermes Investment Management on behalf of its stewardship services clients, Sarasin & Partners, the Pensions Trust and Rathbone Greenbank Investments.

This year’s mining resolutions were co-filed by a much wider group of investors from three continents with assets of over $8 trillion, including some of the world’s largest fund managers and pension funds.

The boards of all three companies recommended that shareholders vote in support of the resolutions.

Edward Mason, Head of Responsible Investment at the Church Commissioners, said: “Having led Aiming for A engagement with Glencore since 2012, I am delighted with the scale of the vote today in favour of enhanced climate change-related disclosure. We are grateful for the support of the board for the resolution.”

Bruce Duguid of Hermes Equity Ownership Services said: “With all three mining sector resolutions passing overwhelmingly, we are creating the ‘new normal’ for reporting on climate change in the UK mining sector, just as we did last year in the oil and gas sector.”

Helen Wildsmith, Stewardship Director at CCLA and founder of ‘Aiming for A’, said: “We are already seeing BP and Shell engaging much more deeply with the energy transition since our resolutions last year and I look forward to seeing the impact that this year’s resolutions have on climate change strategy at Anglo American, Glencore and Rio Tinto.”

‘Aiming for A’ shareholder resolutions are intended to be ‘supportive but stretching’ for companies. They cover five different areas of climate change-related strategy, including reducing operational emissions, maintaining a portfolio of assets resilient to future energy scenarios, and supporting low-carbon energy research and development.

Glencore shareholders to consider firms wild share swings at AGM

by Agnieszka de Sousa and Jesse Riseborough 


19 May 2016

LONDON — Glencore shareholders showing up for the miner’s annual meeting on Thursday can take comfort in the stock’s best start to a year, to date — but less so the loss of about half the company’s value since they met 12 months ago, and more than 70% since a $10bn initial public offering (IPO) in 2011.

Such wild share swings highlight both the opportunities from billionaire CEO Ivan Glasenberg’s plans to cut net debt by as much as $9bn, and the risks from weak demand for the commodities it produces.

"The world has obviously changed a lot," said Christopher LaFemina, an analyst at Jefferies in New York. "A general gradual recovery in commodity prices would be a positive for Glencore. But you need a strong recovery to get back to the 2011 levels and that’s unlikely for now."

Investors will gather in the Theater-Casino of the sleepy Swiss lakeside city of Zug five years to the day since Glencore’s IPO in London. Those who stuck with the company have faced near unrelenting losses as commodity prices slumped.

The offering, which made billionaires of Glasenberg and some company trading chiefs, took place in a commodity bull market. Since then copper and oil prices have sunk by half, and in September Glencore tumbled 38%, its worst month ever. While raw materials have rebounded from lows this year, the outlook for metals prices remains bearish, Goldman Sachs said in a report on May 17.

Better position

"No company can withstand a repeat anywhere close to what we’ve had,"said Paul Gait, a mining analyst in London at Sanford C Bernstein. "If we were to going to have another catastrophe, where commodity prices will halve again, no company will withstand it. Are they in a better position to where they were? Absolutely."

Glencore is ditching assets to meet its targets, aiming to cut net debt to as low as $17bn this year, from $25.9bn at the end of 2015. It is in talks to sell 9.9% more of its agriculture unit after offloading 40% in April. It is also disposing of infrastructure, selling two copper mines and studying options for a Kazakh gold project.

The company traded at about 133p in London Wednesday, down from 297p a year earlier and an IPO at 530p. Its nadir was 66.67p on September 28. Its Hong Kong shares rose on Thursday, adding as much as 1%.

"Glencore is proving that they can take major steps to repair their balance sheets even in a tough market," LaFemina said. "In September, the balance sheet was problematic, trading conditions were deteriorating, the outlook was weakening, commodity prices were falling."

Shareholders in Zug will get the chance to vote on measures from approving executives’ pay to climate change-related disclosures. Some may also reflect on their investment losses. Those who bought in the IPO, face a negative return of about 71%.

"Will people ever get their money back? It depends on how long they want to hold back for," said Gait at Bernstein. "Mining companies are long-term investments."





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