MAC: Mines and Communities

EIB postpones loan decision on Laos copper mine

Published by MAC on 2003-12-15

EIB postpones loan decision on Laos copper mine

Press Release - Friends of the Earth International

15 December 2003

Milan, Italy - "We have taken on board your concerns and I have delayed the Board decision on this loan until at least January while we seek assurances that the [copper mine] project will include proper monitoring." said EIB President Philippe Maystadt when questioned by Friends of the Earth International at the COP9 Climate Change Convention in Milan, 11 December.

The reprieve on the Board decision originally scheduled for Tuesday 9 December comes as a result of pressure on the EIB by Friends of the Earth International and the many other NGOs and supporters opposing the mining project. Hundreds of letters have been sent to President Maystadt and other Board members and it is believed that Maystadt has even changed his email address as a result.

Rod Harbinson of Friends of the Earth International cautioned against complacency on this short-term victory saying that, "The project approval by the EIB Management Committee signals that they want to go ahead with this damaging project so everyone should keep up the pressure on the Bank in the coming weeks to stop this mine once and for all."

Maystadt went on to say that, "We do not disagree with this kind of project in principle. We think that developing countries should be supported in extracting their natural resources." However as the recently released FoEI report 'Undermining lives in Laos' makes clear, around 99% of the mineral wealth extracted will flow out of Laos into the pockets of the Oxiana mining company's investors in rich countries.

Maystadt's claim at the conference that EIB projects within the EU adhere to European directives on the environment has long been disputed by the coalition campaign on the EIB. The Sepon copper mine clearly contravenes not only the EIBs own environment policy but also World Bank guidelines on mining with which the EIB has promised to comply.

When pushed on the situation regarding project conditionality outside the EU Maystadt admitted there are problems, "Even if we put forward environmental and social conditions [on projects outside the EU] there is no guarantee that they will be met by the project implementers." This admission makes clear that EIB assurances for proper mine monitoring might be met in writing but that the chances of their implementation in reality are slim and have no guarantees.

The gold and copper mine is located in a high biodiversity region in Laos. Waste from the mine is already threatening endangered fish and turtle species in the Nam Kok River, a tributary of the Mekong, and forests have been destroyed. Local and Indigenous people have also been relocated without land for land compensation.

FoEI Report: 'Undermining lives in Laos'

and

'Hands Off: Why International Financial Institutions must stop drilling, piping and mining' at http://www.foei.org

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