14th June 2007
Although some international media have recently covered the grave - and worsening - abuse of human rights in Bangladesh, only one national newspaper (New Age) still dares challenge the military which is, de facto, the only current "rule" in the country. Not even a recent United Nations report, inter alia accusing the armed forces of murder, has received much global attention. It's now even doubtful that elections (supposedly scheduled for January this year) will take place before the end of 2008.
In the meantime, the caretaker "government" has been trying to assure investors, both private and multilateral, that they are welcome and the security can be guaranteed.
Investing in Bangladesh under such parlous conditions will deter many companies. However, UK-based Global Oil and Energy (a subsidiary of India's Ispat, operated by Vinod and Pramod Mittal - not to be confused with Arcelor Mittal) has just proposed shelling out US$3 billion on gas exploration and production, power, petrochemicals and coal mining in the country. (It's a proposal which obviously doesn't find favour with Indian rival, Tata.)
This preceded the announcement last week that another UK-based company, Carbon Mining Plc, had located a potentially economic reserve of heavy minerals in the northern district of Rangpur * [see note].
As for London-listed Global Coal Management (Asia Energy plc, redubbed): having already had diplomatic support from the UK government (which tacitly endorsed the January military coup), it's still waiting in the wings to re-enter the Phulbari coal fields. The strong arm of a military regime could be just what it needs in order to do so..
[* Note: Carbon Mining plc is part of Mining House Ltd, a UK-based private equity company whichs advertises Carbon Mining plc as "structuring and funding...a mineral sands project in Bangladesh". Despite this, the company is not registered on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) while its website is still "under construction". Another company in the Mining House group is Delta Pacific Mining plc, linked with Bangladesh's North Bengal Mining company, that claims to have a lease on coal deposits 25km south of Phulbari.
Chairman of Mining House is Laith Reynolds, who was the CEO of Asia Energy when it launched its Phulbari project in 2004.]