MAC: Mines and Communities

Zug zapped by Latin American protestors

Published by MAC on 2009-10-26
Source: Notiwayuu

Xstrata and Glencore get a wake-up call

Zug, Switzerland, doesn't normally see people parading towards anything less mundane than their offices or favourite bars.  However, this modest town is one of the most important and secretive of the country's business centres.

It's where Xstrata, and the mining company's chief shareholder, Glencore, have their offices - even though the former transacts its key business in London, and the latter is the world's leading metals trader.

A fortnight ago, the burghers of this sleepy haunt of corporate raiders woke up to find a somewhat different group of citizens in their midst...



12 October 2009

(NB: ‘Minga’ is a term denoting a traditional form of Indigenous work group in Colombia)

Translation by Amelia Carter

On 12th October, the International Day of Indigenous People, a crowd 110 strong marched through the streets of Zug to protest in front of the Swiss headquarters of Xstrata and Glencore.

The aim of this action in support of the Global ‘Minga’ to Save the Planetwas to draw attention, not only to the struggles of the Wayuu people but also to those of the Afro-Colombian and Chilean communities, the latter especially in Patagonia.

The main objective of this peaceful, but forceful, demonstration was to provide open support for demands made by the four Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and local South American representatives, sent to establish direct contact with the directors of these companies.

Their requests for a meeting a week ago were rejected by the companies even though Xstrata and Glencore did agree to receive an unofficial delegation of representatives; this was indeed met, but only at the reception desk of one of the companies, and only in the street, in the case of Xstrata.

Glencore refused to admit any responsibility, justifying this by stating that it had sold that part of Cerrrejon, the open coal mine in the province of Guajira in Colombia, to Xstrata in 2006.

On the other hand, all those whose lives have been affected by this mine emphasised that Glencore’s responsiblitiy in this matter was absolute and requested that Mr Ocskay pass this message on to those responsible both at Glencore and at Xstrata.

For half an hour, two representatives from Xstrata listened to the delegations from Chile and Colombia, yet during that time Xstrata neither answered any of their worries or demands, nor committed themselves to any form of action. Indeed nothing more was heard of Xstrata’s commitment to use internal influence to set up a formal meeting with the companies’ executives in London.

All the formal petitions, presented by the Chilean Natural Reserve Coalition, stated overwhelmingly that the rivers of Patagonia must be returned to the Chilean people and that the planned reservoir projects in Patagonia, such as the one to build the Rio Cuervo reservoir, be halted immediately.  This is because, by causing submarine magmatic pressure, this project would have a disastrous effect on the ecosystem.

The three Colombian representatives demanded the immediate suspension of all activity at Cerrejon by Xstrata and the former owner of the coal mine, Glencore, until such time that guarantees be given to revise the agreements signed with the affected communities. 

This is essential to put into effect a free and informed consultation process in accordance with the strict standards stated in international documents such as ILO Convention 169 on Tribal and Indigenous People in Independent Countries, and the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The group of Swiss organisations, that has given support to the groups affected by the implementation of the Glencore and Xstrata projects on their land, has declared that it will carefully follow up these cases, paying particular attention to the protection of the South American representatives already suffering from threats and warnings, made in a bid to halt the complaints process.

It is worth mentioning that the MP for Zug, Berti Zeiter, said during the demonstration that she would take action to ensure that the Green Party in the regional parliament supports the demands and petitions of people, compelled to stand up for their rights against multinationals Glencore and Xstrata who have their headquarters in Zug.

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