Phulbari Vigil

According to GCM Resources plc:  “The combination of high quality coal, a large coal resource, thick seams, highly competitive average stripping ratio, low operating costs, a project life of over 30 years and easy access to markets make Phulbari a world class coal project.”

But campaigners say the mine would displace 130,000 farming families, destroy 14,600 hectares of fertile land, threaten clean water resources and have a devastating impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.

BHP Billiton sold the mineral rights it bought in 1994 to Asia Energy in 1998, according to Wikipedia, as it thought because the seam was too deep, at 151m below the surface. Asia Energy was incorporated in London in September 2003, later becoming Global Coal Management and now GCM Resources plc. Its rights to mine Phulbari are said to be its only major asset.

There were huge protests against mining at Phulbari in Bangladesh in 2006, said to involve 70,000 people. At one large protest three people were shot dead and 300 injured. Protests and strikes continued but protests at the mine site were banned by the Bangladesh government.

Press reports stated that Bangladesh had withdrawn the mining rights, and the shares crashed. The company  apparently deny the rights have been withdrawn, but when trading resumed the shares, which a few months earlier had been at 665p, were trading at 95p.

Despite pressure from GCM and the US government to go ahead with the project, Bangladesh announced in 2015 that it has no plans to allow open-pit mining at Phulbari and will instead import coal to run two large coal-fired power stations to be built by 2030. The GCM share price which hit an all-time low of around 3p has shown a recent increase to almost 30p, probably as a result of the election of Trump as US President, but may also reflect some attempts by GCM to diversify.

The protest outside the London Stock Exchange was a vigil for three villagers shot dead and two hundred injured at a mass protest in 2006 ten years ago, and called on the Stock Exchange to de-list GCM from the London Alternative Investment Market, a marketplace with little regulation and which allows companies either to comply with these rudimentary rules or to explain why they are not complying.

The protest took place on a fairly narrow pavement, and police were worried about this being blocked, but the protesters from the Phulbari Solidarity Group were very persuasive and the police relented. Barriers for roadworks prevented people from walking out into the traffic and it was only possible to take an overall view of the protest by using a fisheye lens.  I had to wait for some time to get a clear view as the pavement was quite busy with city workers going to lunch.

10 Years of Resistance to Phulbari


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