A delegation of native leaders and commercial salmon fishermen from Bristol Bay, Alaska, travelled to London to attend the Anglo American annual general meeting (AGM) on 15 April. The company owns roughly 70% of the highly controversial Pebble Mine Project. The mine, if it were approved and constructed, would be the largest copper and gold mine in North America. But the delegation asserted the local community’s commitment to never letting the project move forward. Read the report at http://riotintoagm2009.wordpress.com/friends-in-london-and-elswhere/ and the delegation’s own website at http://ak2uk.com/index.html, where you can see a preview of the film Red Gold.
Andy Higginbottom of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign raised the issue of community removals around the Cerrejon Coal mine in Colombia, 33% owned by Anglo American.
“I have two questions regarding the ongoing situation of several communities negatively affected by the El Cerrejon mine complex in La Guajira, north Colombia.
“We recognise that at last, after the Third Party Review, Cerrejon’s management has begun to engage with the Tabaco community, but point out that the original break up of the community, and the ejection of people from their homes, took place over seven years ago, and that the people concerned are still in poverty and not resettled. Will you proceed directly to implement the process so that it is felt on the ground? I say this in the context of noting that El Cerrejon has earnt over $10 billion for its owners over the intervening period.
“Secondly, will Cerrejon management engage fully and in a respectful, equitable and non-divisive manner with the communities of Remedios, Chancleta, Roche, Patilla, and the Wayuu indigenous community in Tamaquitos? The last seven years have been a catalogue of failure to deal with the substance of the communities’ concerns. Will Cerrejon now engage directly and promptly with all the communities in a respectful and inclusive manner so that they may in fact, and not just as a matter of rhetoric, have some chance of sustainable development?”
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart replied:
“We have been accustomed for some years with the presence of Richard Solly from your Campaign. Mr Solly normally provides his questions a week in advance. Mr Solly accuses us of the most terrible things and when we check we find out something quite other.
“However, as a result of this continued presence we appointed an independent commission into Tabaco. As we said, before we became shareholders there were unsatisfactory things in that case. There is a complex Colombian legal process that we had to go through. Now as a result of the independent panel we have a way forward.
“We have treated the communities with respect and we will treat them with respect.”
Andy Higginbottom asked:
“Is it then a coincidence then that you only began to move seriously on our concerns last year when an OECD complaint was raised against your partners at Cerrejon? Their own response to that complaint, referring to the Remedios community, makes it clear that the first time the Cerrejon management had engaged in dialogue with the community was in May last year.”
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart replied:
“It was only when we met with the people at Remedios that we realised they do not want to be moved. The OECD complaint was raised by one individual. And in my view it is entirely spurious.”
Andy reports that there were other questions from three individual shareholders concerned at the lack of adequate dividend, despite Anglo American’s $10 billion profit in 2008. There was a detailed business question on the platinum mines in South Africa. Moody-Stuart welcomed this last with the comment that he was “very pleased we have some questions at this meeting not on Colombia and the Philippines, but on genuine business issues.”
The native leaders from Alaska were introduced by US organisation Earthworks. They had met the previous day with Sir Mark Moody Stuart and Anglo American’s CEO Cynthia Carroll and were treated with courtesy.
Richard Solly, Co-ordinator of London Mining Network, commented:
“It is not the case that the OECD complaint concerning Cerrejon Coal was raised by only one individual. Australian lawyer Ralph Bleechmore brought a complaint against BHP Billiton to the Australian National Contact Point of the OECD because of its involvement in the Cerrejon mine, and for the same reason the Swiss organisation Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz-Kolumbien brought a complaint against Xstrata to the Swiss OECD National Contact Point. Neither National Contact Point appears to share the view that the complaints were spurious, as they accepted them as warranting consideration. The complaints process has not yet been closed.
“As for accusing Anglo American of terrible things, I have only ever brought to Anglo American AGMs the concerns expressed by the communities with which Colombia Solidarity Campaign has been working in the area of the Cerrejon mine and by Colombian trade unions and other organisations working in support of those communities. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart understandably views matters from a different perspective than those communities and their supporters. He is able eloquently to explain the company’s perspective to shareholders. It seems only right and proper that communities affected by, and dissatisfied with, the company’s operations, should have their concerns aired at the company’s AGMs.”