Sunday, December 21, 2008

UK government withdraws support for GCM’s mining project in Bangladesh

World Development Movement, December 19, 2008

Minister backtracks on previous statements over controversial mine project following campaign by WDM

UK company Global Coal Management Resources’ (GCM) plans to build an open-cast coal mine in Phulbari, north-west Bangladesh appeared in jeopardy after a UK government minister withdrew official support for the project. If built the mine would take away the land of more than 40,000 people, and compromise the water supply of a further 100,000.

Since the start of 2008, the Asian Development Bank, Barclays and RBS have all withdrawn from investing in the project. However in April 2008 a parliamentary answer revealed UK government support for the project.

Gareth Thomas, Chairman of the Cooperative Party and UK Minister for International Development and Minister for Business said:

“We have provided support to Global Coal Management Resources PLC, through the British high commission in Dhaka. They have lobbied to ensure that the Government of Bangladesh take the company’s interests into consideration and do not prohibit opencast mining. The British high commission will continue to remain in touch with the company and will represent their interests as appropriate.”

In a further parliamentary answer Gareth Thomas stated:

“BERR officials have held regular discussions with officials from the Department for International Development on this subject, both in the UK and the British high commission in Dhaka.”

Since September 2008, WDM supporters have been emailing Gareth Thomas about the mine. In a bizarre game of ‘ping pong’ these emails have been bounced between both BERR and DfID. With responses from both departments requesting that the other be contacted.

On the 18th of November 2008, WDM finally received a response from Gareth Thomas, revealing a different approach to the mine:

“UKTI is not currently actively supporting GCM’s proposed project in Bangladesh”

He goes on to mention that “The British Government is committed to encouraging businesses to operate responsibly”

WDM welcomes the change in position, but will continue to monitor the situation to make sure there is no future UK government lobbying on behalf of GCM.

For more information and to take action go to:

Take Action

Kate Blagojevic
Press officer, World Development Movement
0207 820 4900/4913, 07711 875 345


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Overwhelming thumbs-down given to UK mining project

London Mining Network

In August 2006, protestors against the Phulbari coal project were mown down by paramilitaries in Northern Bangladesh. This week, the UK company backing the project faces detailed expert criticisms, claiming the mine is both environmentally and socially unacceptable.

This morning, members of the Bangladeshi community in Britain, together with representatives of London Mining Network and World Development Movement, were present outside the AGM of the Phulbari project’s proponent, GCM Resources plc, to make clear to shareholders and the media the damage which the project would do if it were to go ahead. Bangladesh community in UK attended the AGM together with a representative of WDM. They told the company that if it attempts to construct a mine at Phulbari it will be faced with massive resistance by thousands of local people, some of whom have said that they would rather die than allow the project to go ahead. The company’s directors attempted unsuccessfully to convince them of the alleged advantages of the project and assured him that, despite the belief that the Government of Bangladesh had cancelled GCM Resources’ contract, the contract is still valid. Representatives of the Bangladeshi community to be allowed to inspect the contract at the company’s offices. If it is still valid, Bangladeshi organisations and community members will pressure the Government of Bangladesh to cancel it. Directors leaving the AGM will have been left in no doubt about the strength of feeling against the project within the Bangldeshi community.

For a summary of concerns about the project, see London Mining Network.

Nostromo Research’s critique of the project’s Environment and Social Impact Assessment.

For the International Accountability Project’s critique of the project’s draft Resettlement Programme.

Contact London Mining Network for further details. E-mails:

Campaigners demand UK coal company withdraw support for destructive Bangladeshi mine

International Accountability Project and World Development Movement, December 16th, 2008

Bangladeshi activists, and campaigners from the London Mining Network and the World Development Movement are protesting outside UK coal company, Global Coal Management PLC’s AGM today demanding an end to its destructive coal mining operation in Bangladesh. The meeting will be held at 10.00 a.m. at Sceptre Court, 40 Tower Hill, London EC3.[1]

“Phulbari is a splendid example of a project that should not go ahead. The fact that it is being proposed by a London-based company and has been supported by the British Government’s Department for International Development shows why we in London have to increase pressure on companies and government to act responsibly” said Richard Solly, Co-ordinator of the London Mining Network.

Murray Benham, Head of Campaigns at the World Development Movement said: ”Open cast mining will destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people. We are here to demonstrate our opposition to this disgraceful project, proposed by a British company, and supported by the British government. Such a scheme should have no place in 21st century energy production.”

GCM Resources has been preparing the 6,000 hectare, open-cast coal mine in the northwest area of Bangladesh for over 3 years. Eighty percent of the land that would be taken for the project is agricultural land and would force the eviction, relocation and re-employment of at least 40,000 people and disrupt the water supply of a further 100,000 people.

“GCM does not have any lawful contract for mining coal in Phulbari,” said Professor Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources in Bangladesh. “Moreover, after the community’s unprecedented resistance against the Phulbari coal mine project, the government signed an agreement with the people to cancel all contracts with the company and to ban open-pit mining in the country. In Phulbari and in general throughout the country, people have issued a public verdict against the company; they have given their lives to resist the company because of the disastrous nature of this project.”

“The project’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment is full of vague assurances,” said Roger Moody of Nostromo Research.[2]

“Land scarcity is a significant issue in this project,” said Jennifer Kalafut from the International Accountability Project.[3] “The project would turn tens of thousands of farmers into landless wage laborers. GCM Resources has provided no meaningful analysis or plans on how to prevent the impoverishment of those who will be displaced.”

Notes to Editor

[1] The GCM Resources plc AGM will be held at 10.00 a.m. on 16 December 2008 at the offices of Trowers & Hamlins LLP, Sceptre Court, 40 Tower Hill, London EC3N 4DX.

[2] Nostromo Research and Bank Information Center, Phulbari Coal: A Parlous Project, 12 November 2008, available at:

[3] International Accountability Project and Bank Information Center, Phulbari Coal Project: An Assessment of the Draft Resettlement Plan Prepared by GCM Resources, August 2008, available at:

For more information, contact:

Kate Blagojevic, World Development Movement Press Officer, 020 7820 4900, 07711875345

Richard Solly, London Mining Network, 0792 9023214

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Phulbari Coal Project: critique of environment plans sets off alarms

UK-based GCM Resources' ESIA of Bangladesh coal mine offers no comfort

Bank Information Center, 11 December 2008 | Washington, DC

The Phulbari Coal Project threatens numerous dangers and potential damages, ranging from the degradation of a major agricultural region in Bangladesh to pollution of the world's largest wetlands. The project's Summary Environmental Impact Assessment, and its full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment are replete with vague assurances, issuing many promises of future mitigation measures.

A report commissioned by Bank Information Center titled "Phulbari Coal: A Parlous Project" written by Roger Moody of Nostromo Research, UK makes the case that the integrated Phulbari coal mine, coal rail-river transport and coastal coal offloading project in Bangladesh is of such dimensions that it would prove highly challenging to implement in any country. It poses not only numerous socio-environmental problems, but also demands a highly sophisticated degree of regulatory adhesion, long-term monitoring and component implementation. The Asian Development Bank, which was actively considering funding the project until civil society organizations drew attention to its ill-prepared environment and social plans, would do well to support the development of a less controversial energy alternative for the country.

BIC’s objective in commissioning this report was to provide Bangladeshi and international civil society organizations with user friendly expert critiques of the environmental and social assessments prepared by GCM/Asia Energy. A critique of GCM/Asia Energy’s Involuntary Resettlement Plan for the Project was also commissioned by BIC and is publicly available on its website.

Summary of key points of Report:

The Phulbari Coal Project threatens numerous dangers and potential damages. These include the degradation of a major agricultural region in Bangladesh at a time of soaring food prices; pollution of the world's largest wetlands; and a significant contribution to adverse global climate change.

The project's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment is full of vague assurances. It makes many promises of future mitigation measures that are inadequately defined and will almost certainly not be thoroughly implemented.

The managing company, GCM Resources plc (Asia Energy), clearly has insufficient practical experience of a project of this magnitude.

Both the “Precautionary Principle” and that of “Inter-generational Equity” will be severely compromised if the mine proceeds according to its present design.

The mine will profoundly affect both the quantity and quality of water available in the area of the mine footprint.

The likelihood of uncontrolled acid rock drainage has - by the project proponents own admission - not been adequately assessed; nor has the risk of a serious seismic event in the mine area.

The project will cause a significant increase in emissions of airborne particulate matter with a direct impact on peoples’ health

There is little evidence that project managers have the capacity to ensure that proposed rehabilitation measures will actually work


Phulbari: A Parlous Project, prepared by Nostromo Research, November 12, 2008 (Acrobat pdf, 368 KB)