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Since the start of 2008, the Asian Development Bank, Barclays and RBS have all withdrawn from investing in the project.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:
Press officer, World Development Movement
0207 820 4900/4913, 07711 875 345