Indigenous leaders & activists visit London this week to challenge BHP over devastating of communities

16 October 2017 - 2:15pm
Press release

From the frontline of the movement for environmental and social justice, our visitors will speak out about the destruction caused by BHP from the Samarco dam disaster in Brazil to forced displacement around the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia and share their stories of resistance. We will be co-hosting a series of events, visitors will be available for media interviews and on 19 October they will be protest outside the BHP annual general meeting. 

If you would like to arrange an interview with one of our visitors or have any questions, please get in touch. Visitor bios are available online here along with further quotes. Click here to view the demands put forward by community campaigns sending representatives to the BHP AGM. Professional photography is also available on request. 

Events:

• Monday, October 16, London – Film screening: The Good Life, 6-9pm (hosted by Native Spirit Film Festival) - Human Rights Consortium, Senate House

• Thursday, October 19, London – BHP AGM Solidarity Demonstration, 11am - Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Westminster

• Thursday, October 19, London – Mining as Necolonialism: Stories of Resistance, 6-9pm - UCL Institute of Education

Angelica Ortiz, indigenous Wayúu woman from the Lomguato Reserve and General Secretary of Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu (Wayúu Women’s Force) said: "Cerrejon Coal, the biggest opencast mine in Colombia, has been present for four decades. More than 32 million tonnes are exported annually. Of this, 11% goes to South America and 46% to Europe. The exploitation and export of this coal, and the company’s intention to double these quantities, have led to the violation of fundamental rights of the African-descent, Wayuu and peasant communities of La Guajira, the second poorest province in the country, which has long suffered the consequences of the social and armed conflict. Around 35 communities have been displaced by mining activity. Just five have been partially resettled. The health and livelihoods of the people have been affected, along with their access to water. The communities and local organizations, in alliance with different sectors of society, have joined forces to denounce the environmental and territorial implications of mineral extraction and to seek alternatives for the defence of life, land and water."

Seb Ordonez Munoz, War on Want’s Senior International Programmes Officer (Latin America) said: “BHP's record of catastrophic environmental damage and forced displacement of indigenous and afro-descendant communities stretches back decades. Despite a rhetoric of social responsibility, communities are still being forced violently from their homes, with no certainty about their future. Corporations like BHP are at the heart of the fossil fuel industry, unscathed and unaccountable. Meanwhile, at a global moment of mega-storms, record temperatures and droughts, people living in affected communities are on the frontline of a planetary struggle for all our futures. But in such an unequal world it is they, the poor and indigenous people, who bear the brunt of the fallout, both of fossil fuel extraction and the catastrophic global warming it’s unleashing.” 

During the week, London Mining Network will also release its report on the Samarco dam disaster which devastated communities all along the Rio Doce river system in Brazil. Around 1.4 million people are seeking urgent action to remediate ecosystems and restore livelihoods. The River is Dead: the impact of the catastrophic failure of the Fundão tailings dam, by researcher Paul Robson, examines the impacts on people's lives through lost lives, homes and livelihoods, plus the efforts of Samarco’s owners to tackle those impacts. For more information, contact London Mining Network. 

Press Contacts

War on Want: Marienna Pope-Weidemann

mweidemann@waronwant.org 020 7324 5060

London Mining Network: Lydia James

lydia@londonminingnetwork.org

 

Notes for editors

 

COLOMBIA

Mining company Cerrejón is a major supplier of coal to UK power stations. It has been exploring, exploiting and exporting coal in the northern región of La Guajira for 40 years. During this time it has caused great damage as well as social, environmental, economic and cultural impacts that today still remain unresolved. There has been a systematic violation of the rights of African-descent, indigenous Wayuu and peasant communities in La Guajira, who have not been compensated adequately  for the damage, and now face situations of concern mainly regarding the following points: water, air, health, resettlement and prior consultation.

 

BRAZIL

The second anniversary of Brazil’s worst environmental disaster is approaching, when the deadly Fundão tailings dam breached in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais (MG), killing 20 people and decimating an entire river ecosystem. Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), a coalition of local communities impacted by Brazil’s thousands of dam projects have issued demands for Brazilian mining company Samarco and parent companies Anglo-Australian BHP, and Brazilian Vale, and The Renova Foundation (a non-profit organisation funded by Samarco, BHP Brazil and Vale, which was set up in the aftermath of the disaster). The demands centre around several territorial disputes along the basin of the Rio Doce, which was contaminated by the dam breach. 

 

UNITED STATES

British-Australian mining company Rio Tinto and BHP are proposing the expansion of their mining project, the Resolution Copper Mine (RCM), in the Southwestern state of Arizona. Communities are opposing the RCM method of Block Caving mining (underground hard rock mining that allows the ore body to collapse under its own weight – the underground version of open pit mining) and the resulting environmental destruction if this project moves forward. Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition, a group of citizens who live in or have connections with the town affected, Superior, partially support the mining industry as a regional economic base but completely oppose the RCM method of Block Caving mining and the resulting environmental destruction if this project moves forward.

 

About War on Want

War on Want is a membership organisation of people who are committed to social justice. War on Want’s vision is a world free from poverty and oppression, based on social justice, equality and human rights for all. War on Want works in partnership with grassroots social movements, trade unions and workers’ organisations to empower people to fight for their rights. It runs hard-hitting popular campaigns against the root causes of poverty and human rights violation.

 

About London Mining Network

London Mining Network is an alliance of 30 development, environmental human rights and solidarity organisations, including War on Want and Colombia Solidarity Campaign, concerned about the negative impacts of mining companies based in, or funded from, London, the world's premier centre of mining finance.

 

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