Top UK firm 'profits from abuse, murders'

31 July 2007 - 5:39pm
Press release

Consumers are today warned that a leading British company is profiting from a pattern of global abuse and brutality against poor people, including the murder of opponents who say the firm's mining operations threaten their livelihoods.

In a new report the charity War on Want cites the killing of community leaders who headed local opposition to Anglo American operations in Colombia, where the army and death squads forced people off their land.

Leading retailers including Tiffany and Cartier have signed up to basic ethical standards devised for gold mining companies by global campaigners, entitled the Golden Rules. These standards include the rule that companies should not mine in areas of armed or militarised conflict, for fear of inflaming existing tensions.

But according to the report, Anglo American's subsidiary in Colombia is seeking to initiate operations in the conflict-hit San Lucas mountains. Local groups claim 2,300 people have been displaced from their land and communities have suffered arbitrary arrests, pillage, threats, the burning of houses and extrajudicial executions. The execution victims include community organiser Leider de Jesus Casrillon Sarmiento and miners' leader Alejandro Uribe, who had opposed Anglo American's operations and demanded the authorities investigate the killing of another union chief.

The report follows days after British prime minister Gordon Brown launched a new campaign with Anglo American among 20 companies which have signed a declaration to redouble efforts within a year towards meeting the UN's anti-poverty goals.

It comes on the day Anglo American, the world mining giant promoted by the UK government as a model for corporate social responsibility, announces its half-year results after profits rose by 76 per cent in 2006 to $6.2 billion.

It also claims Anglo American is profiting at the expense of poor communities in conflict situations in the Philippines and five African countries - Botswana, Ghana, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. War on Want claims that Anglo American's presence is fuelling conflict and human rights abuses by state security forces, with terrible results.

In South Africa poor black farmers from the village of Maandagshoek near the Modikwa mine of the company's subsidiary Anglo Platinum are trying to stop its encroachment onto their land. Anglo Platinum sent a drilling team onto the community's land and was confronted with more than 100 protestors. The next day police arrested community leaders and ordered the crowd to disperse. When the crowd became restive, the police opened fire. Some 26 people were reportedly taken to hospital - eight with rubber bullet wounds and one hit by live ammunition.

In the Philippines, amid conflict between the government's military and left-wing guerrilla forces, critics of mining projects and policies have been killed and targeted for execution. Leaders of the campaign against Anglo American exploration in the Cordillera region believe their lives are in danger as a result of their opposition to the project. The Buaya people, among the tribes opposed to the presence of the company's subsidiary, Cordillera Exploration, fears the loss of farmland, forests and rivers and their cultural identity as a result of the mining.

War on Want is calling for UK government regulation to prevent companies such as Anglo American from fuelling conflict situations and human rights abuses. This would include providing those harmed by the overseas activities of UK multinationals with the right to seek legal redress in Britain.

Louise Richards, Chief Executive at War on Want, said: "Anglo American, one of Britain's biggest companies, is fuelling conflict and causing misery for many people in the developing world. Gordon Brown this week urged the business community to get involved with efforts to meet the UN anti-poverty goals. If the British prime minister wants to help the poor, he must introduce legislation to protect them from companies like Anglo American."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office - (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728


  • The report can be downloaded here
  • Broadcast-quality film/audio on the Anglo American mining controversy in Colombia is available from Paul Collins
  • Still photographs from the film are also available





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