Demonstrators to challenge Anglo American’s greenwashing tactics at shareholders’ meeting

26 April 2019 - 12:45pm
Press release

Press release - for immediate release

A coalition of organisations are set to take on Anglo American at its AGM on April 30, from 1.15 - 2.45pm at QEII Centre, Westminster.

While climate activists take to the streets in the UK and beyond, campaigners will challenge Anglo American for the deceptive greenwashing of its operations, in solidarity with frontline communities. In attending the London-listed company’s annual general meeting, healthcare workers with global health charity, Medact, will also highlight the health impacts of the company’s activities.

The mining giant’s ‘FutureSmart Mining’ strategy, announced last year, vowed to ‘change’ perceptions of sustainability across the industry. But reality tells a very different story as the state of current projects, and planned expansions, place communities and the planet at ever-greater risk.

The company promises ambitious targets, including to reduce greenhouse gases by 30% and reduce the extraction of freshwater in water-scarce regions by 50%, aiming towards ‘waterless mines’ and ‘carbon-neutral mining’. But Anglo American’s metallurgical and thermal coal projects, the most polluting fossil fuel projects, across the world will remain central to their operations despite token efforts to sugar-coat this with a reduction in their operational GHG-emissions.

Policy documents and communications are peppered with language which highlights the role that copper – one of their ‘strategic’ assets – will play as an ‘enabler’ of the transition to a low-carbon renewable-energy future. However, recently published research, by Earthworks and the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS), shows that demand for copper in the renewable energy sector is currently insignificant. Rather, demand will be driven primarily by the construction, infrastructure and electronics industries.

What is certain is that new and expanded copper projects will result in a proliferation of mining conflicts. War on Want’s report, The Rivers are Bleeding: British Mining in Latin America, registers 56 operations linked to UK-based companies, of which 32 have documented ongoing conflicts, ranging from displacement to contamination, violent repression and - in some cases - the assassination of human rights defenders.

Asad Rehman, director of campaigning organisation, War on Want said: “It will be the communities that have historically had to bear the violence of fossil fuel extraction who now have to face the next wave of colonial expansion doused in ‘green’ language. This abject greenwashing not only kicks the can down the road when no road is left, but it actively targets the groups leading the fight to halt catastrophic climate change.”

One of the projects is Anglo American’s flagship copper operation in Chile, Los Bronces, which is currently undergoing a $3bn upgrade process. AngloAmerican recently announced that it would scrap the huge expansion project if studies indicated the plan could harm nearby glaciers or if there was major opposition from local communities in Chile. (1)

However, the recent defeat of a Glacier-Protection Bill in the Chilean Congress, makes this scenario highly unlikely as it gives mining the green light. Tellingly, AngloAmerican only made their announcement after the bill had been dropped. (2)

Marcela Mella, President of No Alto Maipo Citizen Organisation, Chile, said: “In Chile, the mining council and other transnational and national corporations have relentlessly lobbied different Chilean governments for many years to avoid any law that protects our glaciers. This is because the fresh water available in the glaciers is very attractive for the extractive economy of transnational mining. It is those interests which have prevented any effective legislation, nothing else.”

In Peru, the company has invested $5bn in its Quellaveco project, which is already raising serious concerns. It will extract 85,000 tons per day of copper for 32 years and extract vast amounts of water in an area which is considered at high risk of drought and is heavily impacted by climate change. The Quellaveco project will also divert the Asana river through a tunnel. (3)  

Moquegua community leader, Peru, said: "This project is becoming one of the largest ecocides in Moquegua and Peru since it is located in the middle of the Asana river, one of the few sources of pure water. This project does not respect the water contingency areas because it will impact 30 water sources.”

This inconsistency is even more pronounced when considering Anglo American’s systematic abuse of the human rights of indigenous and afro-descendant communities affected by the Colombian Cerrejon open-cast coal mine operation, of which the company owns a one-third share.

Guppi Bola, interim director of global health charity, Medact, said: "Communities in La Guajira, Colombia, have faced serious health impacts, forced removal, poor quality relocation settlements, loss of livelihood, loss of water sources, environmental contamination and threats against community leaders. Despite all this, there have been important developments in community opposition; with tutelas (appeals), court orders, and litigation cases against the company. Anglo American’s second sustainability pillar – thriving communities – is being met successfully by fierce community resistance.”

Investors such as the Norwegian hedge-fund, Stranford, have excluded Anglo American from its investor list due to its ‘serious climate and environmental damage’, calling out the industry’s greenwashing of their image to piggy-back the very real need to avert catastrophic climate change.

Co-organised by: Medact, War on Want, London Mining Network, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Coal Action Network, Decolonising Environmentalism, Women of Colour GWS

Press contacts:

Deirdre Duff, Medact: deirdreduff@medact.org

Lydia James, London Mining Network: lydia@londonminingnetwork.org

Tim Chuah, War on Want: tchuah@waronwant.org    

Notes

1. Anglo American’s Chilean operation, Los Bronces, stands accused of leading to the disappearance of two glaciers, and of significantly speeding up the melting process of the glaciers around the impact-area of its operations. The project is situated less than 50 miles from Chile’s capital, Santiago, where communities are vehemently opposed to the expansion of mining in Chile’s Andean glaciers.

2. Mining on Chilie’s glaciers leads to an increase in micro-seismic activity, and the dust and heat generated from the mining process speeds up the melting of the glaciers as these become airborne and are deposited on the snowy mountain-tops. Andean glaciers regulate the hydrological cycle which feeds the main tributaries to the Mapocho river, the capital’s principal water source. Faster melting-rates could seriously impact the river’s cycle in the short, medium and long-term, with devastating consequences for the 6 million Chileans living in Santiago - 40% of Chile’s entire population.

3. Fabiola Muñoz, the former Anglo American manager of communications and media, is now Peru's Environment Minister (as of July 2018), the same time when Quellaveco was approved to start its operations in the Moquegua region, in southern Peru.

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