Today protesters gathered outside commodities and mining giant Glencore Xstrata’s London offices to call for an end to the company’s anti-people, anti-environment practices in the Philippines and worldwide.
Protestors in London were joined worldwide by affected communities, trade unions, NGOs and individuals in a coordinated international protest calling for investors to divest from Glencore and for national legislatures worldwide to take a tougher stance on the company’s abuses.
Speaking on behalf of the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines and UNISON, the UK-based union, a campaigner named Susan described Glencore’s malfeasance:
“We here to protest human rights violations that Glencore is doing in the Philippines. They are digging gold mines without regard for peoples rights or livelihoods… the company have admitted that they’ve given money to military groups that have been committing human rights violations in the Philippines. They are fully aware of what they have done and of our protests, but they deny any wrongdoing.”
Recent protests in the Philippines have focused on Glencore’s planned open pit Tampakan copper-gold mine on the southern island of Mindanao. The last mining venture belonging to a major multinational company in the Philippines, the Tampakan project is slated to produce 2.4 billion tons of copper and gold.
It would also denude 4,000 hectares of land, directly displace 5,000 people and cause another 40,000, mostly farmers, to lose their livelihoods, according to a KALIKASAN Peoples Network for the Environment press release.
Speaking outside Glencore’s headquarters from the picket line, Andy Whitmore from PIPLinks described how Glencore has repeatedly ignored opposition from the B’laan Indigenous people who inhabit the region of the planned mine.
“The Tampakan project has been railroaded through against the Indigenous Peoples wishes. Outside of environmental concerns, including the large amount of rainforest that would be cleared for this project and the potential for disasters with tailings and waste spilling out into local rivers and farmland, the key concern is that indigenous Peoples have the right to give or withold their free prior and informed consent, it’s in the law. Despite the fact that the communities have consistently said no (to the mine) the company is still proceeeding and there have been multiple human rights violations”, he said.
According to Whitmore, Glencore’s disregard for the Indigenous peoples’ right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), as enshrined in the UNDRIPs, to which the Philippines is a signatory, has resulted in the area becoming “highly militarised”.
Glencore has admitted making payments to paramilitaries implicated in the murders of 10 indigenous anti-mining activists since 2010. These include the massacre of B’laan woman Juvy Capion, her two children, aged 8 and 13, and B’laan elder Anteng Freay and his 16 year old son Victor.
Accused by global mining union IndustriAll of “consistent brutality and disrespect for workers rights”, the murders of several filipino trade unionists have also been connected to paramilitaries linked with Glencore.
This brutality has caused the B’laan Indigenous peoples to take up arms in defence of their lands and communities.
Glencore is accused of similar human rights abuses in Colombia, South Africa and other nations. The company has also come under criticism for environmental destruction and contamination.
As well as the direct ecosystem impacts of its mining operations, Glencore is the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal. To boot, it’s operations in forty different countries accounts for 3% of global oil consumption, making the company a major contributor to climate change.
Speaking at the protest in London, Father Claro Conde, a catholic priest, called for action to end Glencore’s environmental abuses.
“Following the inspiration of Pope Francis, the great issue of our day is environment. This is god’s gift to us, the beauty of nature. People in the UK should protest the actions of Glencore. We must pressure the stockholders. Glencore must stop displacing and making money out of my peoples’ suffering.”
Though Glencore operates worldwide, the company is registered to the London Stock Exchange and operates from the tax haven of Jersey. This makes London a critical arena put pressure on the company to clean up its act says Liam Barrington-Bush of London Mining Network.
“London is the global centre for mining finance. Glencore is one of many mining companies registered on the London Stock Exchange that are financially and politically unaccountable to the British public and most importantly to the communities they are destroying. London Mining Network works to bring the voices of communities standing on the front lines to the shareholders and the pubic bodies that can hold these companies to account in the UK.”
Outside Glencore’s offices, campaigners were keen to stress that members of the British public can and should play an active role in opposing Glencore’s activities, in solidarity with communities in the Philippines and beyond.
Andy Whitmore, also a member of the London Mining Network, advised UK citizens to inform themselves about Glencore.
“It’s a company with a bizarre history and one of the worst records in terms of secrecy and sanction busting. Make yourself familiar with the monster that’s sitting here in the heart of London. Then take action where you can, join us on the protests.”
Calling for solidarity that is growing internationally, Susan from CHRP added, “people must imagine a company coming in through their back door and saying, ‘right mate, we are digging something here: gold. Now we’re kicking you out of your home.’ What would people think if that happened here in the UK? People must be aware of such things.”
Whitmore described how a network of organisations and individuals is now organising to challenge Glencore with greater intensity.
“It will be a network focusing specifically Glencore. Right now we are reaching out to those who could share a common platform and discuss different issues and abuses, and come together to campaign globally.”
Despite Glencore’s bleak track record in the Philippines, Whitmore feels that the growing intensity of local and international solidarity and resistance to the Tampakan mine will mean it never becomes a reality.
“There have been huge demonstrations and resistance from local communities. Everything from marches in the streets through to barricades. Glencore is the only major mining multinational left in the Philippines as a result. Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Anglo American have all left… they can’t continue to pursue projects when the local people are so mobilised against them. I actually don’t believe the (Tampakan) mine will go ahead. Glencore themselves have said they don’t have much stomach to continue with it,” he said.
In the struggle to stop Glencore’s deadly mines, local communities and their allies worldwide are proving once again that resistance is fertile.
On Saturday the 16th May the London protest’s organisers are hosting a screening of new documentary Glencore’s Deadly Mine. Join them.
From July 30th-August 1st in Manila, Philippines the inaugural International Peoples Conference on Mining will provide a platform for campaigners wordwide to unite in solidarity and build unified campaigns against mining injustice.