Urge Bangladesh to Ban Open-pit Coal Mining in Phulbari

Urge Bangladesh to Ban Open-pit Coal Mining in Phulbari

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February 8, 2011

The London-based mining company Global Coal Management Resources (GCM) has managed to re-open negotiations with the government of Bangladesh over their proposed Phulbari open-pit coal mine, a project that would negatively impact, according to some estimates, up to 470,000 people.

GCM fled from the Phulbari region in 2006, after the Bangladesh government promised to ban open-pit coal mining and expel the mining company, which was then known as Asia Energy Corporation.

Just prior to the agreement, in August 2006, tens of thousands of people issued a resounding “NO” to the project, which would have been the largest open pit coal mine in the world. As reported at the time, “Hundreds of paramilitary forces—BDR, police and other security agencies—heavily guarded the offices of Asia Energy.” BDR then opened fire on the crowd, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. From that point on, the government had no choice but to concede to the villagers’ demands.

Unfortunately, after five years of waiting, the government still hasn’t fulfilled those promises. And now, Cultural Survival (CS) reports, they’re planning to introduce a new coal policy by June 2011. “Global Coal expects to be in business soon thereafter,” says CS.

more maps available at http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/bangladesh/maps

According to GCM’s own estimates, 40,000 people would be displaced by the mine, including 2,200 Indigenous people.

However, “A government-sponsored study estimates that 130,000 people in over 100 villages would be immediately displaced and another 100,000 would gradually be forced to leave as their wells and irrigation canals run dry from the mining,” explains CS. Other groups say that anywhere up to 470,000 people would be directly and indirectly effected, including 50,000 Indigenous people from 23 different tribal groups.

According to Bank Track, the project would also lay waste to “1,577 ponds (used to earn income through sale of fish); 80,000 fruit and timber trees (plus many thousands of bamboo sticks); 928 businesses; 36,052 homes, barns, boundary walls and toilets; 106 schools; 48 health facilities; 138 mosques, temples and churches; 692 graveyards; and 2 ancient archaeological sites.”

In light of these obviously-unacceptable risks; and the fact that GCM has managed to re-open talks with the government (not to mention recent revelations concerning US diplomats putting pressure on the government) we can be sure that local opposition to open pit coal mining is going to grow once more.

Show your support for the people of Phulbari by sending a letter to Bangladesh officials, urging them to fulfil their promises and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Cultural Survival has put together a model letter (and a list of contacts), which you can find at: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/bangladesh-ban-coal-mine-save-forests-and-farms.

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