The full Fanning the Flames report by War on Want can be downloaded here. Here is an extract from it:
The global mining industry is enjoying an unprecedented boom period, with many companies posting record profits as a result of soaring commodity prices. The UK is doing particularly well: the three largest mining companies in the world are all British, while London provides much of the finance for the industry as well as hosting a major share of global metals trading. The British government has regularly championed the cause of British mining companies across the world.
Many developing countries, on the other hand, have experienced the negative side of mining. Armed groups have often enriched themselves through minerals extraction, doing deals with companies and using the revenues to fuel civil wars. Human rights violations have occurred where security forces paid to protect mining assets have attacked local communities and anti-mining activists. There is now an established pattern in country after country where local people have been forced off their land by mining projects, and those protesting have been intimidated, beaten or shot.
Lawyers have distinguished between three types of corporate complicity in such abuses. ‘Silent complicity’ is held to exist where companies fail to speak out against clear patterns of human rights violation in the areas where they are operating. ‘Beneficial complicity’ pertains when companies are the beneficiaries of human rights abuses committed by state forces – as in many of the cases described in this report. ‘Direct complicity’ occurs when a company provides assistance to a body which then commits a human rights violation. In countries such as Colombia and the Philippines, anti-mining activists and local communities are faced with an ever-present threat from military and paramilitary forces. In both countries, protesters have been murdered for their opposition to corporate mining activities. Yet British companies continue to operate in such conflict zones, often benefiting from the intimidation caused by armed security groups.
In India, tribal peoples are trying to defend their lands and their livelihoods against the threat of operations by British mining companies such as Vedanta. The Norwegian government has now withdrawn its investments in Vedanta as a mark of concern at the company’s Indian operations. According to the Council of Ethics which advises the government’s pension fund,Vedanta “seems to be lacking the interest and will to do anything about the severe and lasting damage that its activities inflict on people and the environment.”
Local communities face similar threats as a result of British mining companies’ operations in other countries across Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific island states. British companies have entered into partnerships with repressive regimes in Tibet and Uzbekistan, while local protests against UK mining activities in countries such as Bangladesh, Peru, Argentina, South Africa,West Papua, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have met with varying degrees of human rights abuse.
War on Want believes that the UK government must acknowledge the harm being done to local communities in developing countries as a result of British mining companies’ activities. Relying on voluntary codes of conduct and self regulation to police the extractives industry has been shown to
be ineffective, and the government must now take action to make mining companies accountable both nationally and globally. War on Want calls on the UK government to introduce new rights of redress in the UK and to support binding standards for corporate accountability at the international level. Only through such action will we be able to tackle corporate complicity in conflict and human rights abuse.
The full Fanning the Flames report by War on Want can be downloaded here.