Last week, GAF London went out for a bit of subvertising on the Underground to expose some of the worst corporations contributing to climate breakdown and environmental destruction.
Across several Tube lines, we put up posters laying bare the devastation caused by members of the London-based International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). For more details on this, see our previous post about the ICMM and the coal industry.
If you’d like to do something similar, you can download our Tube posters below and do some adhacking of your own!
Over the course of about 3 hours, we managed to put up 60 posters, which was as many as our funds allowed. Unfortunately we live in a capitalist society where everything comes with a price tag, and while our aims are big, our pockets are small.
If you believe these kinds of projects are worthwhile and would like to help us do more of them, we would really appreciate a small financial contribution to our Open Collective account. You can also support our work by following and signal boosting us on social media, by starting your own GAF, and by talking to the people in your life about green anti-capitalism—this struggle will only be won if everybody gets involved in whatever way they are able to!
London hides in its streets the offices of more companies and organisations that run the world than most people know. The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) is located just off Oxford street in an unremarkable and unmarked office building. In solidarity with Ende Gelaende‘s struggle for system change and an end to coal mining in Germany, we want to draw attention to the ICMM’s involvement in the coal industry in particular.
The ICMM is the mining industry’s key lobbying organization and counts as its members companies who are profiting off plundering the earth and destroying our climate. Here, we give just a glimpse of the devastation inflicted upon people and the environment by ICMM members. The large-scale exploitation of people and planet for the profit of companies like these must be stopped. GAF stands in solidarity with movements around the world resisting the destruction brought by the mining industry.
Anglo American Plc is a British multinational mining company based in London. The company has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
In 2018, its CEO Mark Cutifani was paid £14.67m, technical chief Tony O’Neill £8.17m, CFO Stephen Pearce £7.4m, the three-year shareholder returns were 285% and the company’s revenue was £21.28bn and its operating profit £4.7bn.
AngloAmerican is one of the joint owners of the Cerrejón coal mine.
Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia
Cerrejón is a large open-pit coal mine in northern Colombia. The mine is one of the biggest of its kind and extends over 690 square kilometres (270 sq mi). The mine is owned by three giant UK-listed mining companies: BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore. All of which receive billions of pounds in finance from UK banks and pension funds.
Its steady expansion since its founding in 1976 has led to the destruction of whole villages populated by local indigenous and Afro-Colombian people. The Cerrejón mine is in Wayúu indigenous territory and when mining began local people were not consulted. Instead, their lands were seized, and communities were forcibly displaced, violating their constitutional land rights. Pollution and dust from the coal mine has contaminated water supplies and the air.
Indigenous groups report that their traditional lifestyle has been badly affected, soil pollution has caused failed crops, fishing areas have been contaminated and displacement has disturbed inter-community relations. Roche, Chancleta, Tamaquitos, Manantial, Tabaco, Palmarito, El Descanso, Caracoli, Zarahita, Patilla. These are the names of just some of the communities that have been devastated or simply wiped off the map by the Cerrejón mining project.
In June 2020, lawyers for the local Wayúu community lodged a request to the United Nation special rapporteur for work to be immediately halted over environmental and human rights concerns.
Address: Nova South, 160 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5LB
BHP is an Anglo-Australian mining and petroleum company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is the world’s largest mining company, with 30 operations in 13 different countries around the world. It is among the top 25 fossil fuel producers worldwide.
In 2019, its CEO Andrew Mackenzie was paid £2.72m and the company made a net profit of £6.4Bn.
BHP is co-owner of the mining company that runs the Mariana dam.
Mariana (or Samarco) Dam Disaster in Brazil
On the 5th of November 2015, the Fundão tailings dam at the Germano iron ore mine of the Samarco Mariana Mining Complex in south-eastern Brazil suffered a catastrophic failure, resulting in flooding that devastated the downstream villages of Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo, killing 19 people. The extent of the damage caused by the tailings dam collapse is the largest ever recorded, with pollutants spread along 668 kilometres (415 mi) of watercourses.
The failure of the dam released 43.7 million cubic metres of mine tailings into the Doce River, causing a toxic brown mudflow to pollute the river and beaches near the mouth when it reached the Atlantic Ocean 17 days later. The disaster created a humanitarian crisis as 700 people were displaced and cities along the Doce River suffered water shortages when their water supplies were polluted.
Samarco, the mining company involved in the disaster, is co-owned by BHP and Brazilian firm Vale. In 2016, charges of manslaughter and environmental damage were filed against 21 executives. In 2019, a £3.8bn claim for damages over the dam collapse was raised against BHP Billiton by 235,000 Brazilian people and organisations, including municipal governments, indigenous tribes, utility companies and the Catholic Church. It claims BHP failed to act on repeated warnings from independent experts about the dam’s integrity.
Address: 50 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8HD (reportedly will move to 18 Hanover Square, W1S 1HD later in the second half of 2020)
Glencore is the largest company in Switzerland and the world’s largest commodities trading company. It is one of the world’s leading integrated producers. In 2013, Glencore merged with Xstrata, the world’s largest coal mining company, and as of 2013, it ranked twelfth in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies.
In 2019, the CEO Ivan Glasenberg was paid £1.16m, but owns 8.4 per cent of Glencore stock, and the company was worth UK£19b.
Glencore’s long history of dirty dealings puts most other companies to shame.
Tax avoidance, sanctions busting and interference in governments and armed conflicts
Its founder, Marc Rich, defied international trade embargoes to do business with embargoed regimes, including Iran during the hostage crisis, Libya under Ghaddafi, Chile under Pinochet, and apartheid South Africa. The company also did deals with North Korea’s Kim Il Sung, Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic and the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos, and through convicted money launderer Gilbert Chagoury, with Sani Abacha in Nigeria. The CIA found that Glencore had paid $3,222,780 in illegal kickbacks to obtain oil in the course of the UN oil-for-food programme for Iraq. In the 1980s, they worked with the Israeli secret service, Mossad, to set up a secret pipeline to sell Iranian oil to Israel. As a result, its founder, Marc Rich, was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for almost 20 years.
The McArthur River mine in Australia has not paid royalties to the government since it opened in 1995. Glencore subsidiary Prodeco is accused of financing a paramilitary group in Colombia between 1996 and 2006, during the country’s armed conflict in an attempt to control the carbon industry. In 2011, the company was accused of tax evasion in Zambia that cost the Zambian Government hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. In 2015, Glencore was fined in South Africa for supplying substandard coal to the utility company Eskom. In 2017, it was accused by the government of Ghana of illegally importing and reselling petroleum products. In 2017, the US tax office ruled that Glencore had understated its taxable income by diverting US$190 million offshore. In 2017, the London Metal Exchange fined Glencore US$1.4 million for falsifying warehouse documents. In 2018, the UK Court of Appeal upheld sanctions against Glencore for tax evasion. In 2018, Glencore received a subpoena from the US Department of Justice in relation to money laundering and non-compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2019, the U.S. Commodity Future Trading Commission notified the company of an investigation into whether the company violated parts of the Commodity Exchange Act, or regulations concerning corrupt practices related to commodities.
Glencore has also bullied governments, suing Bolivia and Colombia through Investor-State Dispute Settlements, and using oil-backed loans to control resources in Chad, leaving the country in a financial crisis. Its subsidiary Xstrata faces a lawsuit in the UK after allegedly paying the police force in Peru to attack protesters. And its subsidiary Katanga is subject to legal proceedings in both the US and Canada for giving false statements to investors.
And this is just scratching the surface of Glencore’s dirty practices and without even touching on its multiple human rights abuses, workers’ rights violations and accusations of profiteering off child labour.
South32 is a mining and metals company headquartered in Perth, Western Australia. It was spun out of BHP Billiton on 25 May 2015. The company is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange with secondary listings on the Johannesburg bourse and the London market.
In 2019, the company had a market capitalisation of £6.75bn and paid its CEO Graham Kerr £5.4m.
South32 is one of the chief companies responsible for the polluting of South Africa.
Poisoning Mpumalanga district in South Africa
South Africa currently generates 90 percent of its electricity through coal, yet air pollution from coal-fired power stations kills more than 2,200 South Africans every year and causes thousands of cases of bronchitis and asthma in adults and children annually. South32 is the fourth highest emitter of greenhouse gasses in South Africa. South32 has 4 energy coal mines and associated processing plants near the towns of Emalahleni and Middleburg in Mpumalanga.
The province of Mpumalanga accounts for 83% of South Africa’s coal production and the Highveld region is the most polluted of the world due to the mining industry and power stations. The city of Emalahleni within the province has more than 22 collieries in the municipal radius and the dirtiest air in the world. As a result, it was declared a “High Priority Area” by the South African government in 2007. Energy production through coal releases sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxides and particulate matter at levels that exceed the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.
Mpumalanga contains at least 6,000 abandoned mines that are spilling acid water and heavy metals into the environment. In some areas, coal seems to have been burning underground for decades, and sinkholes and polluted groundwater from abandoned mines are a hazard to the surrounding communities. Decades of coal mining have poisoned the landscape and driven the Olifants River to a crisis point, with the Limpopo river on a similar track. Acid mine drainage from coal mining areas has had a devastating impact on water resources, with acidification of rivers and streams, elevated metal levels and consequent fish die-offs. The pH levels in the region are below 1, indicating high acidity, and residents say that birds fall dead from the sky when they fly over the area.
However, none of this energy is produced for the locals. As children play on the old mine dumps, adults collect the coal waste for domestic fires. There are millions of households in South Africa who don’t have access to power, although the wires supplying the mines are visible from where they live.
Teck Resources Limited, known as Teck Cominco until late 2008, is Canada’s largest diversified natural resources company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Teck Resources was formed from the amalgamation of Teck and Cominco in 2001.
The company is the second largest seaborne exporter of steelmaking coal. In 2019 the company made £9.18m in revenue, paid its CEO Don Lindsay £5.09m and its Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Ronald Millos £7.61m.
Teck has been poisoning British Columbia for the last century.
Destroying British Columbia and poisoning Indigenous peoples in Canada
In 2018, Teck produced 26.2 million tonnes of coal from six mines (five of which are open-pit) in southeastern British Columbia and western Alberta, with most of it exported to countries in the Asia-Pacific region. To get at the coal, the company uses a technique called cross-valley fill, which in practice, looks a lot like mountain-top removal mining. Workers dig into hillsides, creating massive, terraced craters, flattening mountains and filling valleys with massive heaps of rock.
These massive open-pit coal mines are leaching high concentrations of selenium into the Elk River watershed, causing one of the biggest selenium contaminations in the world, damaging fish populations and contaminating drinking water. It was discovered in the autumn of 2019 that 93% of adult trout had disappeared in the last two years from Fording River, where Teck’s largest mine is located. Long-term water pollution flowing from Teck’s coal mines is a danger also downstream in Lake Koocanusa, through the Kootenai River in Montana and Idaho, and right back into Canada in Creston. There are also concerns about carbon emissions, travel routes used by grizzly bears moving along the Continental Divide, destruction of mountain grasslands important for bighorn sheep, and First Nations’ rights.
The subsistence fishermen and First Nations who eat fish caught downstream from sources of pollution have high blood concentrations of selenium, and in the communities nearest to the mines selenium is contaminating drinking water. In humans, chronic exposure to high selenium concentrations can cause nausea, fatigue, skin lesions, neurological disorders and intestinal problems. In other animals, high levels of the element have been shown to cause liver damage, paralysis, and even death.
Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation – which is comprised of 12 indigenous groups and located across the border in Washington State – brought a lawsuit against Teck in 2004 claiming the company had dumped 140,000 tons of slag directly into rivers adjacent to its Trail smelter between 1896 and 1995, polluting the surface water, ground water and sediment of the upper Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt with hazardous metals. The company has acknowledged in court that, between 1930 and 1995, the plant intentionally discharged nearly 10 million tons of slag and effluent directly into the Columbia River from its mining and fertiliser operations in Trail.
Address: Suite 1, 3rd Floor 11-12 St. James’s Square, London, SW1Y 4LB
Vale, formerly Companhia Vale do Rio Doce or CVRD, is a Brazilian multinational corporation engaged in metals and mining and one of the largest logistics operators in Brazil. In January 2012, Vale received the “people’s choice” Public Eye Award as the corporation with the most “contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world, mainly in relation to the Belo Monte Dam.
In 2019 the company made £6.25m in revenue, but it is so secretive that salaries of its executive board remain unknown.
Vale is being held responsible for the Brumadinho dam disaster.
Brumadinho dam disaster in Brazil
The Brumadinho dam disaster occurred on 25 January 2019 when a tailings dam owned by Vale at the Córrego do Feijão mine suffered a catastrophic failure. 270 people died as a result of the collapse, of whom 259 were officially confirmed dead in January 2019 and 11 others reported missing.
The dam failure released around 12 million cubic meters of mining waste that first hit the mine’s administrative area, where hundreds of the mine’s employees were having lunch, and the community “Vila Ferteco” before reaching the Paraopeba River, the region’s main river, which supplies water to one third of the Greater Belo Horizonte region. It is very likely the waste stream will also reach the São Francisco River which passes through five Brazilian states and the dams of two hydroelectric plants. The National Water Agency (ANA) stated that the tailings could pollute over 300 kilometres of river and affect the region’s whole ecosystem.
Evidence has been found that Vale officials knew Brumadinho’s dam was at risk since at least November 2017 and that the company had executives systematically hide evidence of safety concerns and retaliated against auditing firms that flagged problems.
One day after the failure, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources announced a £35.4 million fine on the Vale company. Brazilian judicial authorities froze £2.3 billion of Vale’s assets. In January 2020, Vale’s former chief executive, Fabio Schvartsman, and other senior officials of Vale and TÜV Süd, the German firm hired to assess the stability of its dams, were charged with homicide and environmental crimes as a result of the dam disaster. In April 2020, Vale’s safety inspectors refused to guarantee the stability of at least 18 of its dams and dikes in Brazil.