A mother-of-four who was recently jailed for 58 days for confronting mining injustice against her community in Madagascar has travelled to London to confront the board of controversial mining multinational Rio Tinto at their AGM on Tuesday.
Perle Zafinandro is the president of the FAGNOMBA association that has accused QMM-Rio Tinto of land-grabbing and environmental destruction in Madagascar. After having been involved in protests against the company since 2010, in March 2013, Perle and a number of other members of the organisation were arrested and imprisoned for 58 days.Perle will be supported at the AGM by Mamy Rakotontrainibe of the Paris-based Collective for the Defence of Malagasy Land.
They will be joined at the AGM by Roger Featherstone of Arizona Mining Reform Coalition and Adam Lee from the global union confederation IndustriALL.
The Arizona Mining Reform Coalition is working to stop Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton construct a copper mine on land of great environmental and recreational value, and sacred to Indigenous Apache people, in Arizona.
The global mining union IndustriALL has a worldwide campaign against Rio Tinto not only because of the company’s anti-union stance but also in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and others suffering because of the company’s activities.
Perle Zafinandro said:
Rio Tinto was supposed to bring positive development to Madagascar, but any benefits are massively outweighed by the enormous losses affecting the majority of the population through land grabbing and environmental devastation. Many people in the Anosy region are dependent on farming and fishing to feed themselves. Their very existence is threatened through loss of access to forests, social upheaval and environmental degradation caused by the mining.
Adam Lee said:
Mining and metals giant Rio Tinto’s behaviour includes major disputes with trade unions, communities and indigenous peoples. With our campaign, IndustriALL Global Union aims to build union power at Rio Tinto plants so that workers can have good jobs in healthy communities where human rights are respected.
Roger Featherstone said:
The situation we’re facing in Arizona illustrates once again, how ordinary citizens are forced by ultra-wealthy international corporations to defend our lands, our environment and our way of life. Rio Tinto has given us this challenge and we will rise up and meet them more than half way.
Richard Solly, the co-ordinator of the London Mining Network, said:
Every year the Rio Tinto AGM sees community representatives from all over the world come to complain about land grabs, environmental destruction and human rights issues. Why are mining companies with such awful records allowed to be listed on the London Stock Exchange?
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Rio Tinto holds its Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 15 April
at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1 at 11am
Visitors to the AGM have been coordinated through London Mining Network – an alliance of human rights, development, environmental and solidarity groups. http://londonminingnetwork.org @londonmining on twitter
Global mining union IndustriALL and affiliates from the UK and other European countries will lead a demonstration outside from 9.30am on Tuesday at the QE II Conference Centre, London SW1, at which there will be photo opportunities with the visitors.
Adam Lee, IndustriALL
Adam works in Geneva with global union confederation IndustriALL, which includes many mining unions and which has initiated a worldwide campaign against Rio Tinto (http://www.industriall-union.org/down-rio-tinto-down). The union is targeting the company both because of its record of appalling labour relations and also because of its record of violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, environmental destruction and complicity in human rights abuse.
Mamy Rakotondrainibe, Collective for the Defence of Malagasy Land (TANY)
After having studied in France and worked for 10 years in Madagascar, Mamy Rakotondrainibe moved to France again.
The revelation that Daewoo Logistics had leased 1.3 million hectares of land in Madagascar for 99 years led a group of Malagasy citizens living in France to create the organization Collective for the Defence of Malagasy Land (TANY) of which Mamy is currently the board president.
In a context of opacity around land transactions, the Collective TANY researches information, informs public opinion, and questions the authorities and investors about their projects, decisions and practices regarding local communities’ and peasants’ rights, mainly on land and natural resources.
Having followed the struggle of the population affected by QMM-Rio Tinto extraction activities, the Collective TANY especially informed and mobilized opinion in Madagascar and outside when Perle Zafinandro and the FAGNOMBA association members were arrested and kept in jail in March-April 2013.
Perle Zafinandro Fourquet, FAGNOMBA
Perle Zafinandro is the mother of 4 children and lived in La Réunion for several years. Being a native of Fort-Dauphin, Madagascar, and having heard the complaints and anger of local communities regarding the actions of QMM-Rio Tinto, she committed herself to the protest movement and created the FAGNOMBA association, which aims to protect Malagasy land and Malagasy interests.
The association accuses QMM-Rio Tinto of land grabbing and environmental destruction and protests against the methods of recruiting employees, and suggests a change of laws on mining investments in order that the Malagasy nation profits more from its natural wealth. The association considers that the current situation looks like a new form of colonialism.
The association’s demands have led it to organise demonstrations since 2010. Faced with a lack of of reaction and results, the movement reinforced its actions in January 2013. Perle, as president of the association, and other members, were imprisoned in March 2013 (http://www.ejolt.org/2013/03/rio-tinto-in-madagascar-15-activists-arrested/) before being released 58 days later.
Roger Featherstone, Arizona Mining Reform Coalition
Roger Featherstone is Director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition in Tucson, Arizona, USA. The Coalition works to ensure that responsible mining contributes to healthy communities, a healthy environment, and, when all costs are factored in, is a net benefit to Arizona. The Arizona Mining Reform Coalition expects the mining industry to clean up after itself, comply fully with and in the spirit of safeguards in place to protect Arizona, and to interact in a transparent and open manner with Arizona citizens.
Unfortunately, Rio Tinto has partnered with another giant international mining company, BHP Billiton, to privatize 2,400 acres of public land to build a large and very destructive underground copper mine in a manner that is contrary to our mission and international mining practices.
Native American Tribes, local communities, concerned miners, recreation, conservation, and religious organizations, are fighting to protect the Oak Flat watershed, an area of 25 square miles of public land. The heart of this area is Oak Flat Campground that US President Eisenhower protected from mining in 1955. Apache Leap, Gaan Canyon, and Queen Creek Canyon surround oak Flat Campground and the entire area is sacred to Native American Tribes and is a very rare intact desert riparian ecosystem with perennial water. The Oak Flat watershed is also heavily used for recreational activities including the best location in North America for rock climbing and the sport of bouldering.
There is a normal process for permitting large mines on public lands in the US. However, Rio Tinto is pressuring the United States Congress to give them the land instead of first fully vetting a mining plan that would disclose exactly what Rio Tinto is planning and the total impacts to the land, water, air, and people. This end-around of US mining rules and international standards would turn over a Native American sacred site on public land to foreign mining companies and is opposed by every Indian Tribe in the United States; would be the largest loss of public lands recreational climbing opportunities in history and is opposed by the Access Fund and other organizations protect recreational opportunities on public land; bypasses the normal process of permitting mines on public lands, avoids the NEPA process; and would destroy wildlife habitat and clean water resources.
Roger aims to highlight the following issues at the Rio Tinto AGM.
Opposition to the project is growing by leaps and bounds. Since 2004, 11 versions of federal legislation to privatize Oak Flat (the Oak Flat land exchange) have been prevented from becoming law by citizen opposition. The 12 version of the bill is stalled in Congress and the nearest towns to Oak Flat, the town of Superior, Arizona and the town of Queen Valley, Arizona oppose the land exchange. While opposition continues to build, Rio Tinto continues to push for their doomed legislation instead of taking the time to write and fully vet a complete plan of operations that will show exactly what harm the project will cause to Oak Flat and the surrounding communities. While many members of our coalition do not oppose a mine at Oak Flat, if it were a responsible design, everyone in the Coalition is opposed to the land exchange and the methods Rio Tinto is using to move the bill.