In 2009, the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights conducted an inquiry on business and human rights.
London Mining Network and a number of its member groups and associates made submissions to this inquiry.
Volume 1 of the Committee’s report includes conclusions and recommendations. The cross-party Committee of both Houses of Parliament is very critical of what it sees as the UK Government’s lack of commitment to improving the human rights record of UK companies operating overseas, and the incoherence of Government policy on the matter. See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200910/jtselect/jtrights/5/5i.pdf.
Most of the oral and written evidence submitted to the Committee is included in Volume 2 of the report
(see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200910/jtselect/jtrights/5/5ii.pdf) though there are some omissions.
For materials related to the inquiry, including some of the individual submissions made to the Committee, see also http://www.business-humanrights.org/Documents/UKJointCommittee.
For comments on the Committee’s report, see http://www.business-humanrights.org/Documents/UKJointCommitteereport.
The role of London-listed mining companies, and mining companies raising finance in London, in human rights abuses around the world is clear from the amount of material on such companies that was submitted to the Joint Committee’s inquiry. Twenty of the eighty-seven published submissions and one of the two unpublished submissions deal wholly or partly with human rights abuses allegedly linked to mining companies with a London connection. Three of the remaining published submissions are responses by mining companies to the serious allegations made against them.
The Committee’s report notes (Volume 1, page 94, section 7): ‘Our terms of reference do not permit us to conduct a full investigation into any specific allegations against individuals and companies. However, in the light of the seriousness of many of these claims, we are persuaded that further action is necessary and we hope that our conclusions and recommendations will contribute to advancing the debate in the UK, both among parliamentarians and the wider public.’
Committee Chair, Andrew Dismore MP, said: “UK multinationals may present a compliant face at home but show quite a different approach when operating elsewhere and some have a woeful record abroad. We were most concerned about the range and seriousness of allegations both in the press and in the evidence we received, including against 18 British companies which are household names.”
In a press release dated 15 December 2009, the Committee called on the UK Government ‘to develop a strategy that clearly sets out the human rights standards which UK businesses are expected to meet. The objective should be an international agreement on business and human rights.’ The Committee called on the UK Government to continue supporting UN Special Representative Professor John Ruggie in his work on business and human rights, and noted that few UK firms meet the ‘due diligence’ standards he recommends.
The press release continued: ‘The Committee notes that the UK’s current strategy gives undue priority to voluntary initiatives, without clear guidance. Business compliance with the voluntary OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises is monitored by “National Contact Points” or NCPs. The Committee says the UK’s NCP “still falls far short” of being an effective remedial body. The Committee considers that the UK Government should clarify its policy on business and human rights both at home and overseas.’
London Mining Network draws readers’ attention particularly to the following submissions included in Volume 2 of the report.
- Holly Hill Trust, page Ev 110; deals with Rio Tinto in Ecuador; makes a number of general comments about Rio Tinto’s behaviour which are borne out in the written submissions by Dr Mika Peck and the Colombia Solidarity Campaign and also by the comments of Rio Tinto Representative Sir Brian Fall when giving oral evidence to the Joint Committee: see Volume 2 of the report, pages Ev 27-51
- Dr Mika Peck, page Ev 119; deals with Rio Tinto in Ecuador
- Colombia Solidarity Campaign, page Ev 121; deals with Rio Tinto in Colombia and the right of Indigenous Peoples to Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Vigeo, page Ev 124; deals with Anglo American and Rio Tinto and mentions also BHP Billiton
- World Development Movement, page Ev 135; deals with UK Government support for mining companies and with GCM Resources in Bangladesh
- Action Aid UK, page Ev 137; deals with Vedanta in India
- Survival International, page Ev 161; deals with Vedanta in India, Gem Diamonds in Botswana, and FPIC
- War on Want, page Ev 164; deals with Anglo American and UK Government support for mining companies
- Forest Peoples Programme and Middlesex University Business School Law Department, page Ev 174; deals with FPIC
- Working Group on Mining in the Philippines, page Ev 179; deals with BHP Billiton, Crew, Rio Tinto and Xstrata
- London Mining Network, page Ev 182; deals with Anglo American, BHP Billiton, GCM Resources, Monterrico Metals, Rio Tinto, Vedanta and Xstrata
- CAFOD and Peru Support Group, page Ev 189; deals with BHP Billiton in the Philippines, Monterrico Metals in Peru and UK Government support for mining companies, and mentions Vedanta-owned Konkola Copper in Zambia
- Harrison Grant, page Ev 193; deals with an unnamed diamond mining company registered on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) and active in Sierra Leone
- Margo Drakos, Tarek Maassarani and Jenik Radon, page Ev 236; mentions South African diamond company De Beers, in which Anglo American is a major shareholder
- Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme, page Ev 257; deals with BHP Billiton and Xstrata in Peru
- Global Witness, page Ev 260; deals with Afrimex, Amalgamated Metal Corporation and Anvil Mining (a Canadian-Australian company with some British connections) and UK Government support for mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo; also contains recommendations for tackling abuses
- RAID, page Ev 274; deals with UK Government support for mining companies, particularly Anvil Mining in DRC, and the role of AIM; also contains recommendations for tackling abuses
- Leigh Day and Co, page Ev 293; mentions Afrimex and Rio Tinto
- Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, page Ev 297; mentions Anglo American, GCM Resources, Metals Exploration, Rio Tinto and Vedanta
- Amalgamated Metal Corporation, page Ev 323; response to allegations
- BHP Billiton, page Ev 325; response to allegations; as usual with BHP Billiton, it claims that the allegations contain ‘errors’ without specifying what they are, and that some of the claims are ‘out of date’, without specifying which ones
- GCM Resources, page Ev 342; response to allegations