Protesters gather outside the Anglo American AGM. Photo: Amy Scaife/London Mining Network
Report on the Anglo American AGM, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, Friday 19 April 2013
Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network
One positive thing you can say about Anglo American AGMs is that criticisms of the company’s human rights and environmental record generally get a hearing. It’s generally a polite hearing, too. But this year’s AGM made crystal clear the difference between simply being polite and being REALLY nice. There is no doubt that Anglo American is awfully important – it is big, and very rich, and has many influential friends. Wouldn’t it be good if it actually treated people and places with the respect it says it has for them? But by contrast, what emerged from the company’s responses to concerns raised at its AGM by visitors from South Africa, Colombia and Alaska were the following:
- The company will not accept responsibility for the sickness and suffering of thousands of former mineworkers dying a slow death from silicosis as a result of dust exposure in mines for which Anglo American retains a moral and, arguably, a legal responsibility (and it IS being argued, in court…). It will help a very small number of those dying workers with health care costs – though not with living expenses – until their legal actions have been settled, as a pure act of charity.
- Meanwhile, it will fight tooth and nail against all the other legal claims, stringing out the process while former mineworkers continue to die, leaving behind their dependents.
- It will certainly move towards forced eviction of farming families at the village of Roche in Colombia unless they agree to a mediated compensation settlement quickly – despite the dire recent history of forced evictions around the Cerrejon coal mine.
- It will not permanently abandon its plans to divert the River Rancheria to expand the Cerrejon mine, despite the massive opposition of communities and mine workers.
- It will not abandon its proposal for an open pit copper mine near Bristol Bay, Alaska, despite its promise not to go where it is not wanted and despite the clear opposition of over 80% of people in the area to be affected by the mine.
- It will not commit to practical recognition of the right to Free Prior Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples.
- It will generally remain polite – but become a trifle tight-lipped if you go on too long about human rights and keeping promises.
In his opening remarks, company Chairman Sir John Parker said, among many other things, that 2012 had been a difficult year for the mining industry. Anglo American had experienced a sharp decline in profitability. There had been lengthy illegal industrial action at platinum operations in South Africa, setbacks in the Chilean copper business, a $4 billion write down of assets at Minas Rio in Brazil because of revised delivery dates and capital cost increases. The company had, however, completed the purchase of the Oppenheimer family’s 40% share in De Beers, which Anglo American now controls; and there had been further falls in deaths and injuries at company operations. During recently departed Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Carroll’s tenure, the company had reduced its death and injury rate by 50%.
New Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani, formerly CEO of the notorious AngloGold Ashanti (see https://londonminingnetwork.org/tag/anglogold-ashanti/ for articles raising concerns about that company’s record in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa), said that safety is a high priority. He also said, unless I misheard, that Anglo American “has a historic history”. I am sure this is the case: indeed, I wonder what other kind of history there might be. He said that he wanted “more effective community engagement procedures” and that he has a “track record in community relations”. Those fighting AngloGold Ashanti’s La Colosa project in Colombia would agree with that – but they might take a rather negative view of Mr Cutifani’s track record. . Shareholders raised a variety of issues, mostly about profitability, dividends, potential joint ventures and new operations, and other matters related to how much money they might expect to gain. One question related to the disaster in Amapa in Brazil, where three workers were killed during the collapse of structures at a river port terminal (see https://londonminingnetwork.org/2013/04/anglo-american-workers-dead-after-accident-in-brazil/). The company is working with the authorities to investigate this tragic accident.
What follows is an account of the issues raised by the visitors from South Africa, Colombia and Alaska, and the company’s responses.
Peter Bailey, representing the South African National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), said that he had spoken at last year’s AGM about the need for justice for South African mineworkers. He asked when the company would deliver on its commitment to ensure that black mineworkers get the justice they deserve, as they are dying on a daily basis. Many more would die unless Anglo American delivers on the values that it says it holds but which it so easily flouts: it talks about the value of people and the need to care for people.
Sir John Parker thanked Peter for coming. He expressed his deepest sympathy for the miners dying of silicosis and said that Anglo American supports the search for solutions for those suffering with silicosis, including statutory compensation. The company wants to ensure that silicosis is eliminated from the mining industry. He said that Anglo American is subject to various claims by workers from companies in which the company had an interest. Anglo American maintains that the gold mining companies that employed those workers were responsible for their health and safety. Sir John Parker said that he had informed shareholders last year that Anglo American’s proposal to fund medical care for mineworkers suing the company between 2004 and 2009 had been accepted by the mineworkers. Those claimants continue to receive ongoing care and medical treatment. Anglo American is providing this care on purely humanitarian grounds without admission of liability and will bear the cost for as long as it takes for the claims to be resolved. The parties have agreed to refer all clams to arbitration – the first ten in 2014. The others are on hold till the resolution of the first ten. He said that Anglo American is one of 29 companies subject to class actions initiated in December 2012. In March 2013 a separate class action was launched against Anglo American South Africa by the same team of lawyers. In the High Court in London five claims were lodged by the same lawyers in 2011 and 2012 naming Anglo American as a defendant. Anglo American denies the claims and challenges the jurisdiction of the English courts. The jurisdiction argument will be heard in May and the other claims are on hold till the outcome of that case.
Sir John Parker added that illness among former mineworkers is made worse by the weakness of the health infrastructure in South Africa. Anglo American and the South African government share the aim of improving access to health care and have made progress. Understanding the needs of workers and communities is vital and the company encourages open dialogue to continue. He said that given that these issues are before the courts in London and South Africa, he had nothing to add except that Anglo American would continue to provide medical care for the workers mentioned earlier and would work with the government and others to improve access to health care.
Peter Bailey replied that two things are fundamental. People are suffering from silicosis. Health care does not provide food for them, and this has not been taken into consideration. They are living in abject poverty and Anglo American is living in denial that they were made sick by the company’s operations. Peter said that he fully concurred that the matter is in front of the courts, but the best way to resolve the matter is through dialogue. The longer the company delays the process, the more people it denies justice to, and it has not spoken to those people.
Sir John Parker said that Anglo American is not the only company involved: there are 29 others involved. He said he could not add to what he had already said. He recommended speaking to Dr Brink, the company’s chief medical officer.
Peter Bailey said that he was not speaking of the class action but the action for which Anglo American is directly responsible. He said that he wanted the Chairman to speak in the presence of shareholders about what Anglo American intends doing to right the wrongs that have been done. There are 29 other companies in the class action but he was not referring to that but to Anglo American’s responsibility for its former workers, a responsibility which the company had dumped on society in an irresponsible manner.
Sir John Parker said that the company would “take this on board”.
Mark Cutifani said that he understood Peter’s passion. He said that things have changed through a process and the company is committed to the process. It is taking a leadership role within the Chamber of Mines to bring companies together to deal with issues with the government and make sure than on an industry basis they find a solution. He said he would be more than happy to join Dr Brian Brink in “having a chat” with Peter.
Peter Bailey thanked Mark Cutifani for his remarks. He said that the fact that they would have a discussion was appreciated. But he said that the passion that he had would not bring justice. He noted Mark Cutifani’s appreciation for his passion but said that it does not solve the problem. Children are becoming fatherless and wives husbandless.
Julio Gomez introduced himself as President of FECODEMIGUA, the Federation of Communities Displaced by Mining in La Guajira, Colombia, where the company is part owner of the Cerrejon coal mine. He made his remarks through an interpreter, Patrick Kane of War on Want. He said:
“My question concerns proposals which FECODEMIGUA put to Cerrejon Coal and its three multinational owners, including Anglo American, last year.
“These detailed proposals were put first to BHP Billiton but were forwarded to Anglo American on 2 August last year. They are detailed proposals seeking to address the pressing needs of communities displaced in the early stages of the development of the mine without any form of community relocation or just compensation – people who continue to suffer difficulties and privations as a result. Anglo American and its partners inherited moral responsibility for the plight of these communities when they took over the mine.
“The proposals address accommodation, education, health care, income generation, recreational facilities and other matters. They were developed after lengthy discussion among the many families, from many communities, displaced from 1986 onwards. They are proposals, not demands, and FECODEMIGUA is open to discussion about them. The mine’s multinational owners have acknowledged receipt of the proposals but have not given a formal response to them. Cerrejon Coal management has reluctantly met with us but similarly without any formal response to what we have proposed.
“When will Anglo American give us a full response to our proposals? What will Anglo American do to ensure that Cerrejon Coal fully considers and adequately addresses our proposals? What does the company aim to do to address the continuing needs of those forced to move in the early stages of mining at Cerrejon?
“I also want to ask about the seven families at Old Roche who face forced displacement because they have not yet come to an agreement with Cerrejon Coal. Legal proceedings have begin to evict these families. If these proceedings continue, there will be a repeat of what happened in 2001 at Tabaco, when unarmed villagers were forced out of their homes at gunpoint and their houses were demolished before their eyes, their possessions ruined. Will you guarantee that this will not happen in Old Roche?
“Finally, will you guarantee that Cerrejon Coal will permanently abandon its irresponsible proposals to divert the River Rancheria? It says it put the proposals aside ostensibly because of the fall in the price of coal. We need reassurance that if the price of coal rises, the river diversion proposals will not be resurrected.”
Sir John Parker said that there had been a lot of rumours for many years about what is going on in Colombia. Cerrejon had been selected to pilot the grievance and redress mechanisms developed by UN Special Rapporteur John Ruggie. These processes were going well and were seen as a positive example.
Regarding the Roche community, he said that Anglo American recognizes that any large industrial operation has the potential to generate conflict with local communities. In 2007 Cerrejon commissioned an independent third party review, chaired by Professor John Harker from Cape Breton University in Canada, which made recommendations for improving engagement and resettlement. Progress is advanced and regularly reported on on the company’s website. The resettlements of Roche and Patilla have been managed in a responsible way. At Patilla – all 46 families have been satisfactorily relocated, and the company’s focus is now on supporting economic development.
Jon Samuel, Anglo American’s Head of Social Performance, added that five resettlements were revisited after the Third Party Review, and all were being done according to International Finance Corporation guidelines and verified by independent consultants and independent NGOs. The vast majority of the people of Roche have moved, but there is continuing negotiation with the families who have not yet moved. If it is not possible to come to an agreement the company would have to go through the judicial route, but it would prefer consultation. He added that if the river were relocated, it would be within the existing mine lease area, and if done it would be in consultation with the communities and in line with the law.
Godfrey Gomwe, Chief Executive of Anglo American’s Thermal Coal division, said that the legal action at Roche was taken after the opportunity had been offered to take the matter to arbitration. As a consequence of arbitration, families would either move or not move, but the problem is that the remaining families want compensation at a much greater level than what the other families have moved for. The company’s preferred option is always to negotiate a settlement. Of the 25 families at Roche, only eight remain. At Tamaquito, most families have moved. At Patilla, all 36 families have moved. At Chancleta, 30 out of 40 families have signed agreements. There have been no forcible moves: all have been negotiated. In La Guajira, the province depends on mining: it makes up 50 % of the province’s GDP, and Cerrejon provides 55% of this.
Graciela Romero, of LMN member group War on Want, said that the new Chief Executive was talking about accountability – but the accountability issue cannot be deferred year after year. She said that Peter Bailey had spoken of the effects of delay. She said that the company was aware of the human rights situation in Colombia. She asked whether it would respect the right to prior consent of communities in going ahead with the mine expansion project. What would the company do if the communities say they are against diversion of the river?
Julio Gomez asked whether there would be a response to FECODEMIGUA’s proposals about reparation for the five communities displaced before 2000. He said that they would like to know the company’s response to the proposals.
Jon Samuel said that Anglo American had forwarded the proposal to Cerrejon Coal and is awaiting a response. He said that some of issues involved are quite complex.
Mark Cutifani acknowledged the concerns. He said he had had experience in Colombia. He said that Colombia has continued to develop engagement with the mining industry and has made good progress. He had had a constructive experience with communities. At Cerrejon, Anglo American is in a Joint Venture, it respects its partners and will make sure the points made here are put to them. He would make sure that the points made about the five communities are taken into account. He said that it is inevitable that the company would not always agree, but it would consult, and he hoped that matters could be resolved in an appropriate way.
Graciela Romero said that if communities say they do not want a mine, the company could not go ahead if it was respecting their right to Free Prior Informed Consent.
Sir John Parker said that the company had made its view clear.
Graciela replied that it is not just a question of listening. She said that the company was pretending to listen rather than actually listening. She said it would be better to say that it is not listening rather than to say it is and then not actually doing so.
Verner Wilson, a Yupik person from Alaska, Bristol Bay salmon fisherman and programme officer for World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic Field Programme, reminded the Chairman that he had asked three years ago if the company would respect the view of the majority of Bristol Bay residents about the proposed Pebble Mine. He said that Anglo American had still not kept its promise to respect that view. Verner said that local people had taken many actions to block the proposed mine, and every shareholder should understand the regulatory efforts taken. 81% of local residents and millions of Americans oppose the mine. A citizens’ initiative had been passed which would make the project illegal. At the national level, the coalition opposing the mine had talked with millions of Americans and even to the President’s office, which has called Bristol Bay a national treasure which must be protected. Almost 50% of the world’s wild sockeye salmon are in Bristol Bay. Given the intense opposition, Verner asked whether the new CEO would uphold former CEO Cynthia Carroll’s promise not to go where local communities do not want them and where environmental studies show that a mine would will badly affect the ecosystem, which a recent US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study does do, even if there is no major accident at the proposed mine.
Bobby Andrew, an indigenous elder from the Bristol Bay area, thanked former CEO Cynthia Carroll for meeting with the mine’s opponents in London and Alaska. He hoped that the new CEO would visit Alaska soon. He said that Mark Cutifani had undertaken to deliver on promises. Would he follow through on Cynthia Carroll’s promise not to go in to Bristol Bay when the company is not wanted? 81% of residents oppose the project. Bobby said that he himself is a strong opponent of the project and would not quit until he was no longer able.
Joel Reynolds, of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said that he supported the residents of Bristol Bay who were opposing the mine. He said that 2012 had not been a good year for the Pebble Project. The EPA had issued and circulated for comment its watershed assessment. The Pebble partnership had made every effort to derail it, but the EPA had concluded that large-scale mining would impact water quality, the fishery and local communities even if the project functions flawlessly, which no project ever does. Opposition remains firm and continues to grow. 85% of commercial fishermen oppose the mine. 81% of Native shareholders of Native corporations oppose mine. Opposition is strong and when the company wants to deliver returns it makes no sense going ahead with it. Last year, the coalition against the mine had delivered millions signatures of opposition to the mine. That morning, a further 200,000 signatures had been delivered. Many businesses, food retailers and jewellers oppose the project. With new leadership in place, he asked, was not this the right time to re-evaluate whether the project is in the best interests of Bristol Bay residents and the company’s shareholders?
Abe Williams said that he representing village corporations in Bristol Bay located closest to the project. He said that there is support from communities, village corporations and tribal entities closest to the project. He said that the “fear and rhetoric used to whip up numbers” is such that he was surprised that opposition was not 100%. He said that by contrast the mine’s supporters had used their limited resources to open up a factual dialogue and to engage with the Pebble Partnership. They wanted project to go through the due process. It is their right to develop economic stability for their communities. The rhetoric used is losing ground and supporters of the mine are gaining ground. He said that “extreme environmentalists like the NRDC” are causing fear. He encouraged the company to move forward.
Lisa Rymers, from the village closest to the project, said that the village owns 97,000 acres close to project and that it does not oppose the project. She said: “special interest groups like the NRDC and people living 150 miles away do not represent us. We want the mining if it can be done safely.” She said that when it is 30 below in winter and they cannot pay for food and fuel, and wonder how their young people can go on an get an education, it is difficult to see people a long way away opposing the project. She said that they want studies done and the project to go ahead if it can be done safely.
Sir John Parker said that Pebble is an advanced stage exploration project, 200 miles south west of Anchorage, on land specifically designated for mining operations. It is progressing through the pre-feasibility study. There is no final mine plan. Once there is, it will be submitted to the appropriate federal and state agencies for review. This is likely towards the end of this year. Then there will be further ample opportunity for public debate. The Pebble Partnership has shown an unparalleled willingness to be open and to debate. Everyone should be open to information and base their decisions on fact, not speculation or rhetoric.
Mark Cutifani said that he was committed without reservation to community engagement. He said that the mining industry drives 45% of world’s GDP while using less than 1% of the earth’s surface. It is often necessary to work in and near sensitive locations and this kind of dialogue is necessary. The company follows a process for that reason. The company respects everyone’s right to have their say and makes sure it takes their views into account. In return, he asked that others respect the company’s right as an organization to explore the possibility of producing those materials that drive the economy of the world as we know it today.
Glen Mpufane, of IndustriALL global union, representing 50 million members across the world, said that the union was interested in the silicosis case. He pointed out that Anglo American was the biggest mining company in South Africa during the twentieth century. He asked the company to confirm how many claimants it was providing medical support for and how many had died since it started supporting them.
Sir John Parker said that it the companyw as providing health care support for 15 or 16 people and that one had died in the last twelve months, though the company did not know the diagnosis of his death. Anglo American was looking after these individuals according to the policy announced at the AGM in 2011.
Graciela Romero said that there had been talk of dialogue and rhetoric. She said that if the company continues to say that it listens, and makes promises for years to come without fulfilling them, that is rhetoric. She said that the company needed to take prompt action on what communities and workers were asking for. Dialogue must be based on facts.
Glen Mpufane (second from left) of global union IndustriALL, and Peter Bailey (second from right) of South African NUM, with Mark Beacon (left) and Tony Dykes (right) of LMN member group ACTSA outside the Anglo American AGM. Photo: Amy Scaife/London Mining Network.