15/10/19 – For immediate release

Frontline human rights defenders travel from Latin America to the UK to share their experiences of climate breakdown, the threat of violence and the greenwashing tactics of multinational mining company BHP

Human rights and environmental defenders from three of the countries that British-Australian mining corporation BHP operates in – Brazil, Chile and Colombia – will be in London, the hub of global finance and mining, between 15-23 October. They will share their struggles against the company’s neo-colonial mega-mining projects in the Global South. They will also meet with mining-affected communities in the northeast of England. Read Introducing the Defenders.

London Mining Network, War on Want, Democracy Center, Colombia Solidarity Campaign and partners have organised Unmasking BHP – a week of arts, protest and discussion to mobilize around BHP’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday 17 October at 10am.


Thursday 17 October, 10-11.30am Unmasking BHP: protest mega-mining & climate breakdown, QEII Centre, Westminster

Friday 18 October, 6-8.30pm Unmasking BHP: learning from mining-affected communities, Institute of Education, UCL, London

Monday 21 October Resisting extractivism, mega-mining & climate chaos in Chile, John Smith House, 145-165 West Regent Street, Glasgow

The defenders will voice their demands of BHP in the aftermath of 2015’s Samarco mining waste dam disaster in Minas Gerais, Brazil, for which there is still no justice, the forced displacement of communities surrounding the Cerrejón opencast coal mine in northern Colombia, and the vast amounts of water BHP is extracting at Escondida copper mine in Antofagasta, Chile, while the country experiences severe drought. These communities, like much of the Global South, are already experiencing climate breakdown.

Opposing mega-mining comes at a personal cost for defenders in Colombia, Brazil and elsewhere, with an upsurge in death threats and assassination attempts, since a letter from the president of Cerrejon in August who named those opposing the mine.

Indigeneous leader Alvaro Ipuana is from Nuevo Espinal village in La Guajira, Colombia. Nuevo Espinal is one of many communities forcibly displaced by the giant open-pit Cerrejón coal mine. Alvaro is on the government’s National Protection Scheme.

Alvaro says: “ I want to take the voice of the Wayuu communities, who have suffered damages for mining development to the BHP AGM. These communities have suffered environmental effects, in our water, and our food security. We are at risk, our own lives and the health of this population. And we want to make it known to international organisations so that they know that these minerals leave our territory stained with our blood.”

Now that the climate crisis is grabbing headlines in the Global North, BHP is using the opportunity to greenwash its devastating environmental record (the company is one of the 20 companies responsible for a third of all carbon emissions). The company is increasing its extraction of ‘green’ metals such as copper for cars and solar panels, and lithium for batteries, promoting itself as being part of the energy solution, rather than the problem, as our visitors can testify.

Lucio Cuenca from Chile works with mining-affected communities across Latin America on how to mitigate the impacts of extraction. He says:

“These claims [by BHP] are deceptively simplistic, the reality is that infrastructure and construction materials are projected to remain the primary drivers of copper demand throughout this century, not renewable energy technologies. This greenwashing narrative also poses a new threat to mining-affected communities as mining companies introduce a false sense of conflict between the defence of local territories and the material demands of the transition away from fossil fuels.”

Organised by: London Mining Network, War on Want, Democracy Center, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Three Penny Festival Collective, Coal Action Network and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

To arrange an interview with the defenders or for more information on Unmasking BHP and the issues behind it, get in touch.

Press contacts

Lydia James, London Mining Network, lydia@londonminingnetwork.org

TJ Chuah, War on Want, tchuah@waronwant.org