Dear friends,

Happy New Year (though perhaps it no longer feels very new)!

There are two events coming up next week which I urge you to attend if you can: a protest on Monday at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, which promises to be a festival of destructive extractivism, and a vigil on Friday to mark the anniversary of the catastrophic tailings dam collapse at Brumadinho in Brazil last January. If you are not clear what a tailings dam is, take a look at our super-simple tailings dam explainer. Institutional investors and others are currently working to try to improve standards of tailings dam construction. LMN made a submission to a recent consultation on the issue, raising concerns, among other things, about the need for much fuller consultation with affected communities.

Industry publication has published a list of the top 50 biggest mining companies. London-listed BHP, Rio Tinto, Glencore and Anglo American are at numbers 1, 2, 5 and 6. BHP and its partner Vale control the Samarco iron ore mine in Brazil, which has been severely criticised for the inadequacy of its response to the catastrophic failure of its tailings dam at Mariana in November 2015, which killed people, destroyed villages and polluted hundreds of miles of river.

BHP is seeking to expand coal sales to India as the climate continues to heat and Australia burns. Greenpeace has released a video about the links between the Australian coal industry and the government. BHP’s Cerrejon Coal joint venture in Colombia with Anglo American and Glencore is criticised by the United Nations for human rights abuses.

Numerous church organisations, universities and the Royal College of Physicians have announced they are pulling out of coal investments. Even major mining investor Blackrock is scaling back. Investors are putting pressure on Barclays to pull out as well. But Indian mining giant Adani – with plenty of international investment – insists on going ahead with a major opencast coal project in Australia, among the scorched and smoking remnants of that country’s climate-changed, wrecked ecosystems.

Meanwhile, a study of water quality around Rio Tinto’s QMM mineral sands mine in Madagascar has shown it to be polluted with high levels of lead and uranium. Rio Tinto denies responsibility. The study was commissioned by LMN member group Andrew Lees Trust. There are continuing tensions around Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia, and the Mongolian Parliament has recently passed a resolution seeking ways forward, though this will not help the nomadic herders pushed off their land to make way for the mine. Conflict is also flaring up around Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond mine on indigenous land in Canada.

The mining industry continues trying to green its image. Potash mining is being presented as another item in the industry’s green armoury and Anglo American is buying into potash mining under the North York Moors in England while Glencore is greenwashing its cobalt mining in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo by seeking a deal with Tesla to provide cobalt for electric vehicles. As our report last September on just transition and a post-extractive economy points out, we need to move beyond this kind of individualised ‘green’ consumerism if we are to protect the planet’s biosphere in a way which does not replace one set of injustices with another. A recent article in Science magazine suggests ‘green tech’ should be part of climate negotiations, and it should – but we must resist the notion that fossil-fuel based consumerism can be replaced by metals-based consumerism without massive damage to mining-affected communities and destruction of local ecosystems. One of the most dangerous pieces of industry greenwashing at the moment involves deep sea mining – a potentially catastrophic new departure.

So, let’s finish on a note of cautious hope! Ecuador’s constitutional court has ruled that communities have the right to hold public referendums on whether or not to allow a mining project to go forward, paving the way for opposition to future developments. The struggle now will be to stop mining companies, with their vast wealth, from bribing and intimidating their way to public ‘consent’.

All the best,
Richard Solly,
Co-ordinator, London Mining Network.

In this mailout

Events and actions
Resist Empire 2.0! Demo at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, Monday, 20 January, 2pm
Anniversary vigil for Brumadinho mining disaster, Friday, 24 January, 4-6pm
A UK failure to prevent mechanism for corporate human rights harms: Is it legally feasible? Tuesday, 11 February, 18:00-19:30 (registration from 17:30)

New on the LMN website
LMN and the Global Tailings Review
Tailings dams: an explainer
REPORT: Speculative mining in Spain

1) Top 50 biggest mining companies
2) BHP in the news
3) Rio Tinto in the news
4) Coal, climate and divestment
5) Renewables and supposedly green mining
6) Facing Immeasurable “Extinction”
7) Ecuador court casts doubts on mining projects future, allows public referendums

Events and actions

Resist Empire 2.0! Demo at the UK-Africa Investment Summit

Monday, 20 January, 2pm. Meet outside North Greenwich tube station.

On Monday Boris Johnson is spending £12 million of aid money to host a UK-Africa Investment Summit in a luxury hotel by the Millennium Dome. Join us to protest this government’s attempts to promote corporate power in Africa and its neo-colonial approach to development! For many people, the idea of encouraging more foreign investment in African countries will make sense. However, it is clear that this summit is not about tackling global poverty and inequality, but is instead being pitched as an opportunity for British banks and businesses to profit from new trading relationships.

Anniversary vigil for Brumadinho mining disaster

Friday, 24 January, 4-6pm, Embassy of Brazil, 14-16 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5BL

On 25 January, 2019, a catastophic tailings dam collapse took place at the Brumadinho iron ore mine operated by Brazilian multinational Vale (in which a number of UK institutional investors have investments). Huge quantities of mine waste swept down the river valley, killing mine workers, local residents and visitors. On the eve of the anniversary, we will gather to hold a vigil to honour the nearly 300 casualties of this disaster, and in solidarity with all those struggling with its aftermath.

A UK failure to prevent mechanism for corporate human rights harms: Is it legally feasible?

Tuesday, 11 February, 18:00-19:30 (registration from 17:30),
British Institute of International and Comparative Law, Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5JP

In March 2017, the UK Joint Committee on Human Rights released a report on business and human rights in which it proposed the introduction of a “failure to prevent” mechanism for corporate human rights abuses. The Committee suggested that such a mechanism could be “modelled along the same lines as section 7 of the Bribery Act.” One of the most significant innovations of the UK Bribery Act 2010 lies in the introduction of a new offence of failure on the part of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery being committed in connection with its business. BIICL, with support from international law firms Hogan Lovells and Quinn Emanuel, conducted a study into the feasibility of such a “failure to prevent” mechanism.

New on the LMN website

LMN and the Global Tailings Review

After the catastrophic tailings dam collapse at Brazilian mining company Vale’s iron ore mine at Brumadinho on 25 January 2019, the Church of England and Swedish state pension funds started to gather data on existing mine waste tailings dams by sending out a questionnaire to approximately 700 mining companies in April. They also started a closed trialogue with mining trade association International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). ICMM started an experts panel to produce a tailings dam management set of guidelines or standard. In May, this was subsumed into a shared, closed ‘trialogue’ process with an independent chair. Dr Bruno Oberle was selected and appointed to do this, and they took the name Global Tailings Review. The draft guidelines for new tailings dams (called the Global Tailings Review standard) was put out for civil societies’ consultation in mid November with a closing date of 31 December. Read London Mining Network’s comments.

Tailings dams: an explainer

The who, the what and the why of mining waste dams

REPORT: Speculative mining in Spain

Ecologistas en Accion’s Speculative mining in Spain report shows that one of the main causes of the mining boom in Spain is practices focused on speculation and not on the production of raw materials.  The study analyzes four mining companies that have found in Spain a new ‘frontier’ market, but that have mostly small capital and no previous mining experience – so-called ‘junior’ companies.


1) Top 50 biggest mining companies

BHP, Rio Tinto, Glencore and Anglo American are among the biggest six.

2) BHP in the news

BHP looks to India for coal growth as China demand declines

The world’s biggest miner BHP is looking to India’s fast-growing economy and its accelerating steelmaking output as a way to help offset the declining Chinese coal demand in the new decade.

Samarco rebuffs creditors on resumption of debt talks

The Brazilian iron ore venture between BHP Group and Vale SA said it has yet to firm up its business plan. And without that, the company argues that it will be at a disadvantage if it were to resume talks that have been put on hold for almost a year on its $2.9 billion in defaulted debt, the people said. Samarco has said it will restart iron ore mining in the second half of this year after securing all the permits required by authorities. Operations have been halted since a waste dam collapse in 2015 that killed 19 people, curtailing the company’s ability to meet its obligations to creditors.

Four years on from Brazil’s dam disaster, BHP has yet to rebuild a single home for those affected

As BHP, the world’s biggest listed miner, prepares to reopen the Brazilian mine where 19 people were killed in 2015, victims of the disaster have slammed the company for still not resettling them, some four years on.

Copper output slumps at Codelco, BHP’s Escondida in November

Copper output slumped at Chile’s state miner Codelco and BHP’s sprawling Escondida mine in November, according to Chile state copper agency Cochilco, amid a turbulent month of riots and mass protests that rocked the mineral-rich South American nation.

3) Rio Tinto in the news

Diavik Diamond mine by Rio Tinto and kimberlite waste issue, Northwest Territories, Canada

The mine is placed on First Nations’ territories, but now the proposal is to dump mine waste kimberlite and other tailings into their waters and land. The Environmental Board approved the project in January 2020.

Rio Tinto Notes Mongolian Parliament Resolution on Oyu Tolgoi

Rio Tinto notes the unanimous approval by the Mongolian Parliament of a Resolution that instructs the government to look for ways to improve the implementation of the Investment Agreement of 2009, the Amended & Restated Shareholder Agreement of 2011 and to improve the Underground Mine Development & Financing Plan of 2015.

Madagascar campaigning finally secures Rio Tinto response

Research studies commissioned by the Andrew Lees Trust, and the ensuing reports by hydrologist Dr Seven Emerman, of Malach Consulting, and radioactivity specialist Dr Stella Swanson, of Swanson Environmental Strategies, have enabled robust scrutiny of how Rio Tinto/QMM’s has exceeded its permitted activity limit at the Mandena mine site and confirmed that  its tailings breached an environmental buffer zone and entered into a local lake.

Savannah Resources completes licensing for Mozambique JV with Rio Tinto

Multi-commodity developer Savannah Resources (AIM:SAV) has received the third and final permit for the Mutamba heavy minerals sands project, being developed in partnership with Rio Tinto.

4) Coal, climate and divestment

The case against new coal mines in the UK

New report from Green Alliance making the case against any new coal mines in the UK. Currently Banks Group are using supplying the steel industry as the primary argument in favour of two proposals to mine at Dewley Hill and West Bradley.

Colombia: UN calls on Ireland to consider halting coal imports

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has once again responded to community accusations of “serious abuse of human rights” – this time at the Cerrejon coal mine  in Colombia, owned by London-listed Anglo American, BHP and Glencore.

World’s biggest fund manager vows to divest from thermal coal

BlackRock CEO says climate crisis will now dictate investments but environmentalists remain wary

BlackRock’s Climate Activism Has a Passive Problem

Larry Fink is putting the climate emergency at the forefront of his company’s investment strategy. But trillions of dollars of passive money remain unavailable for the fight.

Church of England backs challenge to Barclays’ fossil fuel funding

The Church of England has thrown its weight behind a landmark investor campaign urging Barclays to phase out the financing of fossil fuel companies.

Epiphany Declaration: 20 Christian organisations divest from fossil fuels

Twenty Christian organisations in the UK – including churches, dioceses, Synods and religious orders – have announced their divestment from fossil fuels as part of the Epiphany Declaration for Fossil Free Churches.

Half of UK universities have committed to divest from fossil fuel

78 out of 154 universities joined campaign in blow to big oil’s ‘social licence’, campaigners say

Royal College of Physicians to end investment in fossil fuel and mining companies

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has announced that it will divest from fossil fuel and mining companies. The RCP will start divesting from the worst oil and gas companies immediately and will divest from all fossil fuel and mining companies, whose operations are not aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, by 2023. The RCP has previously divested from coal and tar sands.

Billionaire targeted by Greta Thunberg undeterred by coal protesters

Adani, the Indian conglomerate coming under increasing pressure over its controversial coal mine in Australia said it won’t let protests dissuade it from completing the project.

Should fossil fuels pay for Australia’s new bushfire reality? It is the industry most responsible

It is unconscionable that the taxpayer funds fossil fuels to the tune of $1,728 per person per year. What if we channelled this into climate adaptation?

Big Coal’s network of influence over the coalition government

Report and video from Greenpeace Australia.

How to facilitate the transition out of coal

Examples of good practices can be found Ruhr region of Germany, where over the last 50 years, coal mining has slowly been phased out.

5) Renewables and supposedly green mining

It would be good to read the articles below in the light of the LMN/War on Want report, published last September, about a just transition to a post-extractivist economy.

Cobalt price: After dismal 2019, could Tesla-Glencore deal spark turnaround?

Tesla is in talks to buy cobalt from Glencore for its third gigafactory, recently opened in Shanghai, according to people familiar with the matter. Tesla, alongside Google, Apple and others, were sued by a human rights group in December about artisanal cobalt mining in the Congo.

Are big miners rushing to be seen as “green”?

According to a jourbalist writing for Forbes magazine, potash is becoming the “green” choice for large mining companies which earlier placed their bets on coal. However, the shift is hardly a revolutionary one – especially if we closely examine the impacts of mining the fertiliser material, rather then focussing only on its benefits to global food production; one which is doubtful and contested anyway.

British potash: a serious proposition for Anglo American?

Potash contained in the mixed deposit beneath one of the UK’s hallowed beauty spots has become now a target of one of the world’s strongest mining companies. A deal between Sirius and Anglo American is still in question; however statements from both of them seem optimistic. Of course, a successful amalgamation depends, not only on shareholder sentiment, but also on whether early opposition by environmentalists will now be strengthened.

Mineral supply for green tech should be part of climate negotiations – scientists

An international team of researchers published a paper in Science stating that the global low-carbon revolution could be at risk unless new international agreements and governance mechanisms are put in place to ensure a sustainable supply of rare minerals and metals.

6) Facing Immeasurable “Extinction”

“We’re about to make one of the biggest transformations that humans have ever made to the surface of the planet. We’re going to strip-mine a massive habitat, and once it’s gone, it isn’t coming back.” This is the conclusion drawn by a leading environmentalist, summarising the prospects of deep sea mining, now under intense discussion in various global forums. In this first essay of 2020, a US journalist makes a concerted effort to summarise the maze of plans, and multitude of conflicts, embraced by what is arguably the most vital issue confronting our planet at all levels of existence. Where indeed will any of us be in the next decade? That’s presuming we survive that long.

7) Ecuador court casts doubts on mining projects future, allows public referendums

Ecuador’s constitutional court has ruled that communities have the right to hold public referendums on whether or not to allow a mining project to go forward, paving the way for opposition to future developments. The ruling comes after the court analyzed three decisions made last year on the topic, including one that rejected requests to vote on the future of SolGold’s (LON, TSX:SOLG) flagship copper and gold Cascabel project — set to become one of Ecuador’s biggest mines.