London Mining Tour

Back in November 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic made such things impossible, London Mining Network led a tour of three of the biggest mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange: BHP, Rio Tinto and Anglo American. During the walk we explored the tangible and intangible relationships between London-based mining companies and the multilayered impacts of their projects around the world.

A crowd gathers around our tour guide on a London street, outside the offices of one of the largest mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The tour formed part of the two day conference Assembly: Extractable Matters – which formed part of the public programme for the exhibition Tales from the Crust by Ignacio Acosta. We’d like to thank Art’s Catalyst for hosting the conference and inviting us to play a part in it. We’re pleased to now present the audio recordings of the tour for those that might have missed it, or who want to relive the days when we could safely gather in public.

Here’s Art’s Catalyst’s write up of the tour:

Part 1: BHPThe tour began outside Nova South building, where the Anglo-Australian company BHP occupies the 12th and 13th floor. After a brief introduction into the company’s colonial links – connected to the Anglo-Dutch Billiton plc – this initial part of the tour focused on the environmental damage and losses that the industry provokes on a global scale; through soil and water contamination as well as through the huge amount of water that mining operations require. We heard about the open-pit Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira (northern Colombia), the copper mine Escondida in Chile, BHP’s involvement in the copper mining company SolGold in Ecuador (despite a recent referendum in Ecuador opposing mining activities in the country), and finally about the dam disasters in Mariana (2015) and Brumadinho (2019) in Brazil, in which hundreds of people were killed. We listened to the moving testimony of Vagner Diniz, who lost members of his family in Brumadinho.  

Park:While walking through the park, Richard Solly (LMN) drew attention to the proximity of the various offices of mining companies in relation to Buckingham Palace, stimulating reflections on geographical sites of power.  

Part 2: Anglo-AmericanAnglo-American and De Beers are two interlinked Anglo-South African companies, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange. Their history of gold and diamonds mining and selling – since the 1880s – is strongly entangled with imperialism and colonialism. Following the end of the apartheid, both companies became much more international, branching out into the Philippines and Latin America. In Latin America the company has been accused of polluting and undermining the livelihood of communities and environments: in Brazil at Minas Rio Anglo American for instance, where a tailing dam is threatening the local farming communities and at Los Bronzes in Chile, where the dust produced by their mining activities is threatening the ecology of local glaciers. Recently the company has been accused of exploiting migrant workers and of making miners ill with silicosis. This part of the tour ended with Sue from LMN speaking about the communities living near Cerrejón mine in Colombia. These communities are demanding justice as their lives are impacted negatively on a daily basis, specifically by the pollution produced by explosions from the open cast mine.  

Part 3: Rio Tinto Founded by a multinational consortium of investors in 1873, Rio Tinto is an Anglo-Australian multinational corporation. It is the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporations, behind BHP Billiton, mining iron ore, copper, diamonds, gold, coal and uranium. During the tour, London Mining Network highlighted a series of cases they are currently investigating including: a copper mine in Arizona, which doesn’t yet exist and which indigenous people are trying to halt proceedings for and a copper and gold mine in Mongolia that is driving nomadic herders off their land and creating water access problems. Andrew and Richard from LMN delved into the highly controversial cases of the Grasberg mine in West Papua, and the Panguna mine in Bougainville (which recently voted for independence from Papua New Guinea).  The tour ended with an insight into Glencore, a Swiss UK joint commodities company and mining company, accused of human rights violation in relation to cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.