15 years after Phulbari Massacre, Campaigners Rally outside Bangladesh High Commission As Coal Power in Bangladesh Remains Stalled

On Thursday 26 August, climate justice activists will gather outside of the Bangladesh High Commission in London to pay tribute to the victims of the Phulbari Massacre, where three teenage boys were killed whilst protesting against GCM’s planned open cast coal mine. The day is nationally known as ‘Phulbari Day’ in Bangladesh and is observed with vigils and commemorations by Indigenous communities and environmental activists.

Demonstrators in Bangladesh mark Phulbari day in 2020
Demonstrators in Bangladesh mark Phulbari day in 2020

At the rally in London, organised by the Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network, demonstrators will demand that the Bangladesh Government bans coal mining and coal power plant construction, and takes urgent legal action against the London-listed mining company, GCM Resources plc. GCM has continued to sell shares in the name of the Phulbari coal project on the London share market for 15 years without a contract and without any valid stake. Activists demand that the Bangladesh High Commissioner, on behalf of the Bangladesh government, should tell the London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM immediately. The gathered campaigners will observe three minutes of silence and pay tribute to Al Amin, Mohammad Salekin and Tarikul Islam. These three, aged 11,13 and 18 respectively were killed on 26 August 2006 when a paramilitary force opened fire during a nonviolent demonstration against the eviction of 130,000 people in Phulbari to make way for a 572-million ton open cast coal mine. More than 200 other demonstrators were injured.

The action in London takes place in solidarity with the vigils by Phulbari communities in Bangladesh, currently facing a lockdown due to rising COVID cases and shortage of vaccines. One of the key aims of the protest in London is to put pressure on the LSE to de-list GCM. If this were to happen, GCM would no longer be able to trade its shares on the LSE’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), significantly affecting their funding and representing clear action being taken to hold the company to account. Campaigners point to potential fraud, harassment of local communities and the fact that GCM holds no valid license to mine in Bangladesh as reasons to de-list the company.

The Bangladesh government reiterated that the Phulbari project is unlikely to go ahead and that GCM will never be given permission to return to Phulbari or northwest Bangladesh for coal extraction. The government overturned GCM’s right to operate in Bangladesh more than a decade ago. In August 2019, Nasrul Hamid, the Deputy State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh said:
“Even in the absence of an agreement, GCM or Asia Energy is trading shares in London by providing information that coal would be extracted from Phulbari, which is false. The government has taken this into notice. The government is proceeding to take legal action against them.”

Despite this, no legal action has yet been taken against GCM. Although it lacks any contract with the national government, GCM has continued to move forward with plans in Bangladesh. Their 2019 Annual Report states that GCM has signed a deal with Power China to develop a 4000MW power plant in Phulbari. The Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network have submitted evidence against GCM three times to the London Stock Exchange in 2016, 2019, and 2020. This year on 26 August the campaigners are gathering by the Bangladesh High Commission where they will hand over their memorandum with five key demands to the High Commissioner.

Rumana Hashem, the co-ordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye-witness to Phulbari shooting said:

“Bangladesh High Commission is aware that the London Stock Exchange is hosting a company that is responsible for gross human rights violations and that does not have a valid license for business in Bangladesh. But they are not taking action to prevent this crime. I witnessed GCM’s violence in Phulbari. 15 years on, the company continues to grab money by selling deceitful shares in Phulbari’s name. The company does not hold any valid assets to operate in Phulbari and does not have permission for mining anywhere in the world. Bangladesh’s state minister stated that the government will take legal action against GCM. Its’ been two years since. The High Commission and Bangladesh Government who should take action now.”