Joint Statement by Phulbari Solidarity, London Mining Network, and Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike

Today, Friday 26 August, marks the 16th anniversary of Phulbari Massacre where three young people Al Amin (11), Mohammad Saleqin (13), and Tarikul Islam (18) were shot dead for protesting against an open cast coal mine in 2006. More than two hundred people were injured in a non-violent demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against a London-listed mining company, Asia Energy, now known as GCM Resources Plc. GCM Resources wants to extract 572million tons coal to build a 600MW coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people. Coal would be extracted for 30 years from Bangladesh’s only flood protected location in Phulbari, Dinajpur. The day is nationally known as Phulbari Day since the murders of Amin, Saleqin and Tarikul.

We remember Phulbari Day. We should call out the London-listed company GCM Resources plc, which inflicted violence in pursuit of coal in Phulbari. Powerful resistance by the communities in the aftermath of the shooting have put a 16-year long halt to the mining project. The Bangladesh government has declined all contracts with GCM since 2007. But the company is still selling shares in the London share market in the name of the Phulbari coal mine. Despite having no valid contract with Bangladesh, they are moving ahead with their devastating plans together with Polo Resources, another British corporation which bought into GCM in 2010. GCM and Polo Resources are hosted by the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). They recruited a local agency called the DG Infratech Pte Ltd, a Bangladesh based agency, to lobby the government. We should call out them, and the London Stock Exchange (LSE), too. We should also call on the UK and Bangladesh governments to take legal action against GCM Resources and Polo Resources.

GCM’s CEO Gary Lye continues to harass anti-mining community activists on the ground. Lye filed two cases against 19 community leaders who are facing trial in Dinajpur Magistrate court because of their leading roles in the resistance movement. Gary Lye demand £1billion from the community leaders for damaging his company’s reputation through their resistance movement. Earlier in August the 19 Phulbari community leaders had their hearing in the Dinajpur court, where Lye’s lawyer appeared “aggressive”. During the delayed hearing on 4 August 2022, the plaintiff’s witness Saydur Rahman was asked by the defendants’ lawyer whether he knew the defendants, who are all respected community representatives. The plaintiff’s witness got angry with the lawyer and said, “no”. He was asked again how did he file cases against the defendants then? The plaintiff refused to answer the question, and instead argued with the defendants’ advocate and replied aggressively: “why are you bringing in history of the case in the court? This is an old case. These are old questions. I am not here to answer your questions about the past.” The court was shocked by the plaintiffs, a GCM staff member, raising his voice in the court. The Judge warned him to “not be aggressive” and to engage with the simple questions of the lawyers.

The 19 defendants are innocent community members who deserve state protection from harassment and aggression by GCM and its CEO Gary Lye. We ask the Bangladesh government to take legal action against GCM and the London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM Resources immediately. The London Stock Exchange has the power to suspend or expel a company from AIM for breach of the AIM rules. Despite our repeated calls to investigate GCM’s right to do business, the LSE is reluctant to do so. Likewise, the Bangladesh government has the authority to take legal action against GCM and asking LSE to de-list GCM. Neither of them have done anything to de-list GCM so far.

The London-listed coal mining company, GCM Resources plc, formerly known as Asia Energy, held its AGM behind closed doors earlier this year on 20 January. They did not put a notice online on their website despite the fact that most such activities across the world were being held online. At a time of high Omicron infection rates in the UK, they sent the notice of AGM to their shareholders by post only 13 days before the AGM. This restricted access to information by shareholders, and made it impossible for critics to raise issues in the AGM or to hold protests. Holding an AGM without an online announcement seemed a cowardly policy to avoid protests.

In 2021 GCM held a closed doors AGM, after three postponements. That excluded their own shareholders. GCM are pressing forward with a pernicious policy that excludes their own shareholders and prevents people from attending the AGM. GCM said that ‘due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the AGM will be held virtually as a closed meeting with a minimum number of directors and shareholders present, such that the legal requirement to hold a quorate meeting will be satisfied; and no other shareholders will be permitted to access, attend or participate either in person or virtually.’ They have not given a justification for such a policy.

We believe GCM Resources to be a toxic company, causing human rights violations across Phulbari and Dinajpur. They should be delisted without delay. We are calling on the London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM on this Phulbari Day. AIM has been silent on this matter. The last time we have heard from AIM was in September 2020. The email from AIM addressed to Phulbari Solidarity Group’s Founder, Dr Rumana Hashem, said that AIM would take action if GCM is breaching the law. AIM requested evidence that GCM does not have any license to conduct business in Bangladesh. Phulbari Solidarity Group has sent adequate evidence twice through email and through Royal Mail posts in 2019 and 2020. AIM is yet to acknowledge the receipt of Rumana’s emails. We have not heard from AIM since 2 September 2020. Two years since there is no progress in the investigation.

We call upon the London Stock Exchange and the UK government to de-list GCM Resources plc immediately. In adding our voices to those of the communities in resistance in Phulbari and Bangladesh, we also call upon the Bangladesh government to take legal action against GCM and to implement the 5-point Phulbari Verdict, which the government signed with community representatives on 30 August, 2006. It is the government’s responsibility to investigate what the London Stock Exchange is doing to stop GCM from selling shares on the London share market. It is also the government’s responsibility to ensure that the 19 community leaders in Phulbari are protected from GCM’s CEO, Gary Lye. It is GCM and Gary Lye who should go on trial and be compelled to pay compensation to the affected communities for their loss.