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Environmental activists confront coal-mining executives at shareholders' meeting in London

Extinction Rebellion and Reclaim the Power join Phulbari Solidarity's protest against GCM Resources' plans to build an open cast mine in north-west Bangladesh

ENVIRONMENTAL activists confronted business executives planning to build an open cast mine in Bangladesh at a shareholders’ meeting in central London today.

Campaigners descended on Cavendish Square, where Global Coal Management (GCM) Resources was to hold its annual general meeting.

The London-listed company has caused controversy with its plans for the open cast coal mine in the Phulbari region of north-west Bangladesh.

In 2006, three people were shot dead and hundreds reportedly injured when police opened fire on a large demonstration against the company in Phulbari.

Construction of the mine would forcibly displace 130,000 farming families from the area, according to the Phulbari Solidarity Group.

Over 10,000 hectares of farmland would also be destroyed and clean water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people would be endangered, the group says.

The campaigners were joined at the Cavendish Square protest by others from the Extinction Rebellion and Reclaim the Power groups. Together, the protesters managed to block the entrance to the AGM by gluing their hands to access barriers.

The blockade was so effective that even protesters posing as shareholders struggled to get through.

“The AGM was disrupted successfully and we will run after them wherever they go,” Akhter Khan from Phulbari Solidarity Group told the Morning Star.

“We will not let the open-pit mine project in Phulbari go ahead. It will displace huge numbers of people and destroy our environment and ecology.”

Mr Khan added: “Three protesters have been arrested today by police and we demand their immediate release.”

The action was supported by farmers in Bangladesh, who sent a petition to the company ahead of the meeting urging GCM to cancel the project.

Campaigners also warn that it would devastate one of the world’s largest mangrove forests, the Sundarbans, which is listed as a world heritage site by United Nations education agency Unesco.

They have also criticised the “unacceptable” financial terms of the deal. GCM would be allowed to extract coal for 30 years while only paying the Bangladeshi government a 6 per cent royalty.

They further allege that GCM would “enjoy nine years’ tax holidays and after 30 years they would own all of whatever coal would be remaining in the Phulbari coal-bed reserve.”

The Metropolitan Police told the Star that it received “reports of a protest inside a business address on Cavendish Square, W1,” at about 9.25am today.

“Officers attended and three women were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass,” a spokesperson said. “They have been taken to a central London police station, where they remain in custody.”

GCM did not respond to requests for comment but released a statement online claiming that “at the annual general meeting held today, all of the ordinary and special resolutions as set out in the notice of this meeting were passed on a show of hands and no polls were taken.” 

The company proclaims on its website that it aspires to “the highest international social and environmental standards.”

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