Dec 13, 2010

Court says 'No' to Crucitas gold mine

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 13, 2010 04:05 PM
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Friends of the Earth Costa Rica are celebrating a recent high court ruling that has declared the licence for an open-pit gold mine in the town of Las Crucitas to be invalid.

crucitas mining demonstration

Friends of the Earth Costa Rica (FoE Costa Rica), environmental organisations and the residents of Las Crucitas, have been campaigning against opening up the northern border region to mining for 17 years.


During that time they have initiated several legal processes, demonstrated outside the mine, marched on parliament and even engaged in hunger strikes.


The region, in the north close to the Nicaraguan border, is rich in biodiversity and home to endangered species of trees and the great green macaw. It was supposedly protected by Costa Rica's strict laws on environmental preservation. However, in 2008 the then president Oscar Arias overruled these laws by declaring that mining in Las Crucitas would be in the national interest. And so opposition to the mine continued.


The open-pit method of mining the company were going to use involves the use of cyanide and is one of the most destructive industrial practices there is. It's considered so dangerous that in May 2010 the European Parliament issued a resolution on the general prohibition of the use of technologies based on cyanide mining.


A breakthrough came when Oscar Arias' presidential term came to an end in early 2010 and the groups in opposition to the mine petitioned the new president Laura Chincilla to repeal the national interest decree.


As a result the case finally returned to court and the national interest decree was declared invalid along with the mining contract. The court also ordered a criminal investigation into the former president and environment minister for having signed off on a decree stating that the open-pit gold mine was in the public’s interest. The court found that since environmental studies were incomplete, Oscar Arias’ signing of the decree was illegal.


Speaking on the verdict Javier Baltodano from FoE Costa Rica said:


"This is a victory for the Earth, for Nature, and as a movement we have always felt the Federation very close to us".


Unfortunately the fight is not completely over as the Canadian mining company has lodged an appeal and may also seek international arbitration. 


Javier Baltodano believes the mining company has no case and should leave the country sooner rather than later:


"Former President Oscar Arias was responsible, and he must be the one to blame in the case the mining company files a complaint”, he said, referring to the Free Trade Agreement signed by Costa Rica with Canada which opens the door to these kinds of claims.


"The company is responsible because it continued with the project despite clear regulations against it. They carried on with the support of politicians, and they are the ones that must respond if the company files a complaint, not the Costa Rican State."


Citing various referenda that have taken place over the years, Baltodano said 98 per cent of Costa Ricans oppose these kind of extractive projects. Once the decision becomes final Costa Ricans "will lift the burden off our shoulders" he concluded.


Photo credit: flickr/betobeto

Sep 08, 2010

Court to handle Milieudefensie request to inspect Shell documents

by PhilLee — last modified Sep 08, 2010 03:00 PM

The lawyer for Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands - also representing three Nigerian farmers – has submitted to The Hague court an additional written request to obtain access to thirty of Shell’s internal documents.

nigerian gas flaring 2This is necessary because Shell has so far refused to allow inspection of the documents. The request is part of a court case* involving four Nigerian farmers and fishers and Milieudefensie versus the oil company, due to severe oil pollution in the Niger Delta in Nigeria.


Milieudefensie and the farmers requested the documents, which could provide additional evidence in the case, from Shell earlier this year via the court. The company denied access. Therefore the lawyer for Milieudefensie and the Nigerians have submitted an additional request (called a statement of reply), which requests that the court compel Shell to allow inspection. Shell then can submit a defence in writing.

"This refusal to allow access is typical of Shell," said Geert Ritsema of Milieudefensie. "The company excels at erecting smoke screens and obstructions to prevent being held responsible for the damage and oil pollution it has caused in the Niger Delta. We are optimistic that the court will recognise that the documents we have requested are of importance in helping the Nigerian farmers and fishers defend their rights."

Earlier in 2010, Shell presented purely legal and formal reasons to deny access to the documents. Especially noteworthy is that the oil multinational additionally claimed that the requested documents – a daily logbook detailing the effects of oil leaks, as required by Nigerian law – simply do not exist.


Milieudefensie and the Nigerians hope to be able to use the documents they have requested to uncover new evidence for the key claim in the case: that Shell’s Dutch headquarters shares responsibility for the actions of its subsidiary in Nigeria, and so also for the leaks which the case centres on. Access is also requested to documents concerning specific leaks in the villages of Oruma and Goi.


The legal case of Milieudefensie and four Nigerian farmers and fishers versus Shell consists of three cases of oil leaks in the Nigerian villages of Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo. The court cases have been brought before the court in The Hague, where Shell’s international headquarters is located. The Nigerian plaintiffs, who lost their livelihoods after oil from leaking Shell pipelines streamed over their fields and into their fish ponds, are demanding that Shell properly clean up the oil and compensate them for the damage they have suffered.

Find out more about the case, including background, a timeline and legal documents

May 31, 2010

Shell takes a first step towards solving the gas flaring issue in Nigeria

by PhilLee — last modified May 31, 2010 04:50 PM

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has announced that it will invest 600 million dollars in gas installations to recover gas released in oil production in Nigeria.

5On May 21 2010 Shell succumbed to decades of campaigning and announced that they would finally do something about gas flaring, a practice that devastates the environment and the health of communities that live near flare sites. It also contributes significantly to climate change by pumping an estimated 400 million tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere.


For years Friends of the Earth International and many of our member groups, such as those in the Netherlands and Nigeria, have been campaigning against this outdated and wasteful practice, which has technically been illegal since 1979 under Nigerian law.


Shell’s investment will be added to by the other partners in Shell's joint venture in Nigeria - Total, Agip and the Nigerian state oil company NNCP – to a total amount of 2 billion dollars. With that, Shell says it can extinguish 26 flares. That is just under a quarter of the total numbers of flares now burning in Nigeria.


Friends of the Earth campaigners have treated the news with caution:


Geert Ritsema from Friends of the Earth Netherlands /Milieudefensie said:


"This is a small, but not insignificant step in the right direction. We will only believe it after those 26 flares have actually been extinguished. The fact is that year after year Shell has promised to extinguish the flares, and  has so far not made good on these promises. We call on Shell to keep its promise this time. Furthermore, it is the intention that all 110 flares be extinguished as quickly as possible; just under a quarter of these is only the beginning. Our campaign will continue until the last flare has been put out.’


The response by Nnimmo Bassey, director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / ERA and Chair of Friends of the Earth International was equally cautious:


"The release by Shell certainly is a mark of success for our collective campaigns. But I can say that it is a little step coming quite late in the day. They have not given a date as to when they will switch off the flares, meaning they can keep working and keep flaring for who knows how long!"


For years, Milieudefensie and ERA have been jointly carrying out a campaign against Shell’s damaging practices in Nigeria. Increasing numbers of other international environmental and human rights organisations, as well as Shell's own shareholders, are also calling on Shell to stop this practice. During the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 18 2010, shareholders and institutional investors also expressed their desire to see Shell improve its operational management in Nigeria.


The unnecessary flaring of gas by Shell in Nigeria emits an amount of greenhouse gases every day which is equal to half the CO2 emitted by all Dutch passenger cars. This means that Shell is making a significant contribution to the global climate problem. Residents of the Niger Delta also suffer daily from toxic emissions by the gas flares, which cause health problems and damage crops.

Mar 31, 2010

European Commission draft document paves way for oil from tar sands in europe

by PhilLee — last modified Mar 31, 2010 10:55 AM

A new initiative allowing citizens across Europe to express concerns over oil industry investment in tar sands was launched on March 29, 2010 amid warnings that the European Commission is set to sabotage its own efforts to limit the climate change impacts of the fossil fuel industry.

tar sands handDrafts of the Fuel Quality Directive implementation plan [1] – the EU initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels - seen by Friends of the Earth Europe suggest that the plan will not help to decarbonise the fossil fuel sector, and will do nothing to restrict imports of oil from tar sands to Europe. Oil produced from tar sands produces up to five times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil.

Friends of the Earth Europe together with other environment groups has written to climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard urging her to address the weaknesses in the draft. [2]

Darek Urbaniak, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:


"European oil companies are already significantly increasing their tar sands portfolios through investments in Congo, Jordan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Russia and other countries. The Fuel Quality Directive is supposed to benefit the climate but the latest proposal from the European Commission leaves the European market wide open for fuels produced from tar sands and undermines the whole purpose of the legislation. The EU should be leading the world in stopping tar sands."


Major oil companies have been pushing for the removal of greenhouse gas reduction targets for fossil fuels they produce in this legislation allowing them to continue to invest in the extraction of oil from tar sands.

Now they are coming under pressure from anti-tar sands campaigners and concerned investors who have succeeded in filing a resolution [3] to the forthcoming Annual General Meetings of BP plc and Royal Dutch Shell plc, calling on the companies to disclose the risks associated with their tar sands investments and their plans to address them.

From today European pension providers are also being targeted by the campaign and citizens across Europe have the opportunity to send a message to BP and Shell investors asking them to support the resolution on tar sands.

The resolutions are already supported by a number of major investors in the UK and the United States.

Duncan Exley, Director of Campaigns for FairPensions, said:


"The resolutions to BP and Shell were filed amid growing questions from investors, analysts and environmental groups about the financial, environmental and social implications of tar sands. We are calling on people to use the power of their pension or savings to force a review of this damaging and risky activity."

Tar sands – a naturally occurring mixture of sand or clay, water and an extremely dense and viscous form of petroleum called bitumen – cause more damage to the climate than conventional oil. The greenhouse gas emissions of converting tar sands into fuel is three to five times higher than for conventional oil. The pollution, deforestation and wildlife disturbance associated with tar sands developments also threaten the traditional livelihoods and wellbeing of indigenous communities.

Take action

Friends of the Earth Europe and FairPensions have collaborated on an action that will target Shell and BP shareholders directly.


You can express your concerns to your pension provider or if you don't have a pension you can email one of Shell and BP's largest shareholders.




[1] Fuel Quality Directive:

[2] Letter to Commissioner Hedegaard regarding Fuel Quality Directive

[3] More information on the resolutions and their supporters:

The shareholder resolutions are co-ordinated by London-based responsible investment charity FairPensions and were filed by a broad coalition of individual and institutional investors, foundations and faith groups. FairPensions is urging investors to vote in favour of the resolutions, and members of the public to petition their pension provider to do the same.