Nov 09, 2011

Memory, Truth and Justice for Heroes in the Resistance against Mining Oil and Gas

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 09, 2011 03:30 PM

On the 16th anniversary of the murder of Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa we have released a report to honour those involved in the struggle for justice for the communities who suffer the consequences of extractive industries.

heroes coverThe report exposes the murders of many human rights and environmental activists all over the world for defending their rights and natural resources.


Read the report


To this day, the list of community rights defenders, human rights advocates, environmentalists, indigenous peoples leaders, church people, and social activists killed in the course of their struggle against mining, oil and gas around the world continues to grow longer.

call on governments to hold oil companies to account and abandon unwanted new projects

Nigeria: Last August the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report that detailed the absolute tragedy that is occurring in Ogoniland (Niger Delta) due to devastating oil spills in the past five decades.


Shell must pay for the cleanup and they must make good for the human rights abuses that they facilitated.

Please tell Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to declare an environmental state of emergency in Ogoniland, and to hold Shell accountable for this emergency


United States: As the pursuit for ever scarer reserves of oil and gas intensifies so do the Injustices against communities. The Keystone XL pipeline would double imports of dirty tar sands oil into the US and endanger the health of communities and ecosystems all along its path from Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.


Tell President Obama to show oil lobbyists the door and reject the Keystone XL pipeline

Aug 12, 2011

The agony of Ogoni

by PhilLee — last modified Aug 12, 2011 11:00 AM

FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey writes about the recent United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report that reveals the true extent of the environmental devastation, caused by fifty years of oil operations in Ogoniland, Nigeria.

UNEP scientists inspecting a pipeline right of way around 30 metres wide cut through mangroves in Ogoniland
UNEP scientists inspecting a pipeline right of way around 30 metres wide cut through mangroves in Ogoniland. © Victor Temofe Mogbolu/UNEP
When the Ogoni people demanded a halt to the unwholesome acts of the Shell Production and Development Company (SPDC or Shell) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the government called them names and unleashed security agents to maim, rape and murder and hound many into exile. 


The report on the pollution of Ogoniland prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and released on August 4, 2011, marks the first official confirmation that there is a major tragedy on our hands. UNEP's report unequivocally shows that the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) under the prescient leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa was not crying wolf when it maintained that grave injustice was being inflicted on Ogoniland.


UNEP officials say the report was issued to respond to innuendos. At over $9 million, this must be the most expensive innuendo-dousing report on record. Whether the "innuendo" provoked the study or the release of the study is not known. But if it was that the report was a prelude to resumption of oil exploitation in Ogoniland, it is certainly not doused.


It is shocking that in the face of the Ogoni tragic environment the UNEP report suggests a possible restarting of oil exploitation in Ogoniland. That may be likened to obtaining blood from a dying man.


suspicions confirmed

The report largely says what has been known and said before. But this is official and very valuable. When Shell doled out the funds for the study, they claimed they did so on the basis of the polluter-pays principle. True. Shell polluted Ogoniland, just as they and other companies have done and continue to do all over the Niger Delta.


Claims by Shell that a majority of the oil spills in Ogoni are caused by interference by local people flies in the face of the observations in the UNEP report. The report says the bush refineries, for example, became prominent from 2007. Obviously, one of the conclusions should have been that with livelihoods utterly destroyed, some of the people had to find a means of survival and chose this unfortunate and illegal trade. With UNEP's obvious care not to antagonise Shell in the report, this path was not pursued.


In a critique of the UNEP report, Richard Steiner of Oasis Earth organisation, Alaska, writes: "The UNEP report devotes several pages (161-166) specifically to artisanal refining at the Bodo West oilfield, and correctly reports an unfortunate increase in such between 2007 and 2011. However, in this analysis of oil pollution in this region, UNEP entirely ignores the other much larger source of oil spilled into this same region in that same time period - the twin ruptures of the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) caused by SPDC negligence in 2008 and 2009. Together these spills contributed between 250,000 - 350,000 barrels of oil into this system, orders of magnitude more than illegal refining. Much of the oil at Bodo West area likely derived from the TNP Bodo spills." How do these compare to the volume of spills from artisanal refineries?


Professor Steiner also wonders why the UNEP study report says that "no single clear and continuous source of spilled oil was observed or reported during UNEP's site visits," whereas the massive spills at Bodo occurred at the time of the study and the combined spill volume may well exceed that of the Exxon Valdez that occurred in Alaska in 1989.


A break from the past

Much has already been said about the contents of the report and the dire state of the Ogoni environment. A significant problem that may scuttle efforts at acceptable cleanup of Ogoniland is the lack of capacity or unwillingness of Nigerian regulatory agencies to enforce laws and to act independently. Their independence is of course affected by the fact that Shell has infiltrated the petroleum ministry in a deep and total way (remember WikiLeaks cables). If government is serious about regulating the sector it will need to ensure that those called to make this happen are not connected to Shell's umbilical cord.


How, for instance, could government officials certify that oil spills have been cleared up and impacted areas remediated whereas the contrary is the case? According to UNEP there are 10 "remediation completed" sites showing ongoing pollution in Ogoni. Shell's spill management was also called to question as they use incompetent contractors for jobs that require knowledge, skills and equipment.


The confirmation that Shell has poor diligence in its oil spill responses and that our regulatory agencies endorse the pattern raises serious issues about the situation in other parts of the Niger Delta where this impunity continues unabated.


Other matters arising from the UNEP report that call for immediate follow-up include the inconclusive study on public health issues even though a gamut of medical records were surveyed. Same about vegetation and also rainwater that the people turn to in the face of living beside polluted rivers, creeks and waterways.


We now have official confirmation that the Ogoni people are drinking water polluted 900 times above World Health Organisation's standards. We also now know that the ground is polluted up to a depth of 5 metres at some places. We know that there are cancer causing elements in the water and in the air. We also know that there are toxic wastes dumped in unlined pits in Ogoniland. These issues are replicated all over the Niger Delta. But they are heightened in those areas because you must factor in the highly toxic gas flares.


Ogoniland (read Niger Delta) ranks as one of the most polluted places on earth. What is urgently needed is for the federal government to declare an environmental state of emergency here. Ecological problems do not observe community or political boundaries. How the government handles this case will tell a lot about who we are as a people.


Further reading

Read our press release on the UNEP report
Read the UNEP report

May 02, 2011

Protesting against the world's largest gold mining company

by PhilLee — last modified May 02, 2011 02:16 PM

Natalie Lowrey from Friends of the Earth Australia reports back on her attempts to question Barrick Gold at its annual general meeting and her participation in a 200 strong protest against the corporations dire human and environmental rights record.

barrick gold agm 2011-3On 27 April, the day of the meeting, my intention was to gain access to the AGM and ask a few difficult questions of the board. Sakura Saunders, co-editor of ProtestBarrick.net, owned a share in Barrick Gold and was therefore entitled entry to the AGM, or send a proxy, as is the right of any shareholder. I was to be Sakura's proxy.


However, as soon as I walked up to the registration desk I was surrounded by three burly cops that knew my name. I was asked whether I was there to disrupt the meeting. I replied 'No', I was there to ask questions on Barrick Gold's mine in Lake Cowal, Australia and I had a proxy.


I was then handed over to a man who was official Barrick Gold security. He also asked me what my intentions were. When he led me back to the registration desk I noted a piece of paper with my name on it, the Papua New Guinea representatives' names and those of a few other people who have been campaigning with communities impacted by Barrick Gold. They told me at the desk that my proxy hadn't been registered.


I went back outside and asked Sakura, the shareholder, to go in. They also refused to let her in. She is now in process of seeking legal advice as it is illegal to not let a shareholder into an AGM.



Meanwhile the two community members from Porgera, Papua New Guinea, Jethro Tulin and Mark Ekepa were delayed getting into Canada. This saga had started the night before when they were trying to leave the United States. As they were going through the boarding process they were stopped and told that they couldn't go to Canada because they didn't have visas. Both have come to Canada for the past three years and never had this problem. We are not sure if the power of Barrick is behind this or it's simply coincidental. We are investigating.


Pieter, a member of the Lawyers Environmental Action Team/Friends of the Earth Tanzania also had a proxy - fortunately he got in as he has never been directly associated with the work of any protest group. Before he read the Tanzanian statement and questions he had prepared he also stated that I had not been allowed in with my proxy and that the Papua New Guineas hadn't made it in time.


Aaron Regent, the CEO of Barrick Gold stated that it was a shame that the Papua New Guineans' flight had been delayed. How did Barrick Gold know that the Papua New Guinean delegation's plane was delayed? This does pose the question whether Barrick Gold is trying all avenues to make sure affected communities don't get to ask questions inside their shareholder meetings.



barrick gold agm 2011-1Meanwhile outside the meeting up to 200 people gathered with colour and music rallying against Barrick's ongoing environmental and human rights abuses around the world. ProtestBarrick.net's editor, Sakura Saunders introduced the speakers, which included: Myself (Natalie Lowrey), Friends of the Earth Australia; Catherine Coumans, Mining Watch Canada; Jacob Nuremberg, Anthropology student the University of Toronto (UofT) and organiser for the UofT General Assembly and Munk Out of UofT campaign; Illian Burbano, CUPE International Solidarity; Marcos from Latin American Solidarity Coalition and Jethro Tulin from the Porgera Alliance.


The rally started outside Barrick's shareholder meeting at the Toronto Metro Convention Center then we all marched to Barrick Gold's head office.


The rally was supported by: http://www.foei.org, http://protestbarrick.net, http://porgeraalliance.net/http://savelakecowal.org/ , http://munkoutofuoft.wordpress/ , http://leat.or.tz/ , http://foe.org.au/ , http://solidarityresponse.net/ , http://ejtoronto.wordpress.com/ , http://cupe.on.ca/doc.php?subject_id=253


Read the Friends of the Earth International press release


Thanks for your ongoing support. We have two mining conferences we will be attending with other mining impacted communities before we hit the road for a speaking tour to Southern Ontario, Montreal and New York for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. We will be keeping you posted, you can also get updates by joining ProtestBarrick.net facebook and twitter


Photos: Top, Natalie Lowrey outside the Barrick Gold AGM. Bottom: Protesters outside the AGM. Credit: Allan Lissner

Apr 03, 2011

Killings, criminalization and degradation at the North Mara Mine, Tanzania

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 03, 2011 03:15 PM

Sakura Saunders, co-editor protestbarrick.net, writes about recent fatal clashes between local people and the security forces at the North Mara Mine in Tanzania.

tara mine tanzaniaOn May 16, over 1,000 people entered a mine in northern Tanzania, desperate to collect whatever gold they could from the modern industrial site that used to be their bread and butter. But instead of providing the displaced artisanal miners with a boost to their meager income, the day ended in horror.


The next day, African Barrick Gold, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Barrick Gold, released a statement admitting that seven people were killed and twelve injured at their North Mara mine in Tanzania. The killings came at the hands of Tanzanian police, who Barrick originally claimed were under sustained attack by 800 “criminal intruders” (a number Barrick revised to 1,500), who illegally entered the North Mara mine to steal gold ore. Since this fatal confrontation, tensions have been high in the Tarime District, with an increase in the number of police, the deployment of water cannons, the arrest of journalists and two members of parliament for “instigating violence,” and the theft of five of the seven bodies from the mortuary by police.


Confrontations between local people and the mine’s security forces are not uncommon near Barrick’s North Mara mine in Tanzania. As Bloomberg journalist Cam Simpson reported in a December 2010 feature story about the mine, before this latest massacre “at least seven people have been killed in clashes with security forces at the mine in the past two years.” These security forces, according to company documents, include police who Barrick pays to guard its North Mara mine.


“They are not arresting them or taking them to court,” said Machage Bartholomew Machage, a member of the Tarime District Council, the highest local government body, in an interview with Simpson. “They are just shooting them.”


One week after the most recent spate of killings, the police stormed a local mortuary and stole the bodies of four of the dead. This move, according to locals, was to prevent the villagers from holding a planned memorial service at the mine on Tuesday.


Police also arrested and charged two members of Parliament, a legal advisor, and journalists for “instigating people to cause violence.” MP Tundu Lissu, who was among those arrested, was in Tarime to assist with post-mortem medical examinations of bodies to identify exactly which parts of the bodies of the deceased were shot by the police.


“Normally if you shoot a person on the head it means you intended to kill them. However, if you shoot them on the leg it means you tried to stop them from doing something… this exercise will help us to know the police’s intention,” he explained to local journalists. Tundu was arrested two days later at the funeral of the local villagers killed by Barrick security.


At this time, Lissu and six others remain in police custody and their bail has been denied. Meanwhile, the four journalists, MP Esther Matiko, and opposition cadre John Heche posted bail and were released after six hours in custody.


According to George Marato of Tazania’s Guardian newspaper, these violent confrontations can be blamed in part on corruption amongst the security forces at Barrick’s mine. According to his interviews with locals following the latest killings, police and company staff conspire to facilitate illegal entry into the premises to scoop sand with gold concentrates. For example, one group would pay one million shillings (around $650) in exchange for a half-hour of scooping sand from the ground.


The violent confrontations occur, according to Marato, when disagreements arise over the amount of compensation for company insiders, often due to hikes in “gold theft fees.” He writes, “Ensuing wars of words turn into confrontations that provoke policemen to fire at the very people who had been co-conspirators not long previously.”


This situation, according to Marato, is then compounded by local youngsters who attempt to force their way to the compound to scoop the sand free of charge.


Tensions with the locals can be traced back to the mine’s early history of displacement and dispossession. Before the mine opened, an estimated 40,000 people living in the area, a large majority of the population, depended on small-scale mining for their livelihoods, according to a history compiled by the mine’s first proponent, Afrika Mashariki Gold Mines Ltd.


Small scale miners, represented by five villages, had mineral rights to the lands that they mined, but were forced to sell these claims to Afrika Mashariki under illegal and irregular circumstances, according to a legal complaint launched in July 2003 by the Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT) on behalf of 1,273 former small-scale miners. In another lawsuit, 43 landowners alleged to have been paid no compensation, while being forcefully evicted from their lands.


Since then, there have been multiple fatal confrontations at the mine site. In December 2008, one such incident resulted in a civilian uprising where locals set fire to $7 million worth in mine equipment. This number, which was originally estimated at upwards of $15 million, is disputed by locals. As now, Barrick blamed the damage to equipment on “well-organized groups” that raided the mine site. However, signed affidavits [1, 2] from witnesses to the event claim that angry villagers had only set one Caterpillar loader on fire on a road outside the mine, after they had heard of the killing of their compatriot. These affidavits and others [3, 4] describe this incident in detail, as well as documenting the history of violence and impunity at the mine site, and the criminalization of community advocates following the murders.

Mar 24, 2011

Oil drilling halted in northern Norway

by PhilLee — last modified Mar 24, 2011 05:19 PM
Filed Under:

Friends of the Earth Norway are celebrating the decision of the Norwegian government, despite massive pressure from the oil industry, to hold off on oil activity in the areas of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja in the north of the country.

Oil drilling halted in northern NorwayThe decision, made on March 11, has been the main campaign priority of the Norwegian environmental movement for many years due to the ecological sensitivity of the area just above the Arctic circle. The area is a breeding ground for increasingly endangered marine life such as cod.

In addition to pressure from environmentalists and local fishermen, the minister involved in the decision cited the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico last year as an influencing factor.

"The chances for such an accident are small, but the consequences would be enormous," said Erik Solheim, the Environment minister.

Speaking on the victory Friends of the Earth Norway's Lars Haltbrekken said:

"We are very pleased that the government has decided not to start an impact assessment study of oil exploration off Lofoten and Vesteraalen in the lifetime of this parliament.

"We, along with others, had long warned against oil activities in this vulnerable regions given the presence of fish stocks and marine life.

"At the same time we know that the issue will come up again in 2014 both in Lofoten and Vesteraalen, but also in key (cod) spawning and nursing areas off the coast of the (nearby) Moere region."


Photo credit: Carl-Frederic Salicath