Alaskan campaigners will bring their fight against plans for one of the world’s largest goldmines to London this week after buying shares in the company behind the project, mining giant Anglo American.
In a move likely to draw comparisons with protests against tar sands at BP’s AGM last week, a coalition of indigenous rights groups and fishermen from the Bristol Bay area of Southern Alaska will protest at Anglo American’s AGM.
Anglo American and its Canadian partner Northern Dynasty Minerals plan to excavate a gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which will involve an an open pit with infrastructure stretching over 30 square miles and an 86 mile long access road.
Local campaigners say the mine will destroy one of the most valuable wild sockeye salmon runs on earth and generate up to 10 billion tonnes of contaminated mine waste.
‘Salmon are everything to us,’ said Lydia Olympic, a native of Igiugig. ‘Without salmon, we lose our main food source which has sustained our families and our traditional, subsistence culture for thousands of years,’ she said.
Share purchase plan
In a new attempt to block the plans, campaigners have now bought shares in Anglo American to enable them to voice concerns about the planned mine at the company’s AGM on Thursday.
Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll had stated publicly that the company would not develop the project if local communities objected.
‘If I’m not satisfied we can proceed without harm to the local people and the environment, then we simply won’t do it. We will not go where communities are against us,’ she told the Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin.
But with Anglo American having spent 323 million dollars exploring the deposit and gold prices at record highs, campaigners believe the AGM may be one of the last opportunities to stop the project going ahead.
‘We attended the AGM last year but that was as proxies so we weren’t actually able to say anything,’ said Bobby Andrew from Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of the Land in native language Yup’ik).
‘This time we’re shareholders, so we’re going to be able to ask questions and put our points across. Our message to the board of directors of Anglo American is going to be that 80 per cent of the residents in this region do not want the mine.’
BP tar sands protest
It’s the latest in a growing trend of campaigners using AGMs to hold companies to account for their business practices.
At BP’s AGM last week, a coalition of ethical investors forced a vote on whether the oil company should review its tar sands operations.
Despite only nine per cent of investors voting in favour, environmentalists believe it broke new ground in promoting ethical business practices.
‘This resolution has generated a whole new level of disclosure and dialogue around the issue of tar sands expansion, and should inject further urgency into the task of establishing mandatory reporting requirements on environmental impacts and the financial risks they pose to investors,’ said Robert Nash of WWF.
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