Monthly Archives: October 2014

Tullow faces worker unrest at Turkana exploration sites

BY Jevans N. Miyungu
Updated Sunday, October 12th 2014 at 00:00 GMT +3
Ngamia-1 A general view shows an oil rig used in drilling at the Ngamia-1 well on Block 10BB, in the Lokichar basin, which is part of the East African Rift System, in Turkana County April 5, 2012. Kenya has seen a surge of interest for new oil blocks after striking oil last week, Martin Heya, commissioner of petroleum at the ministry of energy, said on Thursday. The east African country is abuzz with news of its first oil discovery in the dry and dusty northwest town where Africa-focused UK firm Tullow Oil Plc has been exploring. REUTERS/Njuwa Maina (KENYA – Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY)
Turkana; Kenya: Tullow Oil said on Friday it was facing industrial action at a number of its drilling sites in northern Kenya. A local leader said the company had evacuated some workers.
Independent oil and gas explorer Tullow Oil and its partner in northern Kenya, Africa Oil, have struck commercially viable deposits of oil in the Lokichar basin in Turkana, where it has discovered resources of about 600 million barrels.
Tullow did not name the affected sites or say how many there were or whether any drilling work had been interrupted.
“Limited industrial action on employment issues is taking place at a limited number of our sites in northern Kenya. The action concerns the sub-contractors of one of Tullow‘s suppliers,” it said in a statement, adding that it was working with local leaders and the energy ministry to resolve the problems.
Big oil and gas finds along Africa‘s east coast are propelling an exploration boom, but impoverished local communities say they are not getting any of the benefits. “I was informed that there was unrest after employees contracted by Tullow expressed their grievances,” Josphat Nanok, the governor for Turkana County where most of Tullow‘s drilling sites are located, told Reuters. “Some employees and contractors of Tullow have been moved out of the drilling site, and some of them have been taken to Nairobi for safety,” Nanok said.
In October last year, the Africa-focused explorer suspended drilling operations on two blocks in Turkana due to security concerns, after local residents held protests demanding more jobs at the sites. After that, Tullow said it would communicate better in future on how local people would benefit from the oil developments over time.
Tullow and Africa Oil have agreed with the government to start studies on extracting the oil and building an export pipeline, with the aim of getting a development project approved in 2015/16.
—Reuters

Guatemalan Government, Canadian Mining Industry Responsible for Violent Conflicts

Published 2 October 2014

Indigenous peasants living around Canadian mining company GoldCorp

Indigenous peasants living around Canadian mining company GoldCorp’s mine, march July 28, 2010 in Guatemala City in protest for what they call the ‘illegal occupation’ by the company of lands belonging to the Mam and Sikapense Maya communities. The placard reads ‘Mother Earth Is Not For Sale’. (Photo: AFP)

President Otto Perez Molina ordered a state of siege for 30 days in four municipalities in southeastern Guatemala just days after security forces clashed with opponents of a Canadian-owned gold and silver mine project. Residents fear that the mine will destroy the local mountain and drain their water resources. (Photo: AFP)

President Otto Perez Molina ordered a state of siege for 30 days in four municipalities in southeastern Guatemala just days after security forces clashed with opponents of a Canadian-owned gold and silver mine project. Residents fear that the mine will destroy the local mountain and drain their water resources. (Photo: AFP)

 An opponent of the Tambor mining project throws back a tear gas canister that the riot police had fired while evicting protesters against the mining project in the community of La Puya in San José del Golfo on May 23, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

An opponent of the Tambor mining project throws back a tear gas canister that the riot police had fired while evicting protesters against the mining project in the community of La Puya in San José del Golfo on May 23, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

“The Guatemalan government is fueling the fires of conflict by failing to consult local communities before awarding mining licences to companies, effectively raising the risk of bloodshed and bulldozing over the rights of its people,” stated Amnesty International.

The Guatemalan government and Canadian mining industry are responsible for violent conflicts and repression against predominantly indigenous communities in Guatemala, a country just 18 years removed from a 36-year internal conflict that resulted in genocide, a report released in September stated.

Amnesty International’s (AI) report entitled “Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk,” notes that the Guatemalan and Canadian governments, and mining companies from Canada, have failed to properly consult and gain the consent of affected indigenous communities and have thus violated affected populations’ human rights. Furthermore, impunity in both Guatemala and Canada has perpetuated state and corporate violence against communities and individuals resisting mining projects, resulting in murders, assassination attempts, rapes, land grabs, displacements and other forms of violence that were also prevalent during Guatemala’s bloody internal conflict.

“Motivated by fears that mining will contaminate their environment and/or negatively impact their livelihoods, and the enjoyment of their human rights, protests and disputes over such projects have erupted. Years of threats and violence, including injuries and deaths, and division and resentment within communities have been the result,” the report states. “Community leaders protesting against mining are often targeted with threats, acts of intimidation or attacks. In the majority of cases the perpetrators of such acts have yet to be held to account.”

The Amnesty International report commended the Guatemalan government’s 2013 decision to put a moratorium on awarding new mining licenses and emphasized the need for the government to pass legal reforms that enshrine indigenous communities’ rights to free, prior and informed consent.

“The proposed moratorium and the intention to reform existing laws present a window of opportunity for the government to strengthen human rights protections while bringing current mining regulations in line with Guatemala’s international obligations,” the report states.

However, there are criticisms about the effectiveness of Amnesty’s focus on legal reforms.

“The problem in Guatemala is not the laws, per se, nor the structure of the legal system itself, but rather impunity,” said Grahame Russell, director of the Canadian and U.S.-based NGO Rights Action.

Russell, whose community development, environmental and human rights defense solidarity organization has worked with communities highlighted in the report, said what Guatemala needs is not so much mining law reform, but “a fundamental transformation in its lack of democracy, its lack of rule of law, and its corruption.”

He added, “It borders on being counter-productive to urge for legal reform, while ignoring that Guatemala is fundamentally an undemocratic country and impunity and corruption are the norm. Expecting the powerful sectors, national and international, to respect people’s human and territorial rights and protect the environment in a country like Guatemala, is like expecting a tiger not to eat meat.”

No Justice, No Peace

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina serves as an example of the impunity, which Russell mentioned, that operates within Guatemala. Molina represents the country’s bloody, racist past and its disappointing present.

Perez Molina is a former general and head of military intelligence who was trained at the infamous School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in Fort Benning, Georgia. He served under former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who was convicted last May in a Guatemalan court for genocide and other war crimes that include “1,771 deaths, 1,400 human rights violations and the displacement of 29,000 indigenous Guatemalans.” However, Montt’s sentence was overturned on a technicality by the country’s constitutional court just two weeks later.

Victoria Sanford, author of “Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala,” wrote in the New York Times last year immediately following the Rios Montt conviction, “There is serious evidence that the current president, the former military commander Otto Perez Molina, who took office in January 2012, may have been involved in the same mass killings for which General Ríos Montt has now been convicted.”

SOURCE: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Guatemalan-Government-Canadian-Mining-Industry-Responsible-for-Violent-Conflicts-20141002-0029.html