Monthly Archives: September 2015

Corporate bias at the World Bank Group

The World Bank Group’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes

This briefing focuses on the main venue for settlement of legal cases brought by corporations against governments: the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It finds significant ICSID bias in favour of corporations and commercial interests by analysing ICSID overall and by looking at a specific case brought by a global mining corporation against El Salvador.

28 SEPTEMBER 2015 | AT ISSUE

By professor Robin Broad; School of International Service, American University

In late 2014, the Economist magazine wrote:

“If you wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do: give foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever a government passes a law to, say, discourage smoking, protect the environment or prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Yet that is precisely what thousands of trade and investment treaties over the past half century have done, through a process known as ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, or ISDS.”

The main venue for investor-state dispute settlement, when foreign investors claim they are owed compensation from countries in which they have invested, is the World Bank Group’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). ICSID is one of the least well-known of the five entities that make up the World Bank Group, but it is getting much more attention as it is central to the negotiations for both the Trans-Atlantic (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific (TPP) trade and investment agreements.

There is growing discomfort, even amongst insiders, about ICSID’s corporate bias.

ICSID: Controversial at inception, but quickly centre-stage

ICSID was created by the World Bank in a sea of controversy. At the 1964 Tokyo World Bank and IMF annual meetings, 21 developing-country governments voted “no” to the convention to set up this new part of the World Bank Group in which foreign corporations could sue governments and bypass domestic courts, thus dramatically eroding local democratic control over important political and economic decisions. The 21 included all of the 19 Latin American countries attending* as well as the Philippines and Iraq. The historic vote was dubbed the “Tokyo No.” It could well be the largest collective vote against a World Bank initiative ever. And perhaps the one time that all Latin American representatives voted “no.”

Speaking on behalf of the Latin American countries Félix Ruiz, then representative of Chile, said:
“The new system…would give the foreign investor, by virtue of the fact that he is a foreigner, the right to sue a sovereign state outside its national territory, dispensing with the courts of law. This provision…would confer a privilege on the foreign investor, placing the nationals of the country concerned in a position of inferiority.” They believed that the new investor-state dispute settlement system was both unnecessary and unfair.

Those who follow the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its dispute resolution mechanism might note the irony: a fundamental rule of today’s neoliberal push towards ‘ultra-globalisation’, as embedded in the WTO, is that a country’s rules must treat foreign and domestic investors equally. The irony is, of course, that ICSID’s existence seems to suggest that such ultra-globalisation proponents do not find it problematic to have foreign investors privileged over domestic investors.

The ICSID treaty went forward, despite the “no” votes. Initially it was small and largely irrelevant. Its first case was filed in 1972, with just over two dozen cases by 1988. However, by the mid-1990s, ICSID moved center-stage, thanks to the ISDS clauses inserted in bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements, starting in the 1980s and exploding in the 1990s. In 2012 alone, 48 new cases were added to ICSID’s docket. All of the 48 cases were filed against governments of developing countries, more than one-third (17 or over 35 per cent) relating to extractive industries.

As the number of cases brought by corporations before ICSID has ballooned, so too have the criticisms – mainly by sovereign states, but increasingly by trade lawyers and others. The arguments are that ICSID rulings are: 1) increasingly biased in favour of corporate investors over governments and therefore highly anti-democratic as presaged by the Tokyo No’s concerns; and 2) too narrow in their focus on ‘commercial’ rights (that is, of the private foreign investor) over broader social and environmental issues.

Heads we win, tails you lose: ICSID’s corporate bias against El Salvador

A long-time subject of my research is the 2009 case of Pac Rim Cayman LLC, a global gold-mining firm, which sued the government of El Salvador for not granting it a mining concession. In El Salvador, there has been growing concern about the long-term environmental and social impacts of gold mining, versus its very limited short-term economic benefits. Starting in 2005, local communities in northern El Salvador, along with the Catholic church, development groups, human rights organisations and international allies (including civil society groups, such as MiningWatch Canada, the Institute for Policy Studies and Oxfam America) spoke out against industrial mining in the country, and then later against the Pac Rim suit at ICSID. Their broader argument, which was supported by the national government, was that over half of El Salvador’s drinking water comes from the Rio Lempa watershed, a vast area that encompasses much of El Salvador’s gold deposits and that therefore mining would threaten this already compromised watershed.

Pac Rim, now owned by the Canadian/Australian firm OceanaGold, never actually received a mining concession given that it never fulfilled all the legal requirements to do so. However, the company cleverly ignored this key point in bringing a case to ICSID in which it argued that it was being unfairly denied a concession for other reasons. The fact that the Pac Rim case against El Salvador was allowed to proceed at ICSID is in itself startling, since Pac Rim never met all of the conditions necessary to be granted that mining concession. Beyond this narrower, more technical purview, this case demonstrates how ICSID ignores broader questions, such as: Should not the government of El Salvador have the right, or indeed the responsibility, to protect its key watershed from the environmental ravages of gold mining that will use cyanide and release arsenic embedded with gold in the rock? Moreover, why should an investor have the right to sue the government, while other key non-state actors, such as the affected communities, are not allowed to participate equally and are often, as in the Pac Rim case, not even allowed to listen to the substantive hearing on the case’s merits? In the Pac Rim case, communities were allowed to submit two amicus briefs (“friends of the court” briefs) – having been fortunate enough to find alawyer willing to write these on their behalf. But there is not even any assurance that the briefs were read by the three ICSID-certified tribunalists who preside over this case.

This case is currently awaiting the ICSID tribunal’s decision on the ‘merits’ or substance of the case. But if El Salvador ‘loses’, it could be required to pay not only the approximate $300 million Pac Rim is asking for in compensation and profits foregone, but also Pac Rim’s approximately $12.6 million costs in legal and ICSID fees. Moreover, such a decision could open the door to mining at this concession or elsewhere. And if El Salvador ‘wins’, it would likely still have to pay its own estimated $12.6 million in legal and ICSID fees, and it will have spent years of its own human resources (which are, of course, public resources) fighting this case. Whatever the decision, the ‘loser’ will likely proceed into ICSID’s ‘annulment’ stage – which is not the same as an actual appeals process. Unlike courts and most judicial systems, ICSID tribunals are not based on legal precedent, so there is no appeal on judicial grounds.

In other words, there is no real victory possible for El Salvador or its people at ICSID.

Worsening systemic bias at ICSID?

This case – while egregious – is not unique. ICSID’s bias in favour of corporations demonstrates the validity of the concerns raised by the 21 “Tokyo No” countries fifty-one years ago. If anything, as ICSID’s workload has skyrocketed and as corporations’ global reach has expanded, ICSID appears to have become increasingly biased towards private corporate investors.

There is growing discomfort, even amongst insiders, about ICSID’s corporate bias. In 2014 prominent trade lawyer George Kahale III publicly declared that ICSID tribunals, before which he has argued cases, were increasingly biased in favour of foreign investors. Kahale and other critics have pointed out that since ICSID does not build its cases on legal precedents nor allow for appeals based on judicial reviews, there are no mechanisms to correct flawed rulings. Stating that “the system is broken”, Kahale also denounced the trade agreements for empowering hundreds of corporations to pursue these ICSID cases as “weapons of legal destruction” that are “susceptible to abuse”.

It is therefore understandable why Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela have left ICSID. South Africa is establishing a new investment law that allows foreign corporations to bring such claims only to domestic courts. India is conducting a review of its treaties in the face of several corporate lawsuits, and Indonesia has announced its intent not to renew its bilateral investment treaties. Australia declined to include these corporate rights in the 2005 Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. Brazil has never accepted investor-state dispute settlement in any venue.

A related set of biases reflects a concern that ICSID’s scope is too narrow. As seen in the El Salvador case, this includes questions of whose voices are heard and whose are effectively silenced – and notably the lack of meaningful voice for affected communities and civil society. This is hardly consistent with the principle of ensuring free, prior and informed consent of affected communities.

The narrowness is also evident in how environmental, human rights and other social issues are dealt with at ICSID. At the time of ICSID’s founding, there were few universal human rights instruments, only a couple of environmental treaties, and no key international instruments on the rights of indigenous peoples. But much has changed since ICSID’s birth, including widespread acceptance of the centrality of environmental issues. Our instruments of global governance should be structured to reward a government such as El Salvador for taking steps to protect ecosystems, rather than punish it by being sued at ICSID. It is the duty of governments to prioritise their responsibility to protect people and their ecosystems. In its current structure, ISDS clauses and rulings by ICSID do the exact opposite – discouraging national environmental and social regulations, for fear of being sued.

After 51 years: time to say “no” to ICSID

There is increasing urgency to say “no” to ICSID. If the two main trade and investment agreements under negotiation today, TPP and TTIP, are approved, ICSID’s case-load will grow further, thanks to the investor-state dispute settlement clauses currently in both drafts. The TPP would include 12 nations that account for about 40 per cent of world GDP, and TTIP would include 29 of the world’s largest economies (the US and the 28 member states of the European Union), so each would cover vast portions of the world economy where foreign investment plays a major role. If either of these agreements comes into effect, we can expect even more action in terms of investors’ propensity to sue governments not just for ‘direct taking’ via expropriation (the original purpose of ICSID), but also for ‘indirect taking’ via environmental, social and other regulations that might just impinge on a foreign investor’s future ability to make profits.

Fortunately, there is escalating opposition to these agreements.France and Germany have voiced concerns about investor-state provisions. Indeed, in June 2015, France’s minister of state for foreign trade, Matthias Fekl, recommended a Europe-based alternative investor-state system that would address many of the biases in ICSID for the TTIP negotiations, and he stated that many European countries supported this. Even in the US, economists and politicians, such as Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman and senator Elizabeth Warren, are speaking out.

Proponents of these agreements often warn that the global economy will fall apart without such investor rights and its key venue ICSID, and that foreign investment will dry up. But this is not so. Brazil, which has never accepted investor-state dispute settlement in any venue, is nevertheless a leading recipient of foreign investment. More generally, foreign investors that believe they are making a risky investment could simply rely on foreign risk insurance; they also have recourse to the relevant domestic courts in a given country. That is another example of the bias created by ISDS’ reliance on global forums such ICSID: since domestic firms have to go through domestic courts, so should foreign firms.

Let us celebrate the 51st anniversary of ICSID by urging current member governments to withdraw from this World Bank Group’s forum that undermines democracy, fairness, the environment, and the broader common good. And let us make sure that ICSID is not further strengthened by unwise trade and investment agreements.
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This article summarises the author’s 2015 article which provides more detail on the Pac Rim Cayman LLC vs El Salvador case at ICSID: “Corporate bias in the World Bank Group’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes: A case study of a global mining corporation suing El Salvador,” University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, 2015, 36 (4), pp.851-874, available at:
http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jil/vol36/iss4/

Dr Robin Broad is a professor of International Development,School of International Service, American University. Prior to that, she worked as an international economist at the US Treasury Department, in the office of then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Footnotes

* The 19 Latin American countries that voted “no” are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

SOURCE:
http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/2015/09/corporate-bias-at-the-world-bank-group/

Can anything good come out of mining?

Posted on Monday Sep 28th, 2015, at 12:00am
CONJUGATIONS By Lila Ramos Shahani

It is difficult to lose the irony in asking this question as I type this article on my laptop, send it to my editor via email, and have the piece later read on a mobile phone. All of the gadgets in my example are products of mining industries that have developed the technology to extract minerals from the earth and convert them into things that are not only useful but altogether ubiquitous in our daily lives. Communications and the rise of the Internet are just examples of areas where mining has enabled great advancements in technology and altered the ways in which we live — almost completely. Today, great chunks of our lives are no longer wasted at sea or on land when we move from place to place. Flying in aircrafts and moving in automobiles that use aluminum, steel, molybdenum and other minerals cut travel time to a minimum. Even in small households, mining makes a dent through our telephones, cleaning products, refrigerators and television sets with LCD screens — all of which, we must admit, we would not enjoy without the mining of minerals.

Considering how immersed we are in the use of these products, it is no surprise that mining touches on economic, social and political concerns. Adding to this is the unique placement of the Philippines on the map that has caused the archipelago to play host to a rich biodiversity. Minerals abound, and research by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) implies that we have on our isles an embarrassment of riches such that any smart businessman intent on creating value and revenue will, in one way or another, see the potential of the mining industry to bring growth to our economy.

In a mining forum held three years ago, Manuel V. Pangilinan, Chairman of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone company, made a strong case for mining that encouraged the country’s leadership to consider increasing investments in the sector. He argued that, as the 5th most mineralized country in the world, the Philippines not only had the potential to establish world-class mines but also compete globally and yield profit for Filipinos. Moreover, he challenged the use of common sense, asserting that the country’s decision to cease from mining does nothing to curb the consumer’s appetite for its products. According to him, it would cost more for the Philippines to import these products, whether raw or manufactured, as opposed to producing them here in our own backyard.

Reasonable as these arguments might sound, they invite a probe into the definition of wealth and progress as it relates to communities where mining operations have taken place. It also begs the question: who benefits from the yield of mining anyway? If mineral wealth in the Philippines is estimated at $840 billion, how much of those assets are invested in the communities affected by mining? Most importantly, is this figure reflective of the social and environmental costs wrought by diggings and excavations?

Past examples have painted a rather dire picture of how mining can transform environments and negatively affect communities. In 2012, fish kill in Lake Bito, Leyte, was traced to mine wastes from Nicua Mining Corporation (NMC), then operating in MacArthur, Leyte. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the government entity under DENR responsible for regulating mining activities in the country, later suspended NMC’s operations following the fish kill. However firm the penalty, the damage had ultimately been done and when faced with the sudden mass mortality of fish due to the contamination of waters, it is difficult to imagine how the people living in the environs of Lake Bito eventually recovered.

In August of the same year, Pangilinan’s Philex Mining Corporation operating in Padcal mines in Benguet endured a huge waste spill with about 20 million metric tons of tailings gushing out of its tailings-pond, surpassing the 1996 Marinduque Marcopper spill of 4 million metric tons. The Philex discharge ran into the Balog and Agno River systems and later the San Roque Dam, provider of water for agricultural irrigation and power-generation serving a number of municipalities in Pangasinan. Philex paid a record fine of P1.034 billion as per the assessment of the MGB to compensate for the violation of the Mining Act of 1995. An additional P188.6 million was paid for the violation of the Clean Water Act. These are, by industry standards, big premiums for corporations to pay, but the question remains: can the money fund the regeneration of land pillaged and waterways polluted?

Another case in 2014 involved having the MGB close the Cantilan and Carrascal nickel mines of Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) for their failure to maintain environmental mitigation measures. The moratorium won small farmers and fisher folk a temporary victory. Not long after, the suspension order was lifted from the Cantilan mine after MGB certified that the company had completed and implemented environmental safeguards. While it is the function of legislation and regulatory bodies like the MGB to uphold the law, cases like these make me wonder if we might also question the scope of the law beyond its technicalities. In other words, can we review existing legislation around mining and determine if specific policies are still relevant to their respective polities? Where regulation and the implementing rules are concerned, I wonder if studies have been done to establish the impacts of small-scale mining on habitats? As these projects occur in hundreds of sites without a central entity that can serve to be accountable for damages incurred, we run the risk of focusing too much attention on large mining corporations without adequately exerting responsibility over small players whose influence on communities can sometimes be equally detrimental. Consider, for instance, the exposure of children as laborers in small mining operations where compression shafts are always threatening to collapse. Tragically, children are often exploited in both small and large operations. When lives are lost in these circumstances, which entities stand to be held accountable?

In assessing the climate of mining in the Philippines, another important area of concern is awareness and education. Deforestation is a feature of large-scale mining, which erodes upland watersheds and dumps enormous amounts of soil into downstream waterways. Proponents and dissidents of mining have both argued over the amount of actual forest cover affected by quarrying and excavations. Several private corporations have gone as far as including massive tree-planting activities in their Corporate Social Responsibility portfolios, while environmentalists have held their ground, asserting that these programs do not adequately respond to the alterations done on the land. This ongoing debate and a sense of over-saturation of mining operations has prompted some groups to call for a total ban on mining until the correct information detailing the conditions of the environment and determining the extent of the damage can be assessed. This is a welcome proposal, especially when emotions run high and both sides seem intent on the extremes of either banning mining altogether or allowing the status quo altogether, with little appreciation for other variables like the social cost of the mining enterprise. The importance of proper documentation and the accessibility of information on our environmental assets and their management through corporations, all under the auspices of the state, cannot be overlooked. As arguments stand today, only clear data can support claims by either side and give the discerning public the capacity to answer the question that this article primarily poses. Can something truly good come out of mining?

The ease of living in a technologically advanced world dulls one’s senses but a bigger part of me remains concerned about the collateral damage. Recent reports on the brutal killings of lumad leaders Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo in the hands of paramilitary groups come to mind. Though the particulars of the case have not yet been threshed out, some allegations have been made against mining companies operating in Surigao del Sur. It is believed that paramilitary forces do the bidding for these corporations and so have a hand in the murders. The evidence will have to prove as much but the precariousness of their life is what strikes one most. Historically, the lumad peoples of Mindanao, composed of 18 ethno-linguistic groups, have been relegated to the margins and, on several occasions, stripped of their land despite legislation on ancestral domain that should have favored them. As indigenous peoples, their inclusion in society has been unfairly hinged on their ability to enter the modern trends of consumption. Consequently, populations of lumad are regarded as impoverished and backward. They often fall prey to economic interests with little consideration for their own ways of life, which are tightly bound to the land and the environment that sustains them.

Given these considerations, it is not difficult to see how mining poses serious challenges that cannot simply be swept away in the name of national development and consumer convenience. The industry is first and foremost a business that will invariably place profit above people and the environment. The corporate and trans-national ownership of these mines — and the laws that protect their activities — often mean that there is little accountability and even less responsibility for the serious damages mining operations do. If there is any hope for mitigating the problems that arise in the mining industry, it would necessarily entail the active participation of those communities directly affected, and often damaged, by their violent workings. The question remains: can a combination of better laws and democratic participation by local communities make “responsible mining” more of a reality?

SOURCE:
http://m.philstar.com/314192/show/0b6ef95af8cfc21c9eec46b0d4494dd0/?

Tanzania: Dar Finds Massive Graphite Deposits

26th September, 2015

By Eric Kabendera

The discovery of huge graphite deposits by three companies in Tanzania will help the country diversify export earnings, making it one of the world’s leading producers of the mineral.

Graphite could bring the country close to competing with China, the largest producer of the commodity in the world, with an output of 780,000 tonnes last year.

The volume of graphite discovered is yet to be revealed but Uranex (one of the three companies) plans to produce up to 100,000 tonnes by 2017. A second company, Kibaran, is expecting to produce 40,000 tonnes when production starts.

“If production begins for all the companies, we will become the biggest producer of graphite in the world as companies investing in Tanzania are preparing to sign lucrative deals with China,” said the Commissioner for Minerals at the Ministry Of Energy and Minerals Paul Masanja.

Australian-based Kibaran Resources will invest over $77 million into graphite exploration in southeastern Tanzania.

SOURCE: http://allafrica.com/stories/201509282781.html

Cyanide Spill in Argentina Highlights Canadian Mining Crimes

‘They cannot continue to handle affairs that are so delicate, that affect the environment and people this way.’

Published on Friday, September 25, 2015
By Common Dreams
Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The Argentine government announced it was launching a legal investigation of the Canadian firm to see if there had been any criminal wrongdoing. If so, the company will allegedly face sanctions. The firm is already being sued in civil court over the leak, with plaintiffs demanding that it pay compensation for harm done to people, goods, and the environment.

Highlighting how corporate extractivism and lack of accountability is driving the destruction of Latin American communities, a Canadian mining company has now confirmed that more than one million liters of cyanide solution spilled from the Barrick Gold Veladero mine in San Juan, Argentina this month—making the spill more than four times larger than originally estimated.

The Toronto-headquartered mining company initially said it had spilled just 224,000 liters of the toxic liquid, used to leach gold from processed rocks, into the Potrerillos River. On Wednesday, the corporation amended its statement (pdf) and said that in fact 1.072 million liters of a cyanide and water solution were spilled due to a failure in one of the valves in the mine’s pipes.

The spill occurred on September 12, “and news quickly spread among local residents through social media, causing them to stockpile bottled water in fear,” the Argentina Independent reported Thursday. Last week, thousands rallied together in the city of Jáchal to protest the mining company.

Barrick—dubbed one of “The 12 Least Ethical Companies in the World” by the Swiss research firm Covalence in 2010—claims that “no risks to human health were identified.”

But a joint statement from the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), Greenpeace Argentina, and the Argentine Association of Environmental Lawyers, made it clear that environmental protection groups remain unconvinced about the long-term impact of the spill.

“Even if the judge is understood to have put into place a series of conditions, we are concerned by the secrecy with which the incident was handled, the scarce information about the circumstances of the event provided by the authorities and the risk management measures and contingencies,” said (Spanish) Pía Marchegiani of FARN. “They cannot continue to handle affairs that are so delicate, that affect the environment and people this way.”

The groups are criticizing a judge’s decision on Thursday to lift orders suspending operations of the mine, suggesting that the local government conspired with Barrick to cover-up the magnitude of the leak and its potential consequences.

Just this week, MiningWatch Canada and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group released a damning report linking Canadian mining interests throughout the Americas with intensifying repression and violence against mining-affected communities.

The new report — entitled In the National Interest? Criminalization of Land and Environment Defenders in the Americas — argues that “the model of industrial mineral extraction that Canada promotes abroad is informed by deregulation of the extractive sector at home and a colonialist past and present that — with renewed fervor in recent years — views those who speak out as a threat to the national interest and hence a target for spy agencies, tax audits, funding cuts, and gratuitous policing.”

“Far from ensuring that mining-affected communities enjoy the full range of protection under the law, governments — including the Canadian government — have twisted the law to protect and promote mining interests by targeting community activists and defenders,” said Jen Moore, Latin America program coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. “It has become a low-intensity war against communities and organizations who are fighting for environmental justice in Latin America.”

SOURCE:
http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/09/25/million-liter-cyanide-spill-argentina-highlights-canadian-mining-crimes

South Africa: Strike at West Coast sand mine turns nasty

23rd September 2015
Mary-Anne Gontsana

Workers at Australian-owned Tormin mine on the west coast are still on strike after a protest two weeks ago in which a police officer and a worker were injured, and 27 people were arrested.

Tormin mine, opened in March 2014, extracts zircon and other minerals from sand on the west coast near Vredendal, about 400 kilometres north of Cape Town. It is owned by Australia’s Mineral Commodities (MRC) group, which also owns the Xolobeni titanium project in the Eastern Cape, which is being opposed by residents of the area. Tormin employs about 250 people.

After failed negotiations at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Tormin employees went on strike on 4 September over wages and working hours. On 10 September, about 27 miners and Vredendal community members were arrested after taking part in a demonstration outside the mine. They appeared in the Vredendal Magistrate’s Court on 11 September, charged with public violence, and were released on R500 bail.

One of those arrested was Frans Bam, Lutzville ward councillor and executive member of the Vredendal council. Bam says he was not part of the demonstration but went to the mine as a member of the National Union of Mineworkers, after receiving a call from one of the other members alerting him to what was going on outside the gates of the mine.

NUM claims membership of up to 80% at the mine.

Bam said wages had been cut without consultation and workers also complained of racism and unfair dismissals. Employees’ anger at mine management had spilled over into the community, he said.

“The demonstration on the 10th started at around 3am. Demonstrators started early because they wanted to stop vehicles from entering the mine. At around 6:30am I received a call telling me what was going on. I rushed to the site and when I arrived I saw a number of policemen standing by the gate. Some had rifles. Out of the blue I saw demonstrators running in different directions, and I saw teargas being thrown by police.”

Bam said he asked police officers why teargas was being used since the strike was protected, and was told the workers were picketing in areas where they were not allowed to.

He said when he left in his car he saw people running and one of the protesters was knocked down by a bakkie driven “by one of the managers”.

“An ambulance came and took the man to the hospital.”

The injured man, Isac Luveve, was discharged from hospital last Monday. He did not want to speak to GroundUp.

Bam and three miners to whom he had given a lift were arrested.

“At the moment the strike is still ongoing and NUM and the mining company are still in dispute,” said Bam.

One of the striking workers, Abubakah Fredericks, who is also NUM provincial regional organiser, said mine management had now offered workers an 8% increase but they would not accept it. Management and the NUM were due to meet again today, he said.

Police spokesman Frederick Van Wyk confirmed the arrests. “On 4 September workers of NUM had a strike at MSR Tormin Mine, Koekenaap, Lutzville and it continued during the following week. The entrance to the mine was blocked by strikers. On 10 September strikers still refused to clear the entrance to the mine. Tyres were burnt at the entrance gate, vehicles were damaged and one SAPS member was injured. During the strike SAPS members arrested 27 strikers, 19 males and eight females, between the ages of 20 and 50. They appeared in the Vredendal Magistrate’s Court on charges of public violence.”

PR consultant for Tormin, Anne Dunn, said the workers’ allegations against mine manager Gary Thompson were “inaccurate and groundless”.

“The company prefers to deal with the matter pertaining to the strike internally and doesn’t want to get media involved,” she said.

The 27 miners and community members will appear in court again on 8 October.

SOURCE: http://groundup.org.za/article/strike-west-coast-sand-mine-turns-nasty_3336#sthash.Xs7LiI82.dpuf