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An Expose of Glencore, an Incurably Sociopathic, Multinational Mining Corporation that Despoils the Earth, Air and Water wherever Local or Regional Bureaucrats, Politicians and Businesses Allow it to Mine for Copper
(Glencore is the multinational, Swiss-based copper mining giant that is scheduled to operate the PolyMet copper mine in water-rich NE Minnesota [Note: PolyMet’s earthen-walled tailings lagoon dam is projected to rise to a height of 250 feet!])
By Guest Editorialist Peter Koenig - Global Research, August 27, 2018 (3,022 words)
Mr Koenig’s original Global Research article was titled: Glencore and Other Mining Corporations Make Record Profits, Violate Human Rights, Destroy the Environment and Feed on Poverty. The article can be accessed at:https://www.globalresearch.ca/glencore-and-other-mining-corporations-make-record-profits-violate-human-rights-destroy-the-environment/5651792
(Note: the original has been slightly edited and shortened by GGK)
(NOTE: Consider reading my last Duty to Warn column about the high potential for PolyMet’s tailings lagoon [which is located at the head of the St Louis River estuary] suddenly dissolving/collapsing and destroying the St Louis River at:http://duluthreader.com/articles/2019/02/07/15982_how_to_destroy_a_river_and_create_an_environmental
“Many inhabitants of the surrounding communities, including the former mayor, have been sickened with cancer and other terminal diseases which were caused by contact with mine effluent that contaminated the water, the food and the air.” “Glencore, like other mining corporations, literally buys the national or local police services for this type of abject brutality.” “After a mine is fully exploited, the company usually packs up and leaves behind an environmental disaster of poisoned soil and water – or what’s left of it – behind. Restoration and reclamation of such huge areas of toxic ruins can take hundreds, if not thousands of years.”
Glencore-Xstratais the world’s largest mining company (by revenues). It was founded in 1974 by Marc Rich (of early Clinton “dynasty-to-be” infamy). Its headquarters are in Baar, Switzerland. Glencore is the world’s largest company that is involved in both the mining industry and commodity trading. Its estimated revenue in 2017 was $205 billion.
The four next mining corporations in world ranking include BHP Billiton, Australia;British-Australian Rio Tinto; China state-owned Shenhua Energy, and Vale, Brazil.Their mining practices may not differ a lot from those of Glencore’s. However, what distinguishes Glencore is its particularly aggressive business style. Aggressive from all points of views – tax avoidance, corruption, total neglect for employees as well as communities they work in, non-responsiveness to critique.
Though it looks like Glencore’s aggressive business model is paying off, Glencore’s tax rate negotiated in Switzerland is next to zero
The Canton of Zug, where the city of Baar is located, is the number one tax haven in Switzerland. Glencore pays 0.2% taxes on its net earnings.
According to my own experience with mining companies in general, particularly those operating in Peru, as well as people working for Glencore and living in the vicinity of its Alta Huata copper mine, the mine is neglecting any social and environmental laws and even humanitarian standards.
Toxic effluents from their refining practices are largely untreated and simply released into waterways, poisoning the environment, including people, eventually killing them from cancer and other debilitating neurological disorders.
Former mine workers said that once they got sick from the mine’s heavy metals in the water they ingested or from inhaling the dust and fumes emanating from the refining processes – they were dismissed, without compensation or medical care.
People living in mining communities suffer from a similar predicament – contaminated water, air and soil. And again, no compensation or care from Glencore.
The average life expectancy for South American mine workers is about 49 years, about a third down from normal male life expectancy. Estimates of life expectancy obtained from medical specialists in mine workers’ diseases in the Cajamarca region of Peru range from 32 to 42. Years of age
This article looks specifically at an event which I (Peter Koenig)witnessed and was able to interview victims about, at Glencore’s copper mine near Cusco, Peru, some 4,200 meters above sea-level. Gold is a side product, so where there is copper, there is often gold to be found and vice-versa.
The mining and refining of both metals is highly toxic, leaving poisonous heavy metals, such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead and many more disease-causing toxins like cyanide in the water, soil, and air, indiscriminately poisoning fauna, flora and humans.
On April 3, 2018, a dozen or so indigenous, unarmed, women – the poorest of the poor –protested with their bare hands in defense of the only water way they had left, a small stream. Glencore wanted to deviate it – totally illegally – for its own use. The women were attacked by police in full riot gear, beaten with batons. (It is openly known that Glencore, like other mining corporations, literally buys the national or local police services for this type of abject brutality.)
The Business and Human Rights Resources Center reports that Cusco communities allege beatings and violence by the police. The Center asked Glencore for a response to these allegations. This is what Glencore, in perfect, insincere corporate legalese, had to say: “
…Glencore has had a presence in Peru since 2002 and since that time, we have worked closely with our host communities to maximize the benefits of our activities and minimize or avoid potential negative impacts…We prioritize respect for human rights and uphold those of our people and our local communities. The company aligns its security practices with the United Nations’ Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which addresses engagement with both public and private security providers.”
Of course, no word of police brutality. But Glencore admits that they were building a ‘canal’ [deviation of a small stream] which is what the women protested about. Even if this canal work was on Glencore’s property, that does not give Glencore any right to reroute the water way. Water is a public good and it’s the only still available water source these villagers have. Hence the protests.
(Ed note: Read this earlier article by the author, titled “Swiss Mining Corporations in Flagrant Violation of Human Rights – Swiss Government Complicit”at: https://www.globalresearch.ca/swiss-mining-corporations-in-flagrant-violation-of-human-rights-swiss-government-complicit/5635289
The police were helped by Glencore’s own security forces. All this was recorded on video and in photos. Arriving the following day on location with a group of locals, we interviewed several of the victims.
As the above essay went to press, I wrote directly to Glencore’s CEO, suggesting a personal meeting to discuss the event and the general circumstances that led to it. Mr. Glasenberg replied promptly through his director for Sustainable Development (sic), who proposed to meet – which we did, in a neutral place, a hotel lobby in Bern. The Glencore delegation consisted of the Sustainable Development director and her lawyer. – I was alone which was unfortunate, as I had no witness for what transpired during a roughly two-hour non-confrontational, rather peaceful dialogue.
I recorded the substance of it in an Aide-Memoire, asking for their approval, comments or suggestions for change. The answer a few days later was a full rejection, saying none of the contents of the AM reflected our conversation. This is of course a flagrant lie. Under the circumstances, I decided to make the gist of our two-hour conversation public, as reflected in the Aide-Mémoire.
The conversation covered three key topics
Beating of unarmed indigenous womenin Alta Huata, Espinar, Cusco Province, Peru, by Police and Glencore’s Security Forces – on 3 April 2018;
Glencore’s contamination of water, and
Blood and urine sampleshad been taken from miners and area inhabitants to test for heavy metals. They were never given the test results from medical doctors, clinics or laboratories. Why?
Addressing point by point, starting with the beating of unarmed women– the dozen or two bare-handed indigenous women were protesting in defense of their water against Glencore workers, wanting to steal the little stream for Glencore’s own use. They were brutally beaten by national police in government issued riot gear(!) with the help of Glencore’s own security forces. This happened around noon on 3 April, when the women were alone, even more defenseless, while the village men were working at the mine or in their small agricultural plots.
According to several accounts from the local population as well as from people in the nearby town of Espinar, Glencore intended to reroute the small stream providing the only water source for the six or so villages higher up on the mountain. This is further corroborated by the large pile of big-sized pipes, deposited on the land next to the small stream. A nearby gigantic earth moving machine and fresh tracks traversing the small water way were also clear signs that water deviation works were planned.
In the early morning hours of 4 April, we went to Glencore’s copper mine at Alta Huata, about 4,200 meters above sea level, to meet with the mistreated women and to interview them. Still affected by indignation and pain, they showed us their badly bruised body parts. Evidence of the police assault and aggression by Glencore’s security forces is available as independent testimony in the form of short videos and photographs.
An elderly woman (age 65) that was beaten so severely, that she was still resting and moaning the day after in a rickety stone shack which had been destroyed by Glencore’s bulldozers the week before but which had been hastily rebuilt by the local population. The woman had pain all over her body, could not move, and got no medical attention, no pain medication – nothing – she was a ‘high risk’ case.
The villagers told us they wanted to file a complaint with the local police which did not receive them. It is clear, if Glencore hired the police to do their dirty work, they, the police, will not receive the villagers’ complaint. It’s a revolving-door corruption at every level that is being practiced. I wonder whether Glencore’s boss, Mr. Glasenberg, is aware of it. If not, then at least this article which will be sent to him should remind him that he is complicit in serious crimes of his company.
During our meeting, the Glencore ‘Sustainable Development’ team said the workers were only doing repair work when the women appeared and interfered with their job. Another flagrant lie, because the team never set foot in the affected villages or talked to the people or the mayor. They only talk the inside-talk to Glencore insiders, a revolving door approach to pretend to resolve problems by being blind to them and continuing to perpetuate the lies. The Sustainable Development people at Glencore’s also denied that Glencore had anything to do with the beatings and that Glencore could not control the police. They dismissed the assertion - against all the evidence on video - that Glencore’s security forces were involved or that they had actually called and hired the police in the first place.
Later we talked to villagers who lived in the surrounding areas. With anguish, sadness and even resignation, they told us that contamination of water, soil, air, flora, fauna – and humanswas evident. The toxic contaminants appeared in the water-ways and was reported in soil samples. Plants adjacent to water and rivers were all contaminated by heavy metals, sickening and killing humans as well as both wild and farm animals.
Many inhabitants of the surrounding communities, including the former mayor, have been sickened with cancer and other terminal diseases which were caused by contact with mine effluent that contaminated the water, the food and the air.
To purify water efficiently from heavy metals – cyanide, mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium and more – a complex and expensive process is required. It’s called reverse osmosis. In most cases, mining companies do not use this highly expensive process. In the case of Glencore reverse osmosis is not in use, leaving the effluent waters highly and dangerously polluted.
We talked to several people, some working for the mine, others just living in the immediate vicinity of the mine. Everyone of them said that they felt sick; their bodies hurt, they had respiratory problems and many suspected having different types of cancers, mainly lung cancer. The disease rate increased the closer they lived to the mine.
One of the peasants said that young people in his neighborhood were dying “like flies” from cancer. He added that the average life expectancy of people living near the mine was drastically reduced. He also said that most people by now are just resigned to their fate and were tired of protesting and being frustrated, because Glencore would not respond and do anything for them. They felt helpless.
To top it off, Glencore’s Sustainable Development people said that Glencore received certification from the municipality’s burearcrats that the effluents from their mine were clean and not contaminated by the mine, and that it was common knowledge that the water was not potable, ridiculously ascertaining that contamination occurred naturally in these mountainous streams.
This abject manipulation of the truth would be laughable, if it weren’t so serious. But the people have no recourse to hire lawyers, and even if they would have the money to do so, no lawyer, no judge, no court would take on a case against Glencore. They are afraid to confront the mobsters from where the money flows – corruption at infinitum!
Glencore’s sustainable development representatives denied all responsibility for the contamination and said they had no knowledge about the disease rates reported by the local population, claiming that they were never informed.
Well they must know now. And CEO Mr. Glasenberg would do well sending an HONEST delegation to Espinar to verify with neutral experts on location the veracity of this account and of the account of the victims.
The question is, of course, will there be uncorrupt neutral expertsdaring to tell Glencore the truth? And even if that actually happened, what would Glasenberg do about it? Glasenberg is the key person. It’s a family business, one of the world’s largest, so if he wants to change the way Glencore does business, he can do it.
Who manages Glencore’s mines on the ground?
Mainly locals, we were told. In Espinar, Peru, it’s a Peruvian. This has two purposes. First, a Peruvian is familiar with the local ‘habits’ of how the ‘turntable’ turns, how to buy favors and how to threaten potential adversaries; and second, if something goes wrong – like in the case of brutally beating inoffensive women, deadly contamination and people dying from cancers from mine effluent toxicity – they, at Swiss HQs can say ”we didn’t know; nobody told us”.The “we didn’t know effect” is so effective that the entire conversation of two hours was annihilated by the Sustainable Development Glencore people. Even though the conversation took place as recorded, the “sustainable” people denied its contents.
We also talked with many people that lived in the vicinity of the mine, who have been chronically ill for years with respiratory and nervous system disorders, yet mine management not only ignored them, but also prevented them from getting their blood and urine tested, even if the victims were willing to pay for the tests themselves. And when they did the tests, they never received the test results back from the medical establishments.
The truth is beyond suspicion – these medical facilities, are either bought by Glencore, or they fear Glencore to a point that they prefer not to hand out negative health results, of which they know from where they emanate.
Diseases stemming from heavy metals have often long gestation periods, i.e. cyanide and mercury do not necessarily lead to immediate symptoms. Rather, the impact is often slow, because heavy metals accumulate in the body and are not evacuated as other toxins may be. They affect- usually in combinations of the nervous system, the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system with high incidences of cancer as well.
It is well known, that mine workers in developing countries have a drastically reduced life expectancy. In some parts of Peru and Bolivia the average life expectancy is around 35 years.
The moral of this story is multifold.
There is Glencore, the largest and most profitable mining corporation in the world, largely a family business, with CEO Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore’s main shareholder, at the helm. He could personally intervene, stop the abuse and high crime, honor environmental and social ethical rules. Glasenberg’s Glencore could become a shining example in mining ethics which would bode well for the company as well as for the host country, Peru, and Switzerland. The cost of implementing ethical environmental and social standards would hardly make a dent in the corporation’s net earnings, but the gains in positive reputation and improved image could be priceless.
On the other hand, you have Switzerland that offers this UK/Swiss mining corporation their tax haven as residency. Yet, the Swiss Government does absolutely nothing to impose and enforce certain standards of ethics to Glencore and the assortment of other corporate sinners that are enjoying the Swiss tax paradise.
In the so-called Ethics Department (sic) in the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the hush answer was, “if we are too strict with them, they will leave Switzerland, besides, they these corporations have their own standards of due diligence and we trust that they adhere to them. If they don’t, then it’s up to their host country, i.e. in this case Peru, to enforce their laws”.
There you have it. The Swiss Government, the paradise for banking and finance and corporate ‘well-being’, the epicenter of neoliberal economics, where multi-national corporate crony capitalism and privatization reigns, is knowingly and intimately complicit in the crimes committed by these corporations. No wonder, the lawmakers, the Swiss parliamentarians, are entitled to sit in as many corporate boards of directors they please – against all the rules of ethics and ‘conflict-of-interest’ guidelines of OECD, of which Switzerland is a member. This built-in lobby of parliamentarians is making the laws in their favor, operating on a ‘legal basis’, not unlike a white-collar mafia.
Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water.
He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites.
He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.