Damning new report reveals the indigenous communities torn up by coal imports that continue to power Europe and its steel industry
Today, Tuesday 30th March, Still Burning - a network against hard coal and neocolonialism – releases a new report Still Burning. The report shines a spotlight on Europe's continued coal imports in the run-up to COP26. It also tells the harrowing but little-known stories of the communities from Russia, Colombia, the USA, and Australia whose homes and way of life are literally torn up to mine the coal beneath them, suffering widespread human rights abuses.
Coal production around Europe is falling, but in Russia it’s rising to compensate and to extend the market eastwards.
Some European governments have announced coal power phase-outs, but some like in Germany are so far away (2038) as to be almost meaningless. Even in countries where coal for electricity has been phased out - such as Austria - are consuming coal to make steel. In fact in Austria coal-fired blast furnaces, are the single biggest site emitters of CO2 in the country.
There is an urgent need to stop all coal extraction and decarbonise the electricity and steel making industries.
You can download the report from https://stillburning.net/book/
Still Burning concludes that European utilities and governments must bear more responsibility for the disaster that is unfolding in coal producing regions, and so must act to halt and reverse the damage as well as compensate those impacted.
Our high energy lifestyles are fuelled by coal mines abroad forced on people unfortunate enough to live close to large coal deposits. These people rarely see any of the financial wealth raised from the exports to Europe of coal from under their homes. Instead, they are left with all the local harms and often the worst impacts of climate change.
Russia is the biggest exporter of coal to Europe supplying 41% of the coal imported into the European Union in 2017. 76% of Russia’s coal is mined in Kuzbass – an area in southwest Siberia and most of the coal produced there is shipped to Europe and Asia.
Valentina Bekrinova, a native Shor person living in the village of Chuvashka, Kuzbass, Siberia says, “In front of the house is the Sibirginsky mine. On the other side of the house there is a waste tip from another mine. Our village is surrounded by coal mining, and the dust which blows from the mines and waste heaps coats everything…I’m afraid that Shor people will soon become extinct. This is why the most important thing is the protection of our ecology, our rivers, our taiga for the protection of our nation. We cannot live without [them].”
While the impacts of burning coal in power station on our climate receives some attention the human and local ecological consequences are almost always overlooked. But the consequences are dire:
“I wish that people became more aware of where their coal comes from. And about the consequences” says Luz Angela Uriana Epiayu, mother of Moisés Daniel, a young child who is seriously ill with lung disease living next to the Cerrejón coal mine, owned by foreign interests.
The giant open-pit Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira, northern Colombia. The mine is the biggest of its kind in the world and is jointly owned by Anglo American, BHP and Glencore. The Cerrejón mine is in Wayúu indigenous territory and when mining began over 30 years ago, local people were not consulted. Instead their lands were seized, and communities were forcibly displaced, violating their constitutional land rights. The Colombian government has failed to adequately compensate any of the affected communities. Pollution and dust from the coal mine has caused the contamination of water supplies and the air.
Narlis Guzmán Angulo a human rights defender from Cesar in Colombia living near the Drummond coal mine says, “In La Sierra we have always been able to feed ourselves with our agriculture, but that is over... Opencast coal mining ruined everything. It has brought us all this: the collapse of the social fabric, unemployment, death, missing persons, displaced persons, political corruption, the loss of the vocation of our ancestors, the loss of our roots, environmental pollution, disease, prostitution, the sexual commercialisation of children, drug addiction, and poisoned water...”.
The answer to these problems is not to open more coal mines in Europe. True solidarity with people at the front-lines of coal extraction means closing all coal mines globally and to move rapidly away from technology which relies on coal and produces vast emissions.
We are an environmental organisation dedicated to ending coal mining and use in the UK for the sake of our collective climate and ecosystems. So you’d think we’d celebrate the claim by Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd that it will finally stop mining coal today at Ffos-y-fran in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. But we’re not. Because the abject failure of Merthyr County Borough Council to stop…
People hailing from Cumbria to London, and everywhere in between, descended on the Mines and Money Conference in London across two days (28th-29th Nov 2023). We demanded that investors stop pouring cash into the mining sector, and instead invest in our collective future. Together with Fossil Free London and other groups, we greeted investors with…
The insurers that have ruled out underwriting the mine are AEGIS Managing Agency, Argenta Syndicate Management, Hannover Re and Talanx. These are the first financial institutions to rule out any involvement with the project, and the win represents a new phase in the campaign to stop the project from going ahead.
Today’s global actions focused specifically on the state-owned China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure), the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim), and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). Sinosure is said to be in advanced talks with the Ugandan government about providing credit for the project.
On 18th October dozens of protesters staged a sit-in occupation of the plush City of London offices of ten Lloyd’s of London insurers demanding they rule out insuring the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Global mining companies are coming to London soon attempting to find investors in their ruinous projects at the Mines and Money Conference (28th to 30th November). Join our protests against it!
01 September 2022: Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd applies for a S.73 time extension to mine coal from Ffos-y-fran, and to accordingly delay and vary restoration works.
06 September 2022: Planning permission ends for coal mining at the Ffos-y-fran site, after 15 years and 3 months of operations.
12 September 2022: first reports to MTCBC have been made by local residents of coaling beyond the end of planning permission.
Over 30 Welsh NGOs and businesses have signed a letter to Welsh Minister Julie James and Deputy Minister Lee Waters, demanding they draw a line in the sand and announce ban on any further coal mines on Welsh soil. The letter was delivered on 11th October 2023.
On 15th September 2023, The Guardian reported that Tata Steel accepted Government funding to avoid closing its steelworks in Port Talbot, South Wales, by decarbonising it instead – but at a loss of up to 3,000 jobs. The UK Government is providing £500 million, and Tata Steel is expected to provide another £725 million…