Bumi plc meets today in London to sort out ownership feud

Date of publication: 
21 February 2013

Whoever is in charge needs to be accountable for impacts on communities in Kalimantan, say CSOs.

London – An extraordinary general meeting (EGM) will today decide the fate of Bumi plc, the coal mining company which was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2011 despite criticism about its operations in Indonesia.

The social, environmental, human rights and health impacts of massive-scale open-cast mining are blighting the lives of communities in Kalimantan as Indonesia’s ‘coal rush’ continues.

Indonesia’s coal mega-mine, Kaltim Prima, is controlled by PT Bumi Resources, the Indonesian company which in turn is 29% owned by London-listed Bumi plc. It produces over 40 million tonnes of coal per year, which is exported to mainly to markets in China and India. Meanwhile, villagers living near the mine have a long experience of forced evictions, livelihood loss, pollution, strikes and company collusion with State security forces.

Coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, is also contributing to global climate change, bringing a further layer of disruption to the lives of poor communities in Kalimantan as well as the wider population.

Jointly operated by BP and Rio Tinto in the past, the mine renewed its UK links in 2010 when Nat Rothschild struck a deal with the Bakrie family to bring large-scale Indonesian coal mining to the London Stock Exchange, through a back-door deal avoiding the scrutiny of normal listing requirements for new companies.

The UK government has been widely criticised for allowing Bumi plc to list on the the London Stock Exchange, despite the involvement of the powerful Indonesian business family – the Bakries – in corruption, malpractice scandals and a long history of social and environmental impacts on local communities. These include a brutal attack against striking workers at the KPC mine in March this year and association with the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster, which killed 14 people and forced 30,000 people from their homes.

Now that the Bumi deal has gone sour, it appears that all sides in this internal conflict are looking to do anything it takes to win control of the company, from public relations dirty tricks and hidden shareholder alliances to recruiting new backers regardless of their ethical and business records.

Patrick Kane from War on Want, said: “Whatever the outcome of this pantomime in a London ballroom, the losers will be the Indonesian people who have reaped only negative consequences from Bumi’s coal extraction: human rights violations, abuse of workers, environmental destruction.”.

Richard Solly, Co-ordinator of London Mining Network, said: “Investors concerned about Bumi’s share price, and the dodgy dealing, would do well to show similar interest in the way the company deals with human rights and environmental issues. It’s not only investors who are suffering from the company’s cavalier behaviour: it’s workers, communities and ecosystems. But when London Mining Network and friends raised these issues at last year’s AGM, we were accused of ‘ranting’. Will investors start listening now?”

Andrew Hickman from Down to Earth, said: “Regardless of who wins Bumi’s boardroom battle, one thing appears clear, the Bumi affair has revealed the bankrupcy of claims by large shareholders to be able to police their own activities. In 2012, the government rejected a proposed amendment to the Financial Services bill to strengthen regulation of mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. Surely, it is now time for the government to act? To do this, at very least, for the sake of people’s lives and livelihoods in countries like Indonesia.”

Protesters are planning to stage a demonstration outside the EGM today, while dissident shareholders from DTE, LMN are planning to ask pertinent questions about the company’s impacts on the ground in Kalimantan inside the meeting.

For more information contact: Andrew Hickman, Down to Earth, 0750 473 8696.