I hosted a meeting tonight in the House of Commons on behalf of the London Mining Network on the eve of the Annual General Meeting in London of one of the largest mining companies in the world, BHPBilliton.
I doubt if many have even heard of the Network or Billiton but I hope that the work of the Network will become increasingly familiar because I was moved tonight by the information the Network patiently and quietly laid before all of us attending the meeting.
The Network is an alliance of organisations like the Colombia Solidarity Campaign and Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links, which are campaigning to draw attention to the impact the world's major mining companies are having on the environment and on the lives of people in the developing world.
The Network had brought to London the trade union representatives of workers at the British owned Cerrejon mine in Colombia. Since the summer 2006 the unionised workers at the mine have been supporting the local small farming communities whose land has been taken by the mining company and who are demanding a collective resettlement to land of equal agricultural worth. Billiton is one of the companies owning the mine and so the union reps will be presenting their arguments to the company's AGM tomorrow. They have other issues to raise including their low pay, long working hours and basic health and safety.
The Colombian miners were joined by representatives of indigenous communities in the Philippines whose land is under threat from a nickel mining project being promoted by Billiton in an area which has recently beeen proclaimed as a wildlife sanctuary as well as a protected forest. There has been massive opposition to this project with one local councillor being shot dead by a security guard. Friends of the Earth Philippines has been instrumental in exposing this large scale environmental and humanitarian threat and in mobilising opposition to the mining plan.
I wish the Colombians and Philippinos success at tomorrow's AGM. To reinforce their message I will be laying an Early Day Motion in Parliament in the new session after the Queen's speech on 6th November and I will be pressing the Government to ensure that legislation is brought forward so that British mining companies or any mining company trading from Britain know that they cannot act with impunity in their operations in the Developing World.