Noremco Construction, a subsidiary of Veidekke, has built a gold extraction plant at the new and controversial Geita mine in Tanzania. The project, which will be the biggest gold mine in Africa outside South Africa, has led to the forced relocation of more than 4,000 farmers. Environmentalists are very concerned that the use of large amounts of cyanide might damage the ecology of Lake Victoria, twenty kilometres downstream of the project. Noremco declines to comment on issues relating to the Geita mine, but claim in conversations with NorWatch that they have never encountered ethical problems in their countless projects in Tanzania.
On December 16, at least three persons were killed and eight injured in the village of Maikanch in Kashipur, India, in connection with unrest over Norsk Hydro's Utkal project. Some 4,000 people from 15 villages in the area had gathered to plan a roadblock in protest against the project, when the police opened fire on the people. The police said they fired in self-defence. Project supporters have asked the authorities to evict the Agragamee organisation from the area.
The Indian council of churches recently issued a crass statement against the Utkal project in connection with a national conference on forced relocation. At the same time, the aid organisation CARE, through the World Bank initiative Business Partners for Development, has entered into a dialogue with Utkal Alumina on development issues in the affected area. Two new players have joined the Orissa conflict.
Kvaerner E&C is building a gas separation plant for a joint Thai-Malaysian natural gas project in the south of Thailand. There is considerable resistance to the project, and recently, unknown persons fired shots at a car with 40 demonstrators. Thai authorities have brought huge police forces into action to keep the peace around the project.
The National People's Army, one of several Philippine guerilla groups, recently attacked the nickel project of the Norwegian-Canadian mining company Crew Development Corporation on the island of Mindoro. One of the company's local advocates was liquidated, buildings were set on fire, and equipment stolen, before the guerilla ambushed and killed eight policemen brought in to investigate the case. In a letter to the Philippine president, Crew accuses mining opponents of being accomplices to the guerillas, and demands that the military be deployed to protect their interests.
The last 59 families who did not accept the compensation they were offered after having been forcibly resettled when the Melaka oil refinery was built, have now been paid ex gratia compensation by Petronas (see NorWatch 2/97 and 2/00). In the end, the company paid 3.75 ringgit (USD 0.98), far less than in the 1993 Memory of Understanding.
During their visit to Norway, Philippine representatives for a broad alliance against the planned nickel project of the mining company Mindex on the Philippine island Mindoro challenged shareholders to sell their shares in the Norwegian company. The Philippines also had a series of meetings with trade unions, the church, the media and the environmental movement in order to gather support for their demand that Mindex must abandon their project, which faces massive local opposition.
The mining company Mindex recently claimed that 100,000 signatures had been collected in support of the company's nickel project in the Philippine island Mindoro. It turns out that many people gave their signature to what they believed was a protest against the plans of the Norwegian company, or to completely different purposes. The mayors of all the municipalities in the province recently agreed to a common resolution, which demands that the project must be stopped. There are frequent reports on demonstrations against Mindex, while a Mindex-financed indigenous people's organisation has entered into an agreement with the Norwegian mining company in support of the mining project.
The prestigious expansions of the fields Azeri/Chirag in the Caspian Sea are in danger of getting postponed, the international oil newspaper UpStream reports. Statoil participates as the second largest partner in the international consortium AIOC which functions as the operator of the fields. The development has particularly been in the spot light due to problems finding a suitable alignment route for the pipes that shall transport oil from the Caspian Sea to the western market. But Azeri/Chirag is also disputed because of a disagreement between Aserbajdsjan and Turkmenistan about who has the ownership rights to the oil. The case has earlier been addressed in the NorWatch report, "In safe hands? An un-authorized health, environment and security report on Statoil's operations abroad".
The Ecuadorian environmental organisation Accion Ecologica recently visited Norway, and it presented sharp criticism against the gold mining company Ecuanor ASA. During the visit, the organisation gave new information about the company. It has allegedly hired a paramilitary group in a conflict with local gold miners in a concession area in the southern part of Ecuador. The chairman of the board of Ecuanor admits that the company employs armed guards. He says that the conflict "has an extremely high level of economic interests". Eight organisations in Ecuador recently jointly sent a protest letter on Ecuanor's activity to Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.
The Norwegian mining company Mindex has created a conflict similar to the Norwegian Alta struggle in the Philippino island of Mindoro. The company's planned and much promoted nickel project has triggered a broad coalition of opponents. They fear forced resettlement, pollution and destruction of the basis of existence for the indigenous peoples, farmers and fisherfolk. The project includes surface strip mining and the discharge of several million tons of waste into the ocean every year. The opponents have organised demonstrations, signatory campaigns and direct actions, whereas Mindex is of the opinion that the project will lead to great prosperity and income for the island.