Anglo American’s shareholders were met by demonstrations outside the venue of its annual general meeting (AGM) at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on 24 April.
IndustriALL Global Union and the London Mining Network joined forces to protest against the mining giant’s violation of workers’ rights and communities around the world.
During the AGM, IndustriALL’s South African affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), London’s former anti-apartheid movement, challenged Anglo American over the recent litigation settlement concluded with the claimants over mine workers’ silicosis and tuberculosis disease contracted by mine workers in Southern Africa while employed by Anglo American. The settlement, concluded in 2016, is the result of a class action suit filed in the High Court of South Africa in December 2012.
The NUM and ACTSA argue that the settlement is inadequate as it is limited to 4,365 claimants. The demand is for Anglo American and the mining companies that profited from South Africa’s gold to urgently provide proper medical screening, decent financial compensation and healthcare, and adequate support for all ex- and current mineworkers suffering from silicosis and TB.
The legacy of mining industries’ knowing neglect of the occupational health of its mineworkers is not just a South African problem, but a global one. In the USA, former mine workers face a health care crisis as they succumb to occupational health diseases with the prospect of the denial of a health care pension. In Australia, mine workers are being betrayed by the mining industry with the re-emergence of black-lung disease (pneumoconiosis), which was thought to be history in the country’s mining industry. The disease is running rampant in Australia’s coal mining sector. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) similarly confronted Anglo American over its responsibilities to mine workers at its Australian operations over the diseases and raising legacy occupational health issues as it off-loads and sells some of its coal assets in Australia.
During the meeting, IndustriALL challenged Anglo American on a number of labour-related issues, including contracting and subcontracting of core production functions; occupational safety issues after 11 workers lost their lives in the past financial year at Anglo American operations; the slow pace of transformation and women’s integration; and whether the Initiative for Responsible Mining and Assurance will be considered for future inclusion in Anglo American’s reporting guidance protocol.
The CFMEU raised the issue of the three-year Capcoal German Creek strike that has no resolution in sight. The Anglo American chairman tried to dodge the issue by saying the AGM was not a negotiating forum, even though the CFMEU has a right to raise concerns with the shareholders and demand answers, not excuses. The CFMEU issued a challenge to the CEO, Mark Cutifani, to come to Australia to resolve the impasse.
The Church and Mining Network of Brazil demanded answers relating to Anglo American’s Minas-Gerais iron ore tailings dam expansion plans, with the memory of the BHP Billiton-Vale’s Samarco mine dam disaster still fresh in the mind of the community of Minas Gerais. Anglo American has been accused by a Brazilian court for failing to provide the community with mandatory information about the proposed expansion, sparking concern about critical drinking water shortages and another dam disaster.
IndustriALL’s Anglo American Global Network was held in London to coincide with Anglo American’s AGM.