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Glencore continues to put profits before people

1 June, 2023A delegation of trade union representatives, NGOs, indigenous and impacted communities from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Spain, Peru, the UK and Switzerland attended Glencore’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Zug, Switzerland on 26 May, to demand answers from the company board on the company’s blatant lack of willingness to address serious environmental, social and governance issues across its global operations and its aversion to dialogue.

Glencore’s extensive workers’ and human rights violations dominated the meeting, including concerns of indigenous communities, undermining just transition and silencing their critics. 
Chilling accounts of the impact of Glencore’s irresponsible exit from the Prodeco coal mine in Colombia were raised by trade unions, NGOs and indigenous communities.
Juan Carlos Solano from IndustriALL Colombian affiliate SINTRACARBON said: 

“Many of the jobs are outsourced and the workers at these companies have worse working conditions. They are harassed and the salaries are unequal. What is Glencore going to do about this?”

 The indigenous Yukpa community, from Colombia, lives on the borders of El Cerrjon, the largest coal mine in Latin America, owned by Glencore since 2021. This community is suffering from large-scale open pit mining, the rivers are diverted or contaminated. The community leaders told the AGM that 40 children die every year because of poisoned water. 

During the meeting the criticism kept flowing. Dominic Lemieux, co-chair of the mining and DGOJP sector said: 

“Glencore continues to work with subcontractors at the Horne Smelter copper mine in Canada, undermining the collective bargaining agreement.”

Glencore favours a hands-off management style, with local managers encouraged to make operational decisions without reference to a global standard. Questions at the AGM on Glencore’s swashbuckling history at odds with growing importance of ESG were never directly addressed and often referred to local management who were responsible for the mines. 

Despite the constant backlash, the board’s chairman, Kalidas Madhavpeddi’s, answers to all questions were generic and unapologetic: 

“Glencore respects human rights and works closely with indigenous communities. We respect trade unions and workers’ rights. We condemn any violations committed against people who work at the mines and in the communities.” 

 IndustriALL mining director Glen Mpufane, said: 

“We are hugely disappointed. Despite evidence, Glencore denied everything. They refer everything to the operations; the board is not responsible for anything. Anything that impacts workers, communities and indigenous communities is not the fault of Glencore.”
“We will escalate our global campaign – Glencore can’t keep making profits at the expense of people’s wellbeing and lives.”

The AGM was the final day of several days of meetings that included the Glencore network meeting and the pre-AGM for investors.