Asia Energy Corporation
Asia Energy Corporation is a a wholly owned subsidiary of GCM Resources, a London-headquartered company with interests in coal projects in Bangladesh, South Africa and China as well as "uranium interests in West Africa, Sweden and Australia."
Asia Energy Corporation has proposed the development of the Phulbari Coal Project in Bangladesh. On its website, GCM states that the Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd, "has a contract with the Government of Bangladesh 'for exploration and mining of coal in Northern Bangladesh'."
Coal was discovered at Phulbari in Northwest Bangladesh during surveying and drilling between 1994 -1997 by the Australian mining company BHP, which entered into licensing and investment agreements with the Government of Bangladesh. The agreements were assigned to Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd in 1998.
Many in Bangladesh have opposed the project. According to Asia Energy, 40,000 people would be involuntarily resettled by the project, although activists say the number of people evicted is likely to be ten times more. According to the group Cultural Survival, a government-sponsored study estimates that 130,000 people in more than 100 villages would be immediately displaced by the mine, and another 100,000 would gradually be forced to leave as their wells and irrigation canals run dry from the mining. Independent researchers and the Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (National Indigenous Union) estimate that 50,000 Indigenous people belonging to 23 different tribal groups would be displaced or impoverished by the mine.
On August 26, 2006, more than 50,000 people took part in protests against the proposed mine. The Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary force, opened fire on the protesters. Three young men, Tariqul, son of the municipal commissioner and panel chairman, Ameen, a young carpenter, and Salehin of the adjoining upazila Nawabganj, died instantly. One to two hundred people are reported to have been injured. 
After the 2006 protest, a national strike closed down the country for four days. It ended when the government agreed to ban open-pit coal mining in Phulbari and expel Asia Energy Corporation from the country. However, the government plans to announce a new coal policy by June 2011, and GCM Resources expects the mine to move forward. The National Indigenous Union and a broad coalition of human rights and environmental organizations are appealing for international support to stop the mine.
On Dec. 21, 2010, a WikiLeaks cable revealed US diplomats had secretly pushed the Bangladeshi government to re-open plans for the mine. The cable includes comments by US Ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty stating that “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment.” In the cable, sent in July of 2009, Moriarty also states that he urged the prime minister’s energy advisor to authorize coal mining, saying the “open-pit mining seemed the best way forward.”
Nearly 40% of all GCM shares are owned by the four companies that make up the Luxor Capital Group, all of which are owned by Christian Leone, a US citizen who also operates a New-York-based hedge fund in his own name.
Articles and Resources
- GCM Resources, "Overview", GCM Resources website, accessed August 2009.
- GCM Resources, "Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd", GCM Resources website, accessed August 2009.
- "Overview" GCM Resources, accessed March 2011.
- "‘You cannot eat coal’: resistance in Phulbari" Banglapraxis, August 19, 2008.
- "Bangladesh: Ban Coal Mine, Save Forests and Farms" Cultural Survival, accessed Feb. 2011.
- "Phulbari Coal Mine, Bangladesh" International Accountability Project, accessed Feb. 2011.
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