Lucio Cuenca, a Chilean Environmental Rights Defender is in Scotland to expose multinational mining companies such as BHP for their role in human rights abuses and climate breakdown. He will demand action from the Scottish Parliament and Local Government Pension Funds, who collectively invest £17.5 million in the mining giant.
He is visiting the UK as part of a fortnight of action, labelled ‘Unmasking BHP’, around the London-listed mining company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on 17th October. In Scotland, Cuenca will speak to senior elected officials, civil society groups and climate campaigners.
Lucio Cuenca is Director of the Observatory for Environmental Conflicts in Latin America and will describe major environmental and social problems arising from BHP’s actions in the region.
BHP continues to extract vast amounts of water at their Escondida copper mine in Antofagasta, Chile, while the country experiences severe drought.
They have continually forced the displacement of communities surrounding the Cerrejón opencast coal mine in northern Colombia.
While there is still no justice for the 19 people killed during the Samarco mining waste dam disaster that also destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Cuenca will also criticise investment in other mega mining companies, such as Rio Tinto. According to research by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Scottish local government pension funds invest an estimated £17 million in BHP and £126.4 million in Rio Tinto. The Scottish Parliament pension fund invests £505,683 directly in BHP and £257,899 in Rio Tinto.
Lucio Cuenca said:
“It is unacceptable that Scottish councillors’ and MSPs’ pension funds are invested in BHP, a company that are major contributors to the climate crisis and are causing massive destruction to communities in Latin America through mega-mining projects.
“BHP has a very aggressive strategy to insert itself in the territories of these communities, over-exploiting local water sources causing major droughts and trying to eliminate any critical opinion or social protest. They are now trying to re-legitimise themselves through a narrative about taking action on the climate crisis, which they are using to justify ever-more metal mining while causing more crises for the people living there but it is a complete contradiction.”
Ric Lander, Divestment Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“It’s good that our elected representatives tell us they’re taking the climate crisis seriously, but wholly hypocritical to then gamble their pension funds on the same companies driving this crisis.
“Scotland’s Councillors and MSPs should respond to the demands of people on the front-line of climate chaos and divest from fossil fuel polluters. By breaking free from companies like BHP, pension funds can help Scotland bring about a brighter future for everyone. We can’t turn a blind eye to what Scottish money is doing on the other side of the world.”
20 MSPs have signed the pledge to divest from fossil fuels
“I pledge to support the Scottish Government and Parliament divesting from fossil fuels and investing in a just transition to a zero carbon economy over an appropriate time-scale.”