London Mining Tour led by London Mining Network

Photo by Alex Coley
Photo by Alex Coley
Photo by Alex Coley
Photo by Alex Coley
Photo by Alex Coley

Geology is a mode of accumulation, on one hand, and of dispossession, on the other, depending on which side of the geologic color line you end up on – Kathryn Yussof

London is the world’s biggest centre for investment in the minerals industry and hosts the head-quarters of some of its key companies. As part of Arts Catalyst's two-day conference Assembly: Extractable Matters - which formed part of the public programme for the exhibition Tales from the Crust by Ignacio Acosta - London Mining Network led a tour of three of the biggest mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange: BHP, Rio Tinto and Anglo American. During the walk we explored the tangible and intangible relationships between London-based mining companies and the multilayered impacts of their projects around the world. We are pleased to be able to present the audio from the tour here, via soundcloud.

 
Part 1: BHP
The tour began outside Nova South building, where the Anglo-Australian company BHP occupies the 12th and 13th floor. After a brief introduction into the company’s colonial links – connected to the Anglo–Dutch Billiton plc – this initial part of the tour focused on the environmental damage and losses that the industry provokes on a global scale; through soil and water contamination as well as through the huge amount of water that mining operations require.
 
We heard about the open-pit Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira (northern Colombia), the copper mine Escondida in Chile, BHP's involvement in the copper mining company Solgold in Ecuador (despite a recent referendum in Ecuador opposing mining activities in the country), and finally about the dam disasters in Mariana (2015) and Brumadinho (2019) in Brazil, in which hundreds of people were killed. We listened to the moving testimony of Vagner Diniz, who lost members of his family in Brumadinho. 
 
Park:
While walking through the park, Richard Solly (LMN) drew attention to the proximity of the various offices of mining companies in relation to Buckingham Palace, stimulating reflections on geographical sites of power. 
 
Part 2: Anglo-American
Anglo-American and De Beers are two interlinked Anglo South African companies, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange. Their history of gold and diamonds mining and selling – since the 1880s – is strongly entangled with imperialism and colonialism.
 
Following the end of the apartheid, both companies became much more international, branching out into the Philippines and Latin America. In Latin America the company has been accused of polluting and undermining the livelihood of communities and environments: in Brazil at Minas Rio Anglo American for instance, where a tailing dam is threatening the local farming communities andat Los Bronzes in Chile, where the dust produced by their mining activities is threatening the ecology of local glaciers. Recently the company has been accused of exploiting migrant workers and of making miners ill with silicosis.
 
This part of the tour ended with Sue from LMN speaking about the communities living near Cerrejón mine in Colombia. These communities are demanding justice as their lives are impacted negatively on a daily basis, specifically by the pollution produced by explosions from the open cast mine. 
 
Part 3: Rio Tinto 
Founded by a multinational consortium of investors in 1873, Rio Tinto is an Anglo-Australian multinational corporation. It is the world's second largest metals and mining corporations, behind BHP Billiton, mining iron ore, copper, diamonds, gold, coal and uranium.
 
During the tour, London Mining Network highlighted a series of cases they are currently investigating including: a copper mine in Arizona, which doesn’t yet exist and which indigenous people are trying to halt proceedings for and a copper and gold mine in Mongolia that is driving nomadic herders off their land and creating water access problems. Andrew and Richard from LMN delved into the highly controversial cases of the Grasberg mine in West Papua, and the Panguna mine in Bougainville (which recently voted for independence from Papua New Guinea). 
 
The tour ended with an insight into Glencore, a Swiss UK joint commodities company and mining company, accused of human rights violation in relation to cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
 
Assembly: Extractable Matters was a two-day gathering at the University of Westminster that brought together artists, academics, activists and human rights experts to collectively explore the politics of extraction across the globe and the role that its operations play on environmental, ecopolitical and societal levels.
 
London Mining Network (LMN) is an alliance of human rights, development,  environmental and solidarity groups. The Network pledges to expose the role of companies, funders and government in the promotion of unacceptable mining projects and works in support of communities around the world who are badly affected by mining – mining by companies based in, or financed from, London.