Phulbari coal mine project, Bangladesh

Read the story of one of the most violent repressions in Bangladesh, with several female and male victims, leading to a ban on open-pit mining in the area and withdrawal of international funding


The Phulbari Coal Project was an open-pit coal mine project in Bangladesh proposed by Asia Energy Corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of London-based GCM Resources.

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Basic Data
NamePhulbari coal mine project, Bangladesh
ProvinceDinajpur District, Rangpur Division
SitePhulbari region
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Coal extraction and processing
Thermal power plants
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Phulbari open-pit coal project would include a mine and a 500 MW coal plant. The project was said to have a coal resource of 572 million metric tons and a proposed annual capacity to produce 15 metric tons per year. The coal would have provided support up to 4,000 MW of power generating capacity.
Project Area (in hectares)4,900
Level of Investment (in USD)530,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected PopulationUp to 400,000
Start Date2005
Company Names or State EnterprisesBHP Minerals from Australia
GCM Resources from United Kingdom
Asia Energy Corporation Pty Ltd from Bangladesh
Relevant government actorsBangladesh Department of Environment

Bagladesh Rifles
International and Financial InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB) - ADB initially backed the project but pulled out in 2008
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) from United Kingdom - It withdrew after the 2006 repression and international pressure
Barclays Bank from United Kingdom - It withdrew after the 2006 repression and international pressure
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPhulbari Solidarity Group:

International Accountability Project:

Bangladesh National Indigenous Union (Jatiya Advasi Parishad - JAP)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
23 different tribal groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Public campaigns
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Shareholder/financial activism.
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Official complaint letters and petitions
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
On August 26, 2006, Bangladesh Rifles fired upon a crowd of over 20,000 people as they staged a protest against the proposed open pit mine. Three people from Phulbari were killed in the shootings, one was paralyzed, and several hundreds were injured.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced on 6 February 2014 that the issue of coal extraction was to be left to “future technology as food security and protecting the land of the farmers is the first priority”. After almost eight years of protest, the people of Phulbari finally achieved their goal to stop the Phulbari open-pit coal mining project.
Sources and Materials

Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) (2006), Energy Kills: Phulbari coal mine project of Bangladesh, ACHR Weekly Review 131/06
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FONG-SAM, Yolanda (2014), 2012 Minerals Yearbook, Bangladesh (Advanced Release), U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey (USGS), November 2014,
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Global Nonviolent Action Database (2014), Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh Protest to Stop Open Pit Coal Mine 2006-2014, by Andrés Cordero and Ryan Leitner
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International Accountability Project, The Phulbari Coal Project, A Threat to People, Land, And Human Rights in Bangladesh, Fact Sheet
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Phulbari Solidarity Group, Important Documents
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Phulbari Coal Project, SourceWatch, 2012
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Asia Energy's future with Phulbari coal mine bleak, UNB, Business News 24, 7 February 2014
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Massive protest against Phulbari & Barapukuria coal mines in Bangladesh, by Kate Hoshour, International Accountability Project, 4 March 2011
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Phulbari Day in Photos: Remembering the August 26 Martyrs, BanglaPraxis, 2008
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[1] Bank Information centre on ADB's involvement
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Bangladesh: OMCT welcomes the Asian Development Bank’s suspension of support for the Phulbari coal mine project
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Forum on ADB - Phulbari project
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The mystery death, a town in uproar and a $1bn UK mines deal , 3 sept. 2006.
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Media Links

The Blood-Soaked Banner of Phulbari – (Part 1), A Coal Mine against the People
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The Blood-Soaked Banner of Phulbari – (Part 2), A Coal Mine against the People,
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Cultural Survival. 10 years after Phulbari Massacre, Open Pit Coal Mine in Bangladesh Remains Stalled. December 20, 2016
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Other Documents

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Shareholder activism in London
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March protest at Phulbari
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Phulbari doesn't need coal mines
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Other CommentsAlthough a success of environmental justice, at the end of 2016, GCM Resources plc Executive Chairman, Datuk Michael Tang PJN, said: “Although the mining sector has continued to face significant challenges over the last twelve months, we remain positive on the potential of the Phulbari coal and power project and are advancing the company towards realising its objectives.”
Meta Information
ContributorMalena Bengtsson & Martin & Brototi Roy
Last update24/01/2017