By New Worker correspondent
A COALITION of 30 environmental groups from all around the world arrived in London, the world’s centre for commodities, metal and oil trading, and base for many of the world's mining and extraction corporations, for a day of protest last week against the damage being done to the planet and its people by the giant mineral mining and trading companies.
The Carnival of Dirt spans from London to the Congo, West Papua to the Philippines and brings together the UK groups alongside pressure groups and NGOs from DR Congo, West Papua, Peru, the Philippines, Nigeria and Somalia, to create “a carnival like no other”.
It came to challenge mining and extraction organisations – such as Xstrata, Glencore International, Rio Tinto, Vedanta, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, BP and Shell – who maintain a sustainable reputation domestically, while abroad make British people complicit in their devastating activities, including environmental disasters, summary executions, financial crimes, labour rights violations, political corruption and cultural genocide.
This complicity is achieved through links between UK pension funds with companies such as Xstrata present in almost every fund, the UK public is financing and legitimising these mining and extraction companies globally, while their executive boards enjoy massive remunerations.
The carnival began at 11am at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday in the City of London with a dramatic and poignant ceremony to celebrate those who stand up against the mining and extraction corporations and to remember those who have died for doing so.
The full funeral cortège – with Congolese choir and New Orleans funeral jazz band – brought their message to one of the institutions most responsible for these practices, the London Stock Exchange.
The event was “policed” by a firm of private security guards hired by the Corporation of London.
At 2pm a lunch rally with shared food was addressed by a wide range of speakers, including many indigenous activists from all over the world.
The carnival lasted all day as it wound its way to Aldgate, through the City and later to the Embankment, pausing often for more speakers and activities, carrying the message that “business as usual” has got to stop.
One example of the inconsistencies happening in the mining world, is the many column inches garnered around the world as Xstrata officials in Europe have made preparations for a $90 billion merger with London-listed commodities giant Glencore. This is despite the opposition of many ordinary shareholders after it emerged that CEO Mick Davis has been offered a retention package of over £20 million just to stay in his job.
In contrast, on the other side of the world with far less media attention, farmers in one of the world's poorest regions are under siege by hundreds of police commandos, as a result of Xstrata refusing to negotiate a new social contract for its Tintaya mine in Peru.
A province-wide strike has resulted in at least two deaths, over 100 wounded, the declaration of a state-of-emergency and the arrest of the local mayor.
Sylvestre Mido from the Congolese Action Youth Platform (CAYP), said: “It is outrageous that in this modern day and age, practices such as slavery, murder and rape are not only tolerated by those multinationals but also supported by the British government amongst others. We will no longer stand by when millions are silently killed across the globe for trivial things such as our mobile phones.”