The Martyrdom of Shehla Masood
Posted on Aug 18, 2011
IUCN and big business - Statement on the Martyrdom of Shehla Masood
We salute the struggle and martyrdom of Shehla Masood who defended our forests, rivers, land and wildlife in the face of unscrupulous corporate assault in nexus with ruling political regimes. Shehla Masood used to conclude her messages with a proud “Roarrrrr” that cannot be silenced by the bullets of her assailants.
Shehla Masood a Madhya Pradesh based civil rights and environmental rights activist was was shot dead by an unidentified person in front of her residence in Koh-e-Fiza locality in Bhopal around 11 AM on 16th August, 2011.
We the undersigned aghast at the irony that tigers, tribals, trees and civil rights and environmental rights activists are being hunted and killed in the same manner.
We demand that the possible connection between her murder and her raising the issue of illegal Diamond mining project in Chhattarpur district, Madhya Pradesh by Rio Tinto, a transnational mining company headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange must be investigated along with other suspicions by a high level probe team.
She was active to save the watershed of the Panna Tiger Reserve and the Shyamri River, one of the cleanest in the country from Rio Tinto’s mining activity along with other activists.
We suspect that the considered timing of her elimination during the ongoing anti-corruption campaign when she was on her way to support Anna Hazare’s fast is meant to overshadow the issue of illegal Diamond mining project in Chhattarpur district, Madhya Pradesh by Rio Tinto and the political Mafiosi.
The mining block is inside a forest which is the northernmost tip of the best corridor of teak forests south of the Gangetic plain. It is an established law that mining is non-forestry activity. There is an immediate need for a probe to determine who allowed the mining to take place in such an ecologically fragile area.
The Bunder mine project, near the city of Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh, about 500 kilometres south-east of Delhi, is likely to be one of the largest diamond reserves in the world. It is estimated that there is a ”inferred resource” of 27.4 million carats, a diamonds resource seven times richer than the Panna mine, country’s only working diamond mine.
A statement dated March 22, 2011 was laid in the Parliament (Lok Sabha) on “need to review the diamond mining project in district Chhattarpur, Madhya Pradesh posing serious threat to environment in the region”.
We have learnt from senior journalists that two Collectors have been transferred to facilitate the ongoing illegal mining and the fact that the new Collector has allowed mining which came to light when a PIL was filed stating that Rio Tinto has been carrying on exploitation of mineral resources in Chattarpur district violating the prescribed provisions.
Prior to the statement in the Lok Sabha, on March 10, 2011, the FOREST ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING of Ministry of Environment & Forests listed Agenda no. 6 on “ Prospecting of diamond at 143 additional locations in 2329.75 ha. forest land located in 18 compartments in Buxwaha Range in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh by M/s Rio Tinto Exploration India Private Limited. [File No. 8-49/2006-FC-(Vol.)]” to discuss it but did not do so stating, “Due to paucity of time the proposal could not be discussed during the meeting”.
We had written to the Union Environment Minister and Parliamentary Petitions Committee separately drawing its attention towards Madhya Pradesh High Court’s notices to the Centre and the state government on illegal mining of diamonds by international mining companies. The court had asked both the governments to reply in this matter within four weeks. Considering the act of illegal mining as a serious offence, a double bench of Chief Justice Sayed Rafat Alam and Justice Sushil Harkauli criticised the Forest Departments, Mining Secretaries of the state as well as the Centre and issued notices against them in addition to the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Chattarpur Collector.
We take cognisance of the fact that Corporate Watch, a London based group had chosen Rio Tinto to award it for its display of heinous, misguided, and altogether anti-social behaviour over the last ten years in 2010.
We take note of ‘Rio Tinto: the Tainted Titan,’ the Stakeholders Report, www.cfmeu.asn.au, 1997, which states “It’s (Rio Tinto’s) activities in some of the wildest and the most pristine places in the world and their impact on the environment of those places, the people who live there, the life-style of the indigenous people and also its corporate culture, are subjects of real concern.”
We submit that Rio Tinto project is threatening unique forest resources in the area affected by the mine in Chhattarpur, MP. In this context, it may be noted that Roger Moody, a veteran journalist in his book Plunder, describes Rio Tinto’s activities as ranging from “brow-beating opponents, leaning on governments and price-fixing, to violating international law, union-busting and management of one of the world’s biggest commodity cartels”. His book outlines numerous examples of its environmental irresponsibility.
It is germane to recollect what Sir Roderick Carnegie, as Chairman Rio Tinto-Zinc (RTZ) had said at its 1984 shareholders’ meeting: “The right to land depends on the ability to defend it”.
We salute the struggle and martyrdom of Shehla Masood who defended our forests, rivers, land and wildlife in the face of unscrupulous corporate assault in nexus with ruling political regimes.
Shehla Masood used to conclude her messages with a proud “Roarrrrr” that cannot be silenced by the bullets of her assailants.
IUCN - Rio Tinto Relationship
Rio Tinto is a leading global mining group, combining Rio Tinto plc, a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Rio Tinto is involved in every stage of the mining business. Products include aluminium, copper, iron ore, coal, and uranium. Activities span the world but are concentrated in Australia and North America. Rio Tinto made a public commitment, in 2004, to biodiversity conservation and a goal of having a “net positive impact” on biodiversity.
The overall purpose of the proposed IUCN – Rio Tinto relationship is to build a business focused collaboration that enables Rio Tinto to improve its delivery of conservation outcomes, strengthen IUCN and Rio Tinto capacities for market-based approaches to conservation, and contribute to industry-wide improvements in the mining and associated sectors.
In 2004, IUCN’s Council endorsed a “Strategy for Enhancing IUCN Interaction with the Private Sector”. The strategy envisions a sustainable global economy in which businesses are committed and effective partners in achieving a just world which values and conserves nature.
The role of IUCN – in line with its general mandate – is then to influence, encourage, and assist businesses to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable, efficient, and ecologically sustainable.
On these premises, IUCN engages, as a priority, private sectors where change is most important and urgent due to the scale of their impact on the environment and social equity, or where change is most likely based on commitment of the company and its leadership, or where greatest potential exists for a company to positively contribute to environmental conservation.
Specifically, engaging with Rio Tinto in a relationship agreement holds value for IUCN as a result of:
- the large footprint of the mining industry on biodiversity and the perceived role of Rio Tinto in leading change in the industry as a whole;
- partnering with Rio Tinto, due to its size, stature, and geography of work, will present specific examples whereby IUCN can engage in extractive industry issues;
- Rio Tinto is signatory to the UN Global Compact Principles, is among the top three in the sector (according to the 2006 survey of Corporate Sustainability Reporting), and has certified environmental management systems; and
- the opportunity to engage with Rio Tinto on: the verification of their pledge of having a “net positive impact” on biodiversity; environmental economics and ecosystem service markets; protected areas; and water policies.
In addition, the relationship may undertake any other projects or activities, as the parties agree.
IUCN – Rio Tinto Relationship Negotiations Update: May 2010
Following the production of the draft agreement at the March 2010 workshop (see link below), negotiations have been untaken during May to finalize the agreement, with an anticipated formal signing in July. At the conclusion of this first phase of the engagement, which is foreseen to have a three-year duration, it is anticipated by both parties, to extend the engagement and collaboration on the work programmes to higher levels.
IUCN – Rio Tinto Facilitated workshop: March 2010
Following the collaborative IUCN – Rio Tinto site visits and the London workshop that took place over the course of 2009, Rio Tinto forwarded to IUCN a draft agreement for revision early this year. In March 2010, after providing extensive comments to Rio Tinto, IUCN met with the company’s representatives at their London headquarters for a three-day workshop to review comments and discuss a proposed program of work. This meeting resulted in a three year draft agreement with the intention to commence the associated work programmes later this year.
The workshop report is available here:
August 16, 2011