Friends of Adani: POSCO

It’s hard to keep track of the twists and turns in the Carmichael Coal Mine saga. What’s clear is that if the mine does go ahead Adani won’t do it alone. The QLD and Federal governments haven’t been shy in showing their support for the mine — but Adani will also rely on a web of contractors and companies to help implement the project. Looking deeper, it appears that the Human Rights and Environmental record of some of the companies with connections to the project are as sketchy as Adani’s own chequered history.

POSCO

Today we’re looking at POSCO, which has been slated, at different times, to provide engineering, procurement and construction services. This includes possibly building the North Galilee Basin Rail Project: a 310km standard gauge, $2.2 billion rail line from the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal. It’s slated to be a 100m-wide corridor with passing loops; road and rolling stock maintenance facilities; water supply pipeline; track and signalling maintenance facilities; and staff accommodation and training facilities.(1) It’s not entirely sure if POSCO is still a player and Australian company Aurizon (Australia’s largest rail freight operator: coal, iron ore, agriculture) is also trying to muscle in on the project, claiming it can build the rail line for $1 billion less than Adani. But POSCO’s deep pockets, international experience and possible potential for opening the door to further financing suggests it’s still an attractive partner. And while you may have never heard of POSCO, it’s been operating in Australia since 1982. It’s currently pushing its Hume Coal mine in the NSW Southern Highlands (a wine and tourist region 110km south-west of Sydney, including Fitzroy Falls and Kangaroo Valley, Nowra, the Illawarra, an Bowrals’s Bradman Museum). The Hume mine would extract 3.5 million tonnes of coal a year, with an environmental impact statement (EIS) confirming that it would lower groundwater, up to 2m, threatening a world-class aquifer, local ecosystems, watercourses and farmers.

Who is POSCO?

It’s a South Korean multinational and one of the world’s biggest steel producers. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission companies database, POSCO’s interests span industries and continents from Venezuela to Kazakstan, Poland to Viet Nam.(2) POSCO has a disturbing record of shady deals with repressive governments and complicity in Human Rights abuses, including in West Papua, India and Uzbekistan. Like many multinational corporations it has a complicated financial and trading corporate structure. To keep things simple, ‘POSCO’ here refers to any company or chain of companies where POSCO is the majority stakeholder.

Oh, and it has its own theme song (listen at 1min05 in the above story).

Cotton in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a former Soviet block country next to Afghanistan. For decades the Uzbek Government has operated one of the world’s largest state-orchestrated systems of forced labour. A million adults and children work the fields for little or no pay.(3) More than 270 companies have joined a global boycott against Uzbek cotton, including Ikea, Kathmandu and H&M.(4 & 5) POSCO is the world’s largest processor of Uzbek cotton, and despite the international outcry continues to own and operate three Uzbek cotton factories.(6)

Evictions in India

In June 2005 POSCO signed an MOU with the government of Orissa (now Odisha) to build a $12 billion steel plant. The project would displace at least 12,000 people from land and homes where they had lived and worked for generations. People resisting the project were forced to live under ‘siege-like conditions’, with many unable to leave their home villages for six or seven years for fear of arrest and violence. At least four villagers were killed in bomb blasts in 2010 and 2013, with witnesses reporting bombs were thrown by Pro-POSCO supporters. One lawyer for the community estimates that 3,000 charges had been laid against protesters. Despite the violence, killings and abuse, it took POSCO over a decade to fully withdraw from the project, only formally relinquishing the land in early 2017.

Deforestation in West Papua

POSCO has come under fire for its West Papua palm oil operations, where rainforests are being razed. It’s not alone. A slew of international palm oil companies are participating in this mass land grab. As you can imagine, it’s hard to get information and details are sketchy, but activists report that palm oil land grabs in the Merauke region, where POSCO operates, have destroyed local food systems and sacred sites, polluted rivers, increased disease, and frequently involve state sanctioned violence. Using satellite images, in early 2017 Greenpeace showed that in just five years POSCO has cleared 19,000 hectares of forest.(7)

Negligence in Australia

So while we don’t know the details of POSCO’s dealings with Adani in QLD, we can be fairly sure — given the list of POSCO’s previous and current projects — that the company won’t be easily scared off. The Carmichael Coal Mine is akin to vandalism on all levels: the development’s mired in controversy; it evades Australia’s democratic processes; it potentially brings environmental devastation to the Galilee Basin and the Great Barrier Reef; and it ignores both the Human Rights and Land Rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou peoples. Welcome to the POSCO family.

By Shona Hawkes (& article help from Craig Garrett)

References

  1. www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/assessments-and-approvals/north-galilee-...
  2. US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) list of consolidated holdings.
  3. www.hrw.org/news/2013/01/25/uzbekistan-forced-labor-widespread-cotton-ha...
  4. www.sourcingnetwork.org/the-cotton-pledge
  5. www.laborrights.org/releases/ilrf-calls-us-customs-service-halt-imports-...
  6. http://english.klp.no/polopoly_fs/1.29229.1417436492!/menu/standard/file...
  7. That’s 16,500 Lang Park rugby league fields.