Mines in Colombia: three French banks given formal notice on the duty of vigilance

Three French banks, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole and BPCE, have been given formal notice by the Tierra Digna association for their financial investment in the Swiss company Glencore and its subsidiary Prodeco, which the NGO accuses of “serious damage to the environment, particularly in terms of public health” in Colombia, according to letters consulted by AFP on Thursday.

The Colombian association accuses Glencore of illegal or irregular activities in the mines of La Jagua and Calenturitas with “coal dust which, for years, did not meet the standards set by the WHO” and contamination “water sources, both surface and underground, by materials such as lead and other toxic substances”, according to the formal notices sent to establishments on Tuesday.

“Prodeco is not aware of any evidence supporting the claims of alleged river pollution,” a Glencore spokesman told AFP.

According to Tierra Digna, “to carry out its activity, the company Glencore benefits from numerous financing and investments from international financial institutions”, reports from NGOs having “highlighted the involvement (of the three French banks) in these climate-killing financial flows”.

Since 2017, the French law on “the duty of vigilance” requires large companies to take effective measures to prevent human rights and environmental abuses throughout their chain of activity.

Since the first action launched in 2019, against TotalEnergies, their number has multiplied and around twenty procedures are currently underway.

In October, BNP Paribas was the target of two formal notices on the duty of vigilance, in relation to its financial support to Marfrig, the second largest meatpacking company in Brazil, and its impact on deforestation as well as on its support for companies developing new oil and gas projects.

– No credit in 2022 –

According to Lucie Pinson, director of the NGO Reclaim Finance, this new “case should serve as a warning to other banks which finance the destruction of the environment in the world”.

“Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas have pledged to no longer finance coal, but continue to support Glencore, despite the devastation caused by its mines”, she added, calling on investors to “take advantage of general meetings to demand accounts to polluting companies”.

BNP Paribas told AFP that it no longer had a banking relationship with the company cited by the NGO and that no credit was granted to it in 2022, just like Crédit Agricole, which indicated that it had “suspended all business relations with the company cited by the NGO” and that “no credit was granted to the company cited by the NGO in 2022”.

The two establishments recalled that they are engaged in a trajectory of total exit from the financing of the entire value chain of thermal coal-related companies (coal mines, coal-fired power plants and coal-related infrastructure) by 2030 by Europe and in the OECD countries, and by 2040 in the rest of the world.


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