Glencore is fueling Israel’s colonial genocide and the climate crisis

  • Post last modified:May 30, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Climate crisis and pro-Palestine activists have exposed another mega-polluter for complicity in Israel’s genocidal settler occupation. At mining giant Glencore’s annual shareholder meeting, the coalition of climate and pro-Palestine groups took action against the company’s planet-wrecking coal operations.

Glencore: genocide and the climate crisis

On Wednesday 29 May, protestors gathered outside Glencore’s AGM in Zurich, Switzerland. There, they held banners and raised their voices against the coal giant:

Global Energy Embargo for Palestine, together with the Swiss Coalition against Glencore, Switzerland-Palestine Federation, and many other groups turned out for the demonstration. Crucially, activists drew attention to the fact that coal colonialism in the Global South, is fueling Israel’s settler colonial annexation of Palestine:

Protester at Glencore AGM with a placard that reads: Stop fuelling genocide.Protester at Glencore AGM with a placard that reads: Stop fuelling genocide.

Specifically, Glencore has been supplying coal from its Cerrejón mines in Colombia to Israel. There, Glencore’s mines have forcibly displaced Wayùu and Yukpa Indigenous communities.

Originally operated by a subsidiary of fossil fuel major ExxonMobil, the Cerrejón mines have been rife with human rights violations. A new report in November 2023 detailed how the mines had displaced more than 25 Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities living there across four decades.

Since taking on operations in 1995, Glencore has been complicit in a number of these, as well as maintaining land dispossession of multiple communities. What’s more, severe environmental pollution from these mines continues to threaten the health and livelihoods of nearby residents.

Coal colonialism to settler-colonial-pipeline

Notably, Glencore’s Cerrejón coal is vital to Israel. This is because coal accounts for 22% of Israel’s capacity on its power grid. Of course, this power grid supplies electricity to Israel’s illegal settlements, arms factories as well as infrastructure used by the Israeli military in perpetrating genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

According to data from Kpler, Colombian coal accounted for more than 60% of all coal supplied to Israel in 2023. Coal giants Glencore and Drummond together supplied 90% of this. Glencore supplied Israel with more than half a million tons of Colombian coal in the past 7 months. As a result, it earned approximately US $50m in revenue powering Israel’s electricity grids.

In short, colonial dispossession of Indigenous communities in Colombia, is fomenting colonial dispossession of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Consequently, the coalition called on Glencore to stop fueling Israel’s genocide. A member of the directly affected Yukpa people was present at the AGM to denounce Glencore’s practices:

In Cesar, north of Colombia, Glencore is responsible for the annihilation of my people, who are now classified at imminent risk of extinction. They have forced us out of our ancestral territories, rerouted the rivers, polluted the land and the air we breathe. Nearly 40 children die every year as a result of these open-pit mines.

We are victims of the extractivism of Western multinationals. On the other side of the chain, in Palestine, the same coal that kills us is used to supply the military infrastructure that perpetuates genocide and the settlements established in violation of international law.

Glencore has blood on its hands, not just the blood of the Yukpa and Wayuu people, but also of the people of the DRC, the Palestinian people and so many others. We are here to put an end to their impunity.

Calls for an energy embargo

Given Colombia’s role supplying coal, in tandem with their action at Glencore’s AGM, groups have penned an open letter to Colombian president Gustavo Petro.

In particular, the letter demands Petro implement a comprehensive energy embargo on Israel. Notably, it points to the fact the Colombian leader has already cut diplomatic ties with Israel, and ended arms sales to the regime in early May.

Now, the coalition of Palestinian and climate organisations are calling on him to do the same with coal. The letter states that:

The ongoing genocide, its length and magnitude would not have been possible if the colonizing state of Israel had stopped receiving energy sources allowing it commit one of the most atrocious crimes in history.

As President, you and the current Colombian government have an obligation to act in accordance with decisions made by international tribunals and principles of human rights. Governments failing to act are enabling the annihilation of Palestinians.

Feature image via Glencore AGM/Global Energy Embargo for Palestine/Swiss Coalition against Glencore/Switzerland-Palestine Federation

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