Polo Resources is a natural resources investment company based in South Africa. The company has a 29.9% interest in Caledon Resources plc, a coal mining operator in the Bowen Basin of Queensland, Australia, and a 29.82% interest in GCM Resources plc, which is seeking approval for the highly controversial Phulbari Coal Project in Bangladesh.
Coal was discovered at Phulbari in Northwest Bangladesh during surveying and drilling between 1994 -1997 by the Australian mining company BHP, which entered into licensing and investment agreements with the Government of Bangladesh. The agreements were assigned to Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd in 1998.
Many in Bangladesh have opposed the project. According to Asia Energy, 40,000 people would be involuntarily resettled by the project, although activists say the number of people evicted is likely to be ten times more. According to the group Cultural Survival, a government-sponsored study estimates that 130,000 people in more than 100 villages would be immediately displaced by the mine, and another 100,000 would gradually be forced to leave as their wells and irrigation canals run dry from the mining. Independent researchers and the Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (National Indigenous Union) estimate that 50,000 Indigenous people belonging to 23 different tribal groups would be displaced or impoverished by the mine.
On August 26, 2006, more than 50,000 people took part in protests against the proposed mine. The Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary force, opened fire on the protesters. Three young men, Tariqul, son of the municipal commissioner and panel chairman, Ameen, a young carpenter, and Salehin of the adjoining upazila Nawabganj, died instantly. One to two hundred people are reported to have been injured. 
After the 2006 protest, a national strike closed down the country for four days. It ended when the government agreed to ban open-pit coal mining in Phulbari and expel Asia Energy Corporation from the country. However, the government plans to announce a new coal policy by June 2011, and GCM Resources (formerly Asia Energy Corp.) expects the mine to move forward. The National Indigenous Union and a broad coalition of human rights and environmental organizations are appealing for international support to stop the mine.
WikiLeaks reveals State Department pressure to open Phulbari mine
On Dec. 21, 2010, a WikiLeaks cable revealed US diplomats had secretly pushed the Bangladeshi government to re-open plans for the mine. The cable includes comments by US Ambassador to Dhaka James Moriarty stating that “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment.” In the cable, sent in July of 2009, Moriarty also states that he urged the prime minister’s energy advisor Tawfiq Elahi Chowdhury to authorize coal mining, saying the “open-pit mining seemed the best way forward.”
Later on in the cable, Moriarty privately noted: "Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months." Moriarty also notes that Chowdhury admitted the coal mine was "politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land". Chowdhury, according to the cable, then agrees to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.
Between 40% to 60% of all GCM shares are owned by companies that make up the Luxor Capital Group, all of which are owned by Christian Leone, a U.S. citizen and former Goldman Sachs employee who also operates a New-York-based hedge fund in his own name.
Joint venture with Peabody for Mongolian coal projects
In January 2009 Peabody announced that it had "obtained an option to purchase up to a 50 percent interest in a joint venture holding Polo Resources Limited's coal and mineral interests in Mongolia." Polo's Polo's Mongolian coal interests, Peabody stated, "have potential resources of over 1 billion tonnes, with a majority of its coal licenses located in the South Gobi coal region." Peabody's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gregory H. Boyce stated in a media release that "a joint venture with Polo's existing platform will accelerate the development of Peabody's presence in one of the world's premier undeveloped coal regions." Two months later Peabody announced that in return for $25.8 million Polo had entered into a renegotiated agreement for a 50:50 joint venture. Peabody also softened its claims about Polo's potential coal resources by claiming only that their tenements "could include up to 1 billion tonnes of potential resources, subject to exploratory drilling." In early May that year, on completion of the joint venture agreement, Peabody softened its claims about potential coal resources even further claiming only that "the joint venture holds coal licenses throughout Mongolia, with a significant number of licenses in the South Gobi region" and that "Mongolia has substantial metallurgical and thermal coal resources that are strategically located to serve high-demand China and Asia markets."
In 2010 Polo's share in the joint venture was bought by Winsway Coking Coal Holdings Ltd. (Winsway) and the joint venture re-named the Peabody-Winsway Resources B.V.. In its 2010 annual report Peabody stated that the joint venture "is in the development stage and plans to ship metallurgical and thermal coal to Asian markets once developed."
Articles and Resources
- "The Company" Polo Resources, accessed March 2011.
- "Investors" Polo Resources, accessed March 2011.
- Directors, Emerging Metals, accessed May 2, 2009.
- "Overview" GCM Resources, accessed March 2011.
- "‘You cannot eat coal’: resistance in Phulbari" Banglapraxis, August 19, 2008.
- "Bangladesh: Ban Coal Mine, Save Forests and Farms" Cultural Survival, accessed Feb. 2011.
- "Phulbari Coal Mine, Bangladesh" International Accountability Project, accessed Feb. 2011.
- Fariha Karim, "WikiLeaks cables: US pushed for reopening of Bangladesh coal mine" Guardian, Dec. 21, 2010.
- "Peabody Energy Announces Option to Acquire Coal Interests in Mongolia", Media Release, January 27, 2009.
- Peabody Energy, "Peabody Energy Enters Into Agreement to Create Peabody-Polo Resources Joint Venture in Mongolia", Media Release, March 31, 2009.
- Peabody Energy, "Peabody Energy Completes Agreement for Peabody-Polo Resources Joint Venture in Mongolia", Media Release, May 4, 2009.
- "Energizing the world: 2010 Annual Report", Peabody Energy, March 2011, page 6. (Pdf)
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