The coal power stations and mines Bank of China is funding are harming communities and climate around the world, including in Australia, US, Indonesia and South Africa, sullying BoC’s reputation globally.
These are some of the communities impacted by Bank of China-funded projects.
Jawa 9 and 10 coal power plant in Indonesia
Jawa 9 and 10 is a 2,000MW coal power plant project in Indonesia, which will be built in the Suralaya area, Banten province. Currently, the Suralaya area is home to the most polluting industrial complex in all of Southeast Asia. Suralaya residents have suffered horrible air pollution due to fly ash from coal power plants, and reports have highlighted the air pollution and associated respiratory and skin diseases affecting the local population. Based on health official data, in 2019, 49,000 residents suffered acute respiratory infections around the Suralaya area.
Research shows that, if built, the emissions from Jawa 9 and 10 will cause 4,700 premature deaths over the estimated 30 year lifespan of the coal power plants. In addition to the horrific health impacts, local fishermen worry that the increased air and water pollution from another coal power plant will threaten their livelihoods.
The additional harm and pollution caused by Jawa 9 and 10 would be especially egregious given that much of the electricity it produces may not be used. Indonesia’s electricity demand in 2020 is expected to fall by 6.25% compared to the previous year, and the Jawa-Bali grid, where Jawa 9 and 10 is located, is projected to be oversupplied by up to 41.5% in 2020.
In July 2020, Bank of China was part of a syndication of banks that agreed on a US$2.6 billion, 15.25-year loan to build the polluting Jawa 9 and 10 project.
Indramayu coal power plant in Indonesia
In 2008, Bank of China was involved in a US$730 million syndication loan to finance the 3 x 330 MW Indramayu coal power plant in Indonesia. It began construction in 2007 and has operated since 2011.
Since the Indramayu coal power plant began operating, it has caused negative impacts on farmland, endangered children’s health, and polluted fishing grounds that villagers depend upon for their livelihoods. Based on the 2010 – 2016 Environmental Management Plan and Monitoring Plan report, there were at least five types of heavy metals and one chemical compound detected that exceeded the applicable regulation for seawater quality standards.
Moreover, in May 2016, a former Indramayu regency government official was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison for his involvement in a corruption case regarding the land acquisition process for the Indramayu plant in 2004.
EMBA Hunutlu coal power plant project in Turkey
Bank of China is involved in the proposed 1,320 MW EMBA Hunutlu coal power plant project, set to be built in Iskenderun Bay in Adana’s Yumurtalik district, Turkey. Iskanderun Bay has already been surrounded by intense pollution from coal power plants and many industrial facilities in the area. Once operational, projections show EMBA Hunutlu would cause 2,000 deaths during its operating life of 40 years.
The establishment of the EMBA Hunutlu coal power plant also threatens the existence of loggerhead sea turtles and green sea turtles. Sugozu beach, where EMBA Hunutlu is located, is among the major nesting sites of the loggerhead sea turtles and green sea turtles which are protected by three different international conventions.
As reported on the sponsor’s website, EMBA Hunutlu coal power plant project received a 15-year, US$1.38 billion loan from a syndication of banks, including Bank of China.
Whitehaven Coal in Australia
Whitehaven Coal is the largest pure-play coal mining corporation listed on the Australian share market. The company has a long and chequered history of destructive impacts on local communities and ecosystems. Whitehaven has been investigated and found in breach of environmental laws on many occasions, some of which the company sought to keep secret. The incidents range in severity, but many involve breaches of conditions that are imposed to protect communities and the environment from the impacts of mining.
In the Namoi Valley of New South Wales, Whitehaven has committed a litany of environmental breaches. In December last year the company pleaded guilty to 19 charges for illegally drilling water bore holes, failing to rehabilitate drill sites and bulldozing land for unauthorised roads. In August 2021, the coal corporation was fined AU$372,500 for these breaches. Meanwhile, near Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine groundwater bores have dried up and local farmers have been priced out of water licences during extreme droughts.
Whitehaven bulldozed hundreds of hectares of the critically endangered Leard State Forest in New South Wales, Australia, to build the Maules Creek coal mine. Leard State Forest is home to 396 species of plants and animals and includes habitat for 34 threatened species – including the koala and several species of microbats.
Bank of China has lent a total of AU$305 million to Whitehaven Coal since 2017, more than any other financial institution.
Banshkhali coal power plant in Bangladesh
The 1,320 MW Banshkhali coal power plant (also known as S. Alam, Chittagong or Chattogram coal power plant) is under construction in Bangladesh. Bank of China is the lead arranger of a US$1,782 million syndicated loan for the Banshkhali project that has so far led to the death of at least 12 workers and local community members, which experts term as an “absolute violation of human and constitutional rights”.
According to Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED), a forum of development activists and organizations, locals have opposed this project from the very beginning. It is reported that the project fails to meet environmental impact standards and is being built without proper public consultation. In April 2016, four people were shot dead as police opened fire at the local community protesting against the power plant over concerns related to pollution and land acquisition. Another villager died in February 2017 when violent clashes broke out during a meeting between two groups of villagers supporting and opposing the coal power plant.
On 17 April 2021, seven workers at the Banshkhali coal plant, with ages as young as seventeen, were shot dead by the police while protesting for their due wages. Five workers lost their lives on the day of the protest and two others succumbed to gunshot wounds a few days later. A press conference held after the tragic event called on the strictest legal measures against the sponsors and financiers of the project and that Bank of China, among others, be held accountable for its lack of safeguarding of the workers.
Speakers demand sponsors, financiers, and the members of the police force should face the strictest legal measure for Banshkhali killings at a press conference organised by local and international civil society groups on 19 April 2021. Video credit: Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED).