March 12, 2014

U.S. Banks Fund India's Coal Crisis

This blog was written by Summer Worthington, a second-year student at St. Louis University.

401 Summer Worthington and SLU students disrupt Citi recruitment, fall 2013After the recent chemical spill from a coal processing plant in West Virginia, it’s easy to bring up the subject of the disastrous effects of the coal industry domestically, especially since 42% of our energy consumption comes from the coal. It seems as though coal makes up the backbone of the United States (though let’s not forget inequality). However, we do not necessarily think of what the coal industry is like in other countries and across the globe, or how American businesses and enterprises affect those countries.

As I was doing research and planning for my own action against CitiBank’s investment in the coal industry, I came across the issues that were going on with Coal India Limited: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and initially CitiBank were acting as brokers for a billion dollar Coal India share offering. As someone who is extremely interested and invested in the public health of developing countries, specifically India and the surrounding countries in South Asia, the ecological and environmental health and status of an area is key in the health outcomes of the people living there.  In addition to being a self-proclaimed public health nerd, I’m passionate about human rights.

Here are some fast facts about Coal India Limited:

  • The company havs been lying about the expanse of their coal reserves.
  • 402 The company's open-pit mining is destroying valuable tiger habitat, furthering their endangerment.
  • The leveling of trees is encroaching upon tribal communities and displacing them.
  • There are known instances of child labor in Coal India mines.
  • Mines are an extremely dangerous place to work.
  • Coal India frequently violates environmental laws.
  • Coal India is riddled with corruption, throughout all levels of the company.

               It is not difficult to see that Coal India is detrimental to the health and society of the Indian people. Coal India has contributed to India having the worst air quality in the world, which affects the air quality of the surrounding countries, like Pakistan and Nepal. But what I cannot 403 see is why any company, such as Bank of America, CitiBank, or Goldman Sachs would want to be involved and have money tied up in a company that is so blatantly corrupt and one that endangers the lives of over a billion people, especially when those companies are supposedly committed to stopping climate change and helping green energy. But I guess in the end, is seems as though capitalism will always win out with these enormous companies. Despite a campaign by the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, and appeals to the CEO of Bank of America to stop this share offering from going through, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs decided to take part in the share offering.

               Maybe it is because I believe in corporate responsibility, or that I don’t ascribe to the capitalistic ideals that surround these massive corporate entities, but to me, making a profit, no matter how much, cannot come before the health and wellbeing of humanity. The willful participation of these banks in the destruction of India, arguably one of the most important developing countries, is something that must be brought to everyone’s attention. At some point in time, hopefully soon, the eyes of these banks can be opened to the environment havoc that they are fueling.

Click here to tell big banks that you won't work for for funder of Coal India.