Press Release, June 5, 2013
Coalition against Bayer Dangers
Social and Environmental Damages caused by Coal Mining
BAYER: Coal Imports from Russia, Colombia, China and the US
The German industry sources eighty percent of its coal demand from abroad, almost fifty million tons per year. Nevertheless, international coal trading takes place largely outside the public domain. In the ongoing debate about Germany’s new energy policy, questions about working conditions in the coal mining industry and the ecological follow-up costs are rare.
The chemical company BAYER covers about one third of its energy demand with coal, whereas the share of renewable energies is less than one percent. Annually about 500,000 tons of coal are imported, including hard coal from Colombia, Russia and the United States, and coking coal from China (however, BAYER has not provided an exact breakdown so far). In addition BAYER´s power supplier, RWE, belongs to Europe´s largest consumers of brown coal.
BAYER’s subsidiary CURRENTA is a member of the German Coal Importers Association, which is pushing hard for new coal-fired power plants. The extensive combustion of coal is largely responsible for BAYER’s high greenhouse gas emissions – 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 in 2012 alone.
Colombia: ecological and social damages
Last year around 10.5 million tonnes of coal were shipped to Germany from Colombia. Working conditions in Colombian mines are appalling, the risk of accidents is high. According to official statistics, there were about 500 fatalities caused by pit gas explosions between 2004 and 2010. Many miners suffer from silicosis and other occupational diseases. Mining companies use all possible means to prevent the establishment of labor unions. Paramilitary organizations have repeatedly been used for repression and several union members have been killed.
Within a decade nearly five million hectares have been given over to mining. Thousands of Colombians have lost their source of livelihood. However, neither miners nor the local population benefit from these high export revenues. The interests of the indigenous population and smallscale farmers, in particular, are neglected. Colombia’s former Environment Minister Manuel Rodríguez stated that his country "prostitutes itself with inadequate ecological and social regulations.”
Mountaintop Mining in the US
So-called mountaintop mining is widespread in the US. To expose seams of coal, mining companies strip away forests and break up rock with explosives. The rubble is then dumped in the valleys, often burying streams. Studies show that mountaintop mining has serious environmental impacts, including loss of biodiversity and toxification of watersheds. There are also adverse human health impacts which result from contact with affected streams or exposure to airborne toxins and dust. In the Appalachian mountains over 50% higher cancer rates and 42% higher birth defect rates are observed.
The situation in the Russian Kuzbass region, from where most Russian coal exports originate, is quite similar. Mining activities and waste disposal have caused soil damage, depletion of water resources, contamination of water reservoirs and air pollution. Due to the 18 times higher pollution level in comparison to other parts of the country life expectancy is significantly reduced.
Jan Pehrke from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers says: “Through coal imports from countries with inadequate ecological and social standards, BAYER shares responsibility for the serious problems that arise there. In addition, producing electricity by burning coal is the worst way with regard to climate protection. The high emissions of greenhouse gases totally contradict BAYER´s claims of being a climate-friendly company. We demand an eighty percent reduction of climate gas emissions until 2050, in accordance with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”