Subject: [cwj 45] UPDATE on Tomen Corp. Involvement in Destructive Sri Lanka Project
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 11:16:52 -0700
Seq: 45

Thursday, June 29, 2000

Tomen reviewing Sri Lanka mine deal 

Tomen Corp. is reconsidering its planned investment in a huge
phosphate mine in Eppawala, an ancient village in central Sri
Lanka, according to members of a Japanese nongovernmental
organization supporting residents who oppose the project.

Japanese Citizens for Eppawala has received replies from Tomen
after sending letters in May and June urging the company to halt
investment in the project because it will destroy the environment
and threaten residents' lives.

As part of a project with U.S. fertilizer firm IMC Agrico Co.,
Tomen and the Sri Lankan government-owned body Lanka
Phosphate Ltd. are to explore and mine for phosphate around 56
sq. km of ancestral lands, destroying 26 villages and 23 major
irrigation tanks, the NGO said.

Tomen planned to put up 25 percent of the estimated $500 million
needed for the project, while IMC Agrico intends to put up 65

Tomen replied in a letter dated June 21 that the firm is currently
reviewing the plan in compliance with Sri Lankan law and a top
court decision on a suit filed by seven Eppawala residents
demanding that the project be halted.

On June 2, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court decided that the
defendants cannot take any further action until the geology and
mineral department conclude a comprehensive investigation into
phosphate in Eppawala.

The investigation should include the amount of phosphate and the
mines' effect on the environment, and its results should be made
public, the court said.

Tomen told a member of the NGO in an October letter that it was
conducting a feasibility study of the area.

The project could destroy the area, which includes the ancient
54-km Jaya Ganga canal, listed by the U.N. Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage site, and will
threaten more than 12,000 residents with forced relocation.

Tomen currently holds 25 percent of the shares in Sarabhoomi
Resources Ltd., which was set up to mine for phosphate in

The Japan Times: June 29, 2000
Here is an action alert from October 1999 on the project

ACTION ALERT: Stop Tomen Corp. Involvement in Destructive Sri Lanka Project

Urgent Japanese Assistance Requested to Save the Eppawala Community  

This information is provided by Dr. Jonathan Walters, the elected 
International Representative of the local grassroots protest movement called 
The Committee to Protect Eppawala Phosphate. (Dr. Walters has done extensive 
fieldwork in the Eppawala region since 1984 and currently serves as Chair of 
the Department of Religion at Whitman College in Washington State). 


The Government of Sri Lanka reportedly soon will grant final approval to a 
$495 million phosphate mining project in Eppawala, Sri Lanka. Japan's Tomen 
Corporation will provide 25% financing for this project, which consists of an 
enormous strip mine, processing facilities and waste dumps. The phosphate (in 
both its mineral form, apatite, and as processed phosphate fertilizer) would 
be exported for the international market in fertilizers.

In addition to Tomen, the project is supported by the US corporation 
IMC-Agrico (65%) and the Sri Lanka National Phosphate Corporation (10%). Some 
$1 billion in profits would reportedly accrue to the foreign corporations, 
without major benefit to the Sri Lankan economy. The Sri Lanka government 
will receive no payments for the first 12 years. The phosphate supply would 
be exhausted in 30 years, although it could meet local needs for hundreds of 

This project is being approved without a proper environmental impact 
assessment, without proper consultation with citizens, and despite the 
recommendations of numerous experts and in the face of strong local protests. 


The project would strip-mine 56 square miles (145 square km.) surrounding 
Eppawala's "Phosphate Hill." At least 12,000 people from dozens of villages 
would be displaced -- and perhaps as many as 500,000 people would be 
displaced in the planned 675 square mile (1750 square km.) buffer zone.
The area, a candidate for World Heritage status, would lose uncounted 
archaeological sites and ruin 6 miles (10 km.) of an historic canal that has 
brought rainwater to the area for 2000 years -- making it the world's oldest 
planned and continually occupied "water and soil conservation ecosystem." 
Habitat for elephants and other wildlife, a pristine dry forest, and 
resources such as rare medicinal herbs would also be lost. 

Toxic waste by-products, including sulphuric acid, would be dumped on the sea 
coast at the port of Trincomalee. IMC-Agrico's similar phosphate mine in 
Florida, USA, and dumping facility in Louisiana, USA have been severely 
criticized for the environmental pollution caused.

The mine and factories would disrupt the local culture and sustainable 

Motivated by their love for their native land, the local community is united 
against the project. Led by a respected local monk vowing opposition to the 
death, the local community has staged numerous protests against the project 
and the foreign companies involved, including several 5000-person protest 
marches. Their slogans have included "Don't destroy our Buddhist heritage," 
"Don't destroy our fields and gardens," and "Don't sacrifice the villages and 

Local people have charged that there has been a lack of proper consultation 
with the local community. Numerous Sri Lankan government officials, 
scientists, economists, environmentalists, Buddhist monks and newspapers have 
likewise expressed opposition to this project.


The US corporation IMC-Agrico is affiliated with Freeport McMoRan, a company 
that has been unresponsive and hostile to environmental and human rights 
issues at its notorious Grasberg mine in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. 

There is hope that if Tomen withdraws, the project could be stopped. 
Unfortunately, there is no further information available as to the 
involvement of Tomen or other Japanese organizations in financing the 
project; for instance, which Japanese bank is providing loan guarantees? Has 
there been any coverage of this in Japanese press?

Tomen is saying that it is an environmentally friendly company, such as by 
pointing out that it is the largest producer of wind power equipment. Their 
web-site states that "Tomen is fully committed to operating its businesses 
with the highest level of protection of the global environment and regard for 
sustainable development." But Tomen's support for the Eppawala project is 
proof that they do not take seriously a commitment to sustainable 
development, as sustainable development is inconsistent with the destruction 
of communities and the environment. We must make it clear to Tomen that 
continued support for the Eppawala project will demonstrate that they are 
hostile to environmental considerations and will lead to a loss of trust from 
the public.


Japanese citizens and NGOs have a chance to prevent a Japanese corporation 
from undertaking a destructive project opposed by local people. 
--Please contact Tomen to request that they withdraw from this project.  
--Please report on this issue, and consider in-depth reporting from the site. 
--Please take any other action that can help convince Tomen to abandon this 
--Please send information on your activities, or suggestions of others to 
contact for assistance in Japan. 

For more information on the situation, please contact:
Mr. Nihal Fernando, #18 Skelton Road, Colombo 05,
Sri Lanka. 
Telephone: 94-1-582043 (h); 94-1-595569, 94-1-589062 (o)
Fax 94-1-597176. 
Email <>

Visual images and other documentation of the local protest movement can be 
found at ("Americans for Eppawala 

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Corporate Watch in Japanese
Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC)
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