Who Wants To Strip Mine Eppawala?

Who Wants To Strip Mine Eppawala?

The proposed mining agreement forms a joint venture company, simply called "the company," of which U.S.-based IMC-Agrico would control 65%, Japan-based Tomen Corporation would control 25%, and the Sri Lankan government Lanka Phosphates, Ltd. would control 10%, after an initial 12 year period during which IMC-Agrico would control the entire project and profit. Yet Sri Lankans - thousands of protestors as well as a handful of supporters, including Thilan Wijesinghe of the Board of Investment - routinely refer to the American partner in "the company" as "Freeport-McMoRan," or simply "McMoRan" (Sinhala: mak-moran), a name well-known to international environmentalists due to the reported environmental and human rights abuses associated with the Indonesian mining operations of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gas (FCX) of New Orleans. This usage is inaccurate, but reflects the complex involvement of Freeport-McMoRan affiliates in the history of the negotiation of the project.

IMC-Agrico, whose phosphate mines in Florida and associated processing facilities in Louisiana have likewise been the focus of severe criticism by environmentalists, is an Illinois-based joint venture between IMC Global (IGL) and Phosphate Limited Partners (PLP), formerly known as Freeport-McMoRan Resource Partners (FRP), a spin-off from the now officially defunct Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (FTX).

FRP acquired "rights" to the Eppawala Phosphate Deposit in 1987 and pursued negotiations under its own name for several years with Sri Lanka's former U.N.P. Government. In 1993 FRP and IGL, with whom Freeport had been affiliated since 1988, transferred their respective fertilizer operations into the joint venture IMC-Agrico. At that time Freeport did not transfer interest in the Eppawala Phosphate Deposit to the joint venture, but IGL gained the right to participate if the negotiations proceeded. As part of the 1997 merger of FTX into IGL, IGL became managing general partner of FRP, which they renamed PLP, subsequent to purchasing 57% of its interest in the Sri Lankan project. Three former FTX officials including C.E.O. "Jim Bob" Moffett are now IGL directors, and former FRP/PLP stock was transferred in the merger. According to Freeport-McMoRan, "Since 1997, IGL has acted as the managing general partner of PLP and controls the development and operations of the Sri Lanka phosphate properties. [The existing Freeport companies] FCX and MMR [McMoRan Exploration Co.] have no interest either directly or indirectly in the Sri Lanka phosphate properties and have no operations or other properties in Sri Lanka."

It is the policy of this website to refer to the American corporation involved in the Eppawala scheme by its proper name, IMC-Agrico. However, in reporting Sri Lankan opposition it remains true to the Sinhala usage "makmoran" (McMoRan), especially in translating Sinhala documents. In recognition of FRP's long involvement in the negotiations and affiliations with IGL, it also suggests that interested parties follow these links to learn more about these companies, their involvement in Sri Lanka, and the opposition to them.

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