Coal Risk Update 03 2013

Arch Coal, the Blair Mountain Battlefield, and Bank Human Rights Commitments

RAN’s March 2013 Coal Risk Update focuses on the potential human rights impacts of Arch Coal’s proposed Adkins Fork mountaintop removal mine in Blair, West Virginia. If approved, this mine would destroy the heart of a historically significant battlefield site and would also have severe impacts on the environment and human health.

The update finds that several banks that lend to Arch Coal may be doing so in violation of both their own human rights commitments and emerging human rights norms for the private sector:

  • Potential water, noise, and air pollution impacts from the mine will likely violate the human rights to water and health of residents of Blair, WV.

  • Arch’s past mining operations near Blair that, according to testimony of Arch officials, “would make life so miserable for many Blair residents that they would want to sell their homes and move” implicate the right to housing.

  • Human rights norms also proscribe the intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites such as the Blair Mountain battlefield.

RAN recommends that Arch’s lenders reassess their financial ties to Arch and strengthen their human rights due diligence mechanisms, for effective human rights risk management is no longer “optional” for banks:

  • Six of the nine banks involved with Arch’s most recent corporate loan have committed to avoid transactions that pose significant human rights risks.

  • Seven of these banks have committed to the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative’s “precautionary approach” to addressing the social and environmental impacts of the financial sector.