Australia: Indigenous people call on Siemens to suspend Adani contract over alleged breach of their FPIC rights; incl. company response

German company Siemens has come under fire for its involvement with a heavily criticised new Adani Carmichael coalmine in Australia. Siemens is contracted to provide signalling work on the project rail line. In December 2019, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser announced the Board would review Siemens involvement in the project; yet subsequently issued a statement confirming they would not cancel the contract with Adani.

According to the statement, the project was also "approved" by the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people which was "very important to [Siemens]". This approval is strongly disputed by the W&J Council. In a letter addressed to the CEO, they claim the project was approved without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and call on Siemens to suspend the contract.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Siemens to respond to the letter from the W&J Council. Their response is available below.

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Company response
13 February 2020

Response by Siemens

Author: Siemens


Siemens has extensively reviewed the order for the Adani project in Australia and carefully weighed up the interests of the various stakeholders.

- The fact is that, in the case of willful default, no limitations of liability would apply, thus resulting in the threat of unlimited liability for damages. For this reason, there’s practically no legally and economically responsible way for the Managing Board to unwind the agreement without neglecting fiduciary duties.

- It's also clear that the Carmichael mine has received all necessary approvals from the Australian authorities, fulfils strict environmental obligations, and is backed by Australia’s major political parties. Siemens, as a company, can’t simply ignore this fact.

- However, Siemens has secured the right to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement if the customer violates very stringent environmental obligations.

- Siemens will establish a Sustainability Committee with external members to give social and environmental concerns even more priority and attention in the future.

- Our declaration of intent to support the Paris Climate Agreement and to drive decarbonization with our innovative technologies and solutions across all relevant sectors applies without limitation.

Statement on the indigenous people:

The region’s indigenous inhabitants voted 294-1 in favor of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani (ILAWA). At the meeting scheduled to vote on the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) between Adani and the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) groups, attendees voted 294-1 in favor of authorizing the ILUA. A very small, albeit vocal group of W&J people, who didn’t attend the meeting, have repeatedly challenged this outcome in the Australian courts with the aim of overturning, repealing or invalidating it. All motions and appeals have been rejected by the courts. The courts have unanimously found that Adani duly obtained and received the approval of the W&J people regarding its project on the indigenous peoples’ ancestral land.

The W&J people are not the only indigenous group with a legal right to the land on which the project is located. Adani is also involved in five other project-related ILUAs with indigenous partners who are members of the Jangga, Birriah and Juru indigenous groups. None of these ILUAs have been challenged in court.

5 February 2020

Investors criticise Siemens over Adani contract

Author: Joe Miller, Financial Times

"Siemens chief lashes out at 'grotesque' environmental protests", 5 Feb 2020

Joe Kaeser said the €18m rail infrastructure deal, which sparked a global backlash, was “irrelevant” to the commissioning of the Carmichael mine in Queensland...

But [...] institutional and retail investors rounded on the Bavarian boss for failing to foresee the fallout.

“One thing is clear: the Adani case was a communications disaster,” said Vera Diehl, a portfolio manager at Union, which represents German co-operative banks. 

“If all environmental and reputational risks had been carefully examined, Siemens would never have signed this order,” she added, before asking: “Must a catastrophe occur before the company finally understands that coal has no future?” 

Winfried Mathes from Deka, which holds almost 9m Siemens shares on behalf of German savings banks, said the “incomprehensible” decision was “threatening to cause massive damage” to the company’s image.

Opening the meeting, Siemens chairman Jim Snabe conceded that “business must fundamentally reinvent itself” and “pay more attention to the environmental impact of investment decisions”...

In response to activists, Mr Kaeser [...] announced that the company would spend €1b on technologies to reduce its emissions in its supply chain over the next five years...

Read the full post here

3 February 2020

W&J Council calls on Siemens to suspend its contract with Adani over breaches of human rights

Author: Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Council

In a letter sent to its CEO Joe Kaeser, the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Council has challenged international German tech company Siemens AG to meet with its representatives. It has called on the corporation to prove it conducted due diligence regarding their rights as First Nations people when entering into a contract with Adani Mining in Australia, and to suspend its contract with the industrial conglomerate...

We are particularly concerned by the CEO’s statement that said: “the Adani mining project has been approved by the Government of Australia, the Highest Courts and – very important to us – the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou people.” ...

The Adani Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) that Siemens relies on was rendered invalid by a Federal Court decision in 2017. It was only rescued by the intervention of the Commonwealth Attorney General in one of W&J’s court proceedings, and by amendments to the Native Title Act 1993 to ensure the ILUA survived summary dismissal...

This ‘approval’ therefore remains highly contested and controversial in Australia, and lacks the legitimacy of genuine FPIC. It is not in accord with our traditional laws and customs for decision making; and the numbers are misleading because they are not a true representation of the W&J people...

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1 February 2020

Letter: Meeting request to discuss the Siemens contract with Adani Mining and the Wangan and Jagalingou people’s human rights

Author: Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Council

Read the full post here

13 January 2020

Siemens will not pull out of contract at Adani coalmine in Australia despite protests over environmental concerns

Author: Graham Readfearn, The Guardian

Global engineering company Siemens will not pull out of a contract at the new Adani coalmine in Australia...

President and CEO of Siemens, Joe Kaeser, announced Monday that after reviewing the rail signalling contract the company had “a legally binding and enforceable fiduciary responsibility.” ...

He said the company, based in Germany, “should have been wiser about this project beforehand” ...

Campaigners said the decision was “shameful” and would damage its reputation and undermine its own climate policies. Siemens says it is one of the first companies to have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030...

In the statement, he said the project was also “approved” by the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou people which was “very important to us”.

That approval is strongly disputed by a group of Wangan and Jagalingou people...

An Adani spokesperson said: “We are pleased to be working with Siemens as the company is known for its exceptional experience in building rail signalling infrastructure around the world.

“With construction of the Carmichael Project well and truly under way we have repeatedly demonstrated that we will not be intimidated or deterred from delivering on our promises to regional Queenslanders, Australians and people in developing nations who desperately need affordable energy to help lift them out of poverty.”

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