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16 Aug 2021

USA: Indigenous defenders continue to oppose Line 3 pipeline; incl. responses by Japanese banks

The United States government has granted permits for the construction of a tar sands pipeline (“Line 3”) through the designated treaty territories of the Anishinaabe without their free, prior, and informed consent. Line 3 is a pipeline expansion proposed by Canadian company Enbridge in 2014 that would bring nearly a million barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin.

Land and environmental defenders, many from Indigenous territories through which the pipeline would run, have opposed the project for the past seven years, expressing concerns about violations of Indigenous peoples rights, negative impacts on local water and wild rice, and the pipeline's significant contribution to the climate crisis if operational.

Over the past few years, defenders have engaged in peaceful civil disobedience to protest pipeline construction. The Pipeline Legal Action Network has documented that more than 900 defenders have been arrested in Northern Minnesota thus far defending their rights to water and a clean environment and Indigenous rights. Prosecutors have charged 89 defendants with 91 felony charges in connection to the protests, including felony theft and felony assisted suicide, as part of a growing trend in the United States of laws that criminalize protest against critical infrastructure projects.

An investigation by The Guardian revealed that Enbridge has paid US police $2.4 million for arresting and surveilling Indigenous protestors of the Line 3 pipeline, and that the company meets daily with police to discuss intelligence gathering and patrols. When asked about these findings, an Enbridge spokesperson noted that the funds are allocated by an independent account manager and said, “Officers decide when protesters are breaking the law – or putting themselves and others in danger.”

On 17 August 2021, representatives from the Giniw Collective and Honor the Earth, with support from the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), met with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor to share information about escalating concerns of human rights and Indigenous rights violations occurring in Northern Minnesota along the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Enbridge has said that its “pipelines have coexisted with Minnesota’s most sacred and productive wild rice waters for over seven decades” and insisted it has “demonstrated ongoing respect for tribal sovereignty” and has “a commitment to addressing climate change with real action.”

All three of Japan's mega-banks are alleged to support Line 3 construction. We invited Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Mizuho Financial Group, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group to provide responses. MUFG and Mizuho Financial Group provided their responses as below. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group did not respond.

Enbridge completed construction of the pipeline in September 2021 and began operation of the pipeline on 1 October 2021.

Company Responses

MUFG Bank (part of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group) View Response
Mizuho Financial Group View Response
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group

No Response