Following an unannounced visit by Climate Crime Unit Investigators on April 6th, the managing director of Weir Minerals in Todmorden has agreed to ask Weir Head Office whether the company warns shareholders of the risk attached to the Weir’s substantial investments in the fossil fuel industry, and if they have any plans for divesting from fossil fuels.
The Managing Director, Jan Peter Van Leeuwen, told the Investigators these questions were beyond the influence of the Todmorden plant. He added,
“But for sure Weir are looking at ways of helping customers do their work in an environmentally friendly way.”
The Climate Crime Unit Investigators had three questions for the Weir Minerals Managing Director.
What consideration has Weir Minerals in Todmorden given to the impacts of climate change in the Upper Calder Valley, such as recent disastrous floods?
Mr Van Leeuwen said they try to measure and reduce the amount of energy and water they use; he also pointed to new low energy lightbulbs in the Conference Room ceiling.
As Todmorden Weir Minerals’ customers are mostly in the mining business – such as iron ore, gold, nickel, copper, phosphates and coal mining – including brown coal mines in Germany – the Climate Crime Unit Investigators were more interested in whether Weir Minerals were doing anything about reducing carbon emissions from the end use of their products.
Mr Van Leeuwen said yes, this was part of the strategy of the whole group. Where customers were using old, dirty, inefficient technology, they encouraged them to replace this with more efficient machines that used fewer resources, particularly less water in areas of water shortages.
As questions from the Climate Crime Unit Investigators revealed that supplying machinery to coal mines is a small part of Weir Minerals’ work, they asked if it would be possible for the company to divest from that.
Mr Van Leeuwan avoided the question by saying,
“It’s in our interest not to have flooding issues – the foundry is built by the river Calder.”
He then added that it was beyond the influence of this plant to make divestment decisions and that was a matter for Head Office in Glasgow.
The Investigators asked if it was under his control about whether to supply companies that are doing coal mining.
Mr Van Leeuwen said what is under his control is that they should use the most environmentally friendly methods and that they don’t trade with companies that don’t do business in an ethical way.
An Investigator replied,
“So the choice of working with coal mining is with you, so you could choose to diversify in other areas.”
Mr Van Leeuwen said that when they have new customers, they have a process of assessing them that involves Head Office.
Asked what other sectors Weir Minerals were looking to diversify into, Mr Van Leeuwen said that 50% of their customers are in mining and 50% in other industries including dredging, the sugar industry and glass manufacturing. He added,
“Employment at this factory is nothing to do with mining.”
Contracts and supply chain links with fracking industry
Mr Van Leeuwen said that the Todmorden Weir Minerals plant doesn’t have any relationship with fracking – but the Climate Crime Investigators pointed out that Weir’s annual report says that the Weir Minerals’ products are used in all three Divisions of the company – the other two being Oil and Gas, and Flow.
Mt Van Leeuwen replied that SBM fracking products are made in Fort Worth, Texas and are totally different from the pumps made in Todmorden.
He added that any Weir contracts with Cuadrilla would go through the Oil and Gas Division.
Companies in the Weir Oil and Gas division have customers in the shale gas industry – mostly in the US. They also manufacture products used to extract oil from tar sands – one of the dirtiest, costliest, and most destructive fuels in the world.
He declined to make a statement about the ethics of fracking businesses and that there is no safe way of fracking:
“ No, I won’t do that, the Weir group will make a public statement.”
Reminded by the Investigators that Weir is pushing fracking in the UK, through funding Strathclyde University fracking research and also the taskforce that has provided the UK government with information on the benefits of fracking, Mr Van Leeuwen said,
“I don’t know about that.”
Given the large framed statements in the entrance about not damaging the environment and people’s health, the Investigators suggested that it was ironic that the Weir company was not joined up enough to know what it is doing to damage the planet.
Mr Van Leeuwen said that the Todmorden Weir Minerals plant focus is on employee health and safety.