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A memorial in exile in London’s Olympics: orbits of responsibility

ArcelorMittal is not taking sides in this debate without engagement or prior agreement of the local communities and local / international stakeholders concerned. The company has always shared the aim of finding a long-term solution and will remain prepared to participate in discussions or co-operate fully with any agreed solution concerning this sensitive topic. (5 May 2012)

As the largest steel producer in the world, ArcelorMittal can surely use their considerable influence to overturn the local politics of denial and actively participate in healing the fractured communities out of which their very fortunes are generated. Yet they insist on not taking sides. Not taking sides in an area where persecution and injustice continue – is not neutrality but taking a political position by default. Not taking sides maintains the impasse of the present and forecloses the possibility of moving forward. Not taking sides means the perpetuation of violence by other means.

Surely extracting mineral and capital resources out of the physical infrastructure of massacre is a form of taking sides – the sides of a perpetrator whose historic actions continue to contaminate the very means by which ArcelorMittal’s material wealth is generated. According to a recent report in Reuters, ArcelorMittal is currently in negotiations to acquire the remaining state-owned shares of the Ljubija mine complex. What percentage of ownership is necessary for figures to be converted into incontrovertible facts that truly matter for a people still traumatized by the Balkan wars of 1990s? Must they wait for 100% ownership before full responsibility is assumed for the production of a memorial? On August 6, survivors will return to the ArcelorMittal Prijedor mine to remember those who were tortured and killed as well as those who survived but who endure their pain and trauma in private. With no space of collective public mourning to confront the wounds of the past, and until such time that a memorial is constructed at Omarska we, here in London, reclaim the ArcelorMittal Orbit as a memorial in exile – a towering public acknowledgement that the orbits of corporate responsibility are always also close to home.