Human rights groups to protest Vedanta AGM

London Mining Network press release

What: AGM of controversial London-listed mining company Vedanta

When: Tuesday 28 August at 3pm

Where: Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3ED

Controversial, India-based mining company Vedanta will again be the subject of protest today, with London Mining Network, Amnesty International, Survival International and other campaign groups attending the AGM to raise numerous concerns about the impacts of Vedanta and its subsidiaries around the world. The protest group Foil Vedanta is to hold a demonstration outside the AGM.

Despite a series of ongoing human rights and environmental violations and a fivefold increase in the company’s net debt, the company chair Anil Agarwal recently awarded himself a 16% pay rise.

After the scandal of last year’s multiple releases of toxic red mud from its Lanjigarh alumina refinery into local river systems, Vedanta was recently found to be dumping toxic fly ash into woodland around its Jharsaguda smelter in Orissa. In Goa, in addition to repeated instances of water pollution caused by flooding of its Sesa Goa iron ore mines, some of the company’s operations have been closed by an Indian Government judicial committee for operating illegally.

In May, Vedanta had two safety awards withdrawn. It was to receive a Silver Award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) despite deaths and injuries at its Lanjigarh smelter in the state of Orissa in India. When Indian activists and allies in London Mining Network pointed this out to RoSPA, the award was cancelled. The British safety Council suspended a similar award pending investigations. Meanwhile, two global industry associations pulled awards to Agarwal himself as a supposed ‘leader’ in promoting business ethics when they learned about Vedanta’s record.

Vedanta’s BALCO subsidiary was responsible for the deaths of at least 42 workers when a chimney collapsed in 2009 at its Korba complex in Chhattisgarh. Because of multiple levels of subcontracting, and because the company bulldozed the site shortly after the disaster, the exact number of deaths and the identity of the dead workers remain unconfirmed. Vedanta is pushing to obtain the 49% of BALCO that it does not already own. BALCO’s bauxite mines in Chhattisgarh employ children and workers operate in extremely risky conditions, with women workers carrying ore on their heads as they walk barefoot across rock piles. Many of these workers are from the Baiga Indigenous People whose rights have been ignored in developing the mines.

Sreedhar Ramamurthy, Chair of Indian NGO Mines Minerals and People, said: “This is a company which has been violating corporate governance, financial, human rights, Indigenous rights and environmental laws from the beginning. It uses tax havens to hide its ill-gotten profits. It has broken laws to open mines, broken laws to operate them and in Goa it is breaking laws as it closes them. From cradle to grave and across the range of violations it has become the embodiment of law-breaking. It is only a decade old. Why should Britain have such a decadent company on its stock exchange?”

Roger Moody, a researcher with London Mining Network, said: “It is outrageous that a man whose company has been directly responsible for such impoverishment and illegality should be rewarded with a 16% pay rise. Vedanta’s annual report says that the company regrets six employee and sixteen contractor ‘losses’. It can’t even bring itself to acknowledge that these are lives sacrificed to its uncaring pursuit of profit. Vedanta is incorrigible.”

Sreedhar Ramamurthy is in London and is available for interview on 07403 665181.

Further information: 07929 023214 or contact[at]londonminingnetwork.org

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More information on the withdrawl of Vedanta’s safety awards can be found at  http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=11714

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