Foil Vedanta PRESS REPORT 28th August 2012
Protesters from Goa join more than 70 others to disrupt Vedanta’s London AGM, calling for an end to British support of the ‘world’s most hated company’.
Two men dressed as Vedanta executives stunt drown ‘dead body’ in red paint on AGM steps.
Global day of action at three of Vedanta’s projects draws attention to illegalities, workers deaths and large scale pollution.
More than 70 protesters from Foil Vedanta, South Asia Solidarity Group, Save Goa Campaign and other organsations crowded the entrance to controversial FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta Resources’ London AGM today in an attempt to disrupt the meeting. In Goa and Odisha in India, and Chingola in Zambia where Vedanta operates, parallel demonstrations involving thousands of people affected by the company’s activities took place today and yesterday.
Protestors at the Lincoln Centre where the AGM was held carried placards depicting shocking pictures of Vedanta’s atrocities including the 100 dead at the Korba chimney collapse in 2009(i). They shouted slogans calling for the arrest of Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal for his major involvement in the CAG coal corruption scandal currently rocking India(3) and played noisy drums. They called for London to withdraw support for the company accused by CBI’s Richard Lambert and the British parliament for giving the FTSE 100 a bad name(4). Despite these scandals Agarwal gave himself a 16% pay rise this year.
Two activists dressed as Vedanta executives were spilled litres of red paint over a woman covered with a white sheet on the steps of the AGM. Shortly afterwards Anil Agarwal and Vedanta executives arrived in a blacked out car and were unable to enter the AGM. The symbolic action referred to the hundreds who have died either working at or opposing Vedanta’s factories and mines. A 30 foot long banner proclaimed ‘Vedanta: Olympic Champion of Murder, Pollution and Corruption’.
A group from the Save Goa Campaign carried banners showing toxic mine waste floods caused by Vedanta subsidiary Sesa Goa. They called for the British Government to help stop illegal mining by Vedanta and others, as recommended by the Early Day Motion scheduled by John McDonnell MP who also attended the demo(ii). In Goa itself thousands of villagers took to the streets yesterday (Monday) demanding an end to operations at Sesa Goa’s Amona pig iron plant which swamped a 1.5km area with black powder from the plant just last weekend(iii). Sesa Goa is also accused of large scale fraud (1). Environmental activist Claude Alvares who attended the demo comments;
“Vedanta is committed to turning Goa into a graveyard in which it will bury not just the Goans but their environment as well. Almost every mining lease Vedanta is operating violates some environment or mining law, from mining in excess of environment limits to overloading its trucks to distress ordinary folk on Goa’s roads in the mining belt. The company violates its environment clearance conditions with impunity.“(2)
In Bhawanipatna and Lanjigarh in Odisha hundreds of Dongria Kondh tribals whose livelihood is threatened by Vedanta’s plan to mine their sacred mountain rallied alongside farmers and villagers (see photos). They called for the final closure of the Lanjigarh alumina refinery at the foot of the threatened Niyamgiri hills after seven years battle to stop the mine. Last week the company admitted it would have to temporarily close the plant due to lack of local bauxite which has incurred huge annual losses for Vedanta Aluminium(iv).
In Zambia activists published a report for the AGM alongside Chingola villagers detailing the ongoing contamination of their water supply by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines who were already fined $2 million in 2011 for turning the Kafue river green with copper pollution. Edward Lange of Southern Africa Resource Watch who authored the report comments:
“The Kafue river in Chingola on many occasions has been heavily polluted by Konkola copper mines (KCM). Today the river has virtually no form of life in its waters. The boreholes are rarely used by the local Shimulala community because they contain Copper, Iron, Acid and other dangerous minerals. ”
Vedanta have been named the ‘world’s most hated company’ by the Independent newspaper for their long list of environmental and human rights crimes for which they are being opposed all over the world(v). Most famously Vedanta’s plan to mine a mountain sacred to the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa, India, has led to mass protests and the Bank of England among others pulling out investments. On Sunday Northern Irish public sector pensions pulled £1.1 million worth of shares out of the company(vi).
Protestors also drew attention to recent news including:
British Government’s ongoing support for Vedanta through DfID, and even David Cameron, who were recently revealed to have forced through a deal to buy out energy company Cairn India by pressuring the Indian Government(vii).
Resignation of the whole of Cairn India’s senior management since Vedanta’s takeover.(viii)
Vedanta’s ten billion dollar debt crisis.(5)
Vedanta’s continued donations to India’s two main political parties, the ruling Congress and the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP(ix). Under the name Anil Agarwal foundation, it also supports projects such the Krishna Avanti Primary school in London partly funded by the I- foundation which has close links to the Hindu supremacist groups.
Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta says:
“”Vedanta symbolises the new face of India Incorporated where more than 80% of people do not have enough to live on where as Bollygarchs like Anil Agarwal are allowed a free loot of its resources for their own personal wealth. With popular resistance against Vedanta erupting in Goa, and Odisha and scandals in the Indian parliament over the CAG report, the world is seeing their true colours.”
Foil Vedanta www.foilvedanta.org
1) Vedanta and its subsidiary Sesa Goa are also implicated in an Early Day Motion tabled by John McDonnell MP and signed by 9 other MPs criticizing mining practices in Goa and urging that the British government intervene to prevent further damage(x). In addition to large scale fraud and illegal mining Vedanta was held responsible for pit wall collapse which drowned a village in toxic mine waste last year. As environmental experts have noted if such activities do not stop Goa may well lose its Heritage status.
2) Full quote from Claude Alvares, Environmental activist
“Never have I seen a company so obsessed with profits that it cannot see the beauty of the place it has settled on to destroy. At the moment, the company has in fact speeded up its mineral extraction because it fears the climate in Goa may turn against mining forever or it may face as grave a setback as its mines in Bellary, Karnataka. Goa government must takeover Vedanta’s mines in retaliation for the environmental havoc this company’s operations have caused. Almost every mining lease Vedanta is operating violates some environment or mining law, from mining in excess of environment limits to overloading its trucks to distress ordinary folk on Goa’s roads in the mining belt. The company violates its environment clearance conditions with impunity. At the helm in Goa is a BJP government which has acknowledged that its party got funding from Vedanta in excess of Rs.400 crores. What chance do those without cash (mother nature included) have in the circumstances?”
3) Vedanta stands accused of corruption in the gigantic CAG report Coal scam which is currently rocking the government of Manmohan Singh . According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, coal blocks allocation by the government of India between 2004 and 2006 ‘was not transparent’ and the delay in competitive bidding led to huge losses for the state while firms including Vedanta, Tatas, Jindals, Laxmi Mittal’s Arcelor were among the beneficiaries(xi).
4) Vedanta was described in Parliament by Labour MP Lisa Nandy as ‘one of the companies that have been found guilty of gross violations of human rights’ . Ms Nandy in her speech quoted Richard Lambert the former Director General of the CBI: ‘It never occurred to those of us who helped to launch the FTSE 100 index 27 years ago that one day it would be providing a cloak of respectability and lots of passive investors for companies that challenge the canons of corporate governance such as Vedanta…’ (xii)
5) Credit Suissie Group says $10 billion debt is the reason for Vedanta’s recent attempt to merge two of its subsidiaries Sesa Goa and Sterlite to create a so-called ‘corporate rubbish bin’.’ Sesa Sterlite, as the new company will be known, will, according to the analysts ‘have a market capitalization of about $20 billion, making it big enough to house Vedanta’s unwanted assets’ and also ‘the recently acquired 38.8% stake in Indian oil company Cairn India Ltd., and, more importantly, the $5.9 billion of Vedanta debt linked to the stake. In it, too, goes Vedanta’s 70% stake in Vedanta Aluminum, a money-losing operation that has about $4 billion of debt’(xiii).
(i) Krishnendu Mukherjee, 2010, ‘Korba Chimney accident: Unanswered questions’ www.d-sector.org/article-det.asp?id=1103
(xii) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120522/debtext/120522-0002.htm(xiii) http://www.thedeal.com/content/restructuring/vedanta-reshuffle-creates-corporate-rubbish-bin.php