Eight days of protest on Niyamgiri

Dongria Kond leader Lado Sikaka speaking to press

Dongria Kond leader Lado Sikaka speaking to press

7th June, 2016. A seven day padyatra (foot march) involving occupants of up to 112 of the remote villages of the Niyamgiri hills ended on Sunday in Jaganathpur (Lanjigarh). The padyatra, led by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti and indigenous leaders from the villages, amplified demands to decommission Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery and celebrated the recent victory when the Supreme Court turned down Vedanta’s appeal to the decisive 2013 referendums which had put an end to mining plans on the mountain, as well as protesting the ongoing harassment from the company and the colluding state government and police forces. Various local and national Indian media covered the major event which ended in a large rally on World Environment Day, 5th June. The Orissa Post reported that:

Niyamgiri Padyatra 2016Coming down heavily on the government, Loda Sikaka, a member of the Samiti, said the government has unleashed a reign of terror on the foothills of Niyamgiri by deploying platoons of paramilitary forces and special operation group japans.

CRPF and SOG jawans, instead of checking Maoist activities and providing security to inhabitants, kill poor tribals under cover of encounters. They misbehave with tribal women, loot their houses, domestic animals and poultries, lodge false cases against innocent people by branding them Maoists. The most worrying factor us that the government is conspiring to snatch the livelihood of tribals by leasing out the hills to Vedanta for bauxite mining.

Niyamgiri Padyatra 2016The procession aimed at gaining public support against alleged anti-tribal activities of the government. It also aimed at urging the government to ensure sustainable development of the region while keeping the ecology intact.

The fighting is not limited to this specific region. It is a struggle of the humanity to protect nature and civilisation, Dadhi Pusika, another member of the Samiti, said.

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Zambian villagers win right to have case against Vedanta & KCM heard in UK

Copper looted river polluted7th June, 2016. On Friday 27th May the Hon Mr Justice Coulson published his judgment on the jurisdiction hearing between 1,826 Zambian villagers and Vedanta and it’s Zambian subsidiary KCM which took place in April in London, finding in the villagers’ favour that their case demanding compensation for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution could be heard in the UK. The judgment (which can be downloaded at this link: KCM Coulson Judgment May 2016) is an indictment of KCM’s financial secrecy, historic dishonesty and attempts to pervert the course of justice, detailed in this article. To those of us experienced in legal cases against some of Vedanta’s Indian subsidiaries this does not come as a surprise but fits with the pattern of corruption and deception which Vedanta has become famous for.

This is a great victory in the preliminary stages of this major case against Vedanta and KCM for knowingly causing gross pollution from 2005 (just after they acquired KCM) to the present day. Our previous article details the shocking living conditions of thousands of villagers whose water sources have been chronically polluted causing sickness, poverty and even death. Video testimonies from some of the claimants and victims detail how people have ‘collapsed and died’ as a result of prolonged exposure to high levels of contaminants (as scientific papers attest).

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Vedanta sponsored Jaipur Literature Festival disrupted in London

JLF protest 201620th May 2016. A massive thank you to all the writers, bloggers, activists and supporters who made the JLF boycott a huge success. Please read more on the London protest and and press coverage below:

  A group of protesters from a wide range of organisations today disrupted the Jaipur Literature Festival at London’s Southbank Centre, taking over the stage with their placards and giving shouted speeches to the eminent audience about the multiple criminal convictions and abusive pattern of operation of the festival’s main sponsor, the British mining company Vedanta. A number of attendees left the event in response. NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt’s presentation was also disrupted by chanting naming the news channel for taking Vedanta funding for the Our Girls Our Pride campaign which is accused of being a whitewash sham for the company.

Vedanta's logo stickered over on programme

Vedanta’s logo stickered over on programme

Earlier two speakers at the festival – the scientist and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad and K. Satchidanandan, a Malayalam and English poet – had pulled out in response to an open letter calling for a boycott of the event in view of its sponsorship by ‘the world’s most hated company’. Another four speakers – Vasundhara Raje, Meghnad Desai, Gavin Francis and Rachel Spence – also had their names removed from the programme suggesting they too have refused to participate. Nonetheless Sanjoy Roy, the managing director of Teamwork Arts and festival organisers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple have continued to defend their sponsor in the media even claiming Vedanta are not guilty of any criminality, despite multiple convictions cited in the open letter. However, the Vedanta logo was removed from publicity on the day and stickers were used to poorly conceal the logo on the programmes.

Press coverage:

Kavita Bhanot – JLF Brings ‘Exotic India’ To Your Doorstep – Who Pays The Price?

The Hindu – Anti Vedanta protests mar JLF event in South Bank London

Ravinder Kaur – JLF Southbank: By ignoring boycott call, writers may have missed out on powerful stories of dissent

The Wire – Writers Protest Vedanta Sponsorship of Jaipur Lit Fest London

Sabrang India – Protesters Disrupt Jaipur Lit-fest Sponsored by Vedanta in London

Sabrang India – Boycott Vedanta’s London festival and bid to seek legitimacy: Writers

Eyezine – Why Jaipur Lit Fest needs to remove Vedanta from its sponsors

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Authors pull out of Vedanta JLF, and a rebuttal to the organisers

JLF flyer with pulled out authors17th May. On 14th May we released an open letter calling for the renowned authors and artists participating in the Jaipur Literature Festival at Southbank, London, to pull out of the event in view of its sponsorship by Vedanta Resources – dubbed ‘the world’s most hated company’. The letter has now been signed by over 100 writers, academics, activists and people directly affected by Vedanta’s operations, including poets Nabina Das, Hemant Devate, Rafiq Kathwari and Surya Vahni Priya Capildeo and writers Tariq Mehmood, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Courttia Newland and Gladson Dungdung.

In response two speakers have already pulled out. The scientist and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad and K. Satchidanandan, a Malayalam and English poet have both refused to participate. (Please see the full article critiquing the neocolonialist approach of the Jaipur Literature Festival by Kavita Bhanot here)

Despite this, Sanjoy Roy, the managing director of Teamwork Arts, which produces the festival, issued this statement to the media on behalf of the festival organisers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple:

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Boycott Vedanta sponsorship of JLF 2016

Boycott JLF flyer14th May 2016.  On May 21st the high profile Jaipur Literature Festival will take place in Southbank London with Vedanta as its key sponsor*. Foil Vedanta and Roundtable India have authored this open letter to the many renowned authors taking part, asking them to boycott the event in view of Vedanta’s criminal activities.** The letter has been signed by eminent writers, academics, activists and people directly affected by Vedanta’s criminal activities. A protest will also be held outside the event from 10am to 1pm at the Southbank centre, SE1 9PX, London.

*JLF have now removed Vedanta’s  logo from their website. Please see the original page with Vedanta logo on the internet archive.

** Please see the update to this post as authors are pulling out.

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Vedanta’s toxic debt tricks

Vedanta AGM 20135th May 2016 With $2.9 billion in debt covenants and inter-company loans due in 2016 Vedanta is turning to increasingly controversial and irregular methods to bleed cash from its few profitable subsidiaries. Having already asset stripped the Zambian Konkola Copper Mines, being prevented by an employees union from getting access to Hindustan Zinc Ltd’s $4.6 billion cash reserves, and by shareholder action from getting hold of Cairn India’s cash, Vedanta are now paying themselves ridiculous 1200% dividends in a desperate attempt to grab the cash and keep the lenders happy.

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How KCM is killing the Zambian Copperbelt. Part 1: water pollution

Scientists sample toxic sludge seeping from the Muntimpa tailing dam into the environment in 2011

Scientists sample toxic sludge seeping from the Muntimpa tailing dam into the environment in 2011

19th February 2016. In October 2015 Foil Vedanta visited Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) for the second time to investigate the legacy of pollution that has destroyed the environment and livelihoods around Chingola since 2004, when Vedanta bought controlling shares in KCM. KCM is Africa’s largest copper mine and the largest mining company in the copper dependent economy of Zambia. Our 2014 report Copper Colonialism: Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia exposed some of KCM’s major corporate malpractices including large scale tax evasion and mis-declaring profits, labour rights violations, and gross pollution which has continually contaminated the river Kafue causing sickness and loss of livelihood for tens of thousands of Zambians. We accused Vedanta and the UK government, which has given KCM active and tacit support, of neo-colonialism and of treating Zambian lives and environment as cheap.

In 2015 an eight year long legal battle by 2000 contaminated residents finally ended when the Supreme Court of Zambia confirmed the High Court’s opinion that KCM was guilty of ‘gross recklessness’ and damaging villagers’ health. However, the $2 million in damages earlier awarded by the High Court was removed, leaving the residents short of real justice. Subsequently London law firms have filed for damages from Vedanta Resources on behalf of approximately 3000 of the contaminated villagers, and the shocking story of ten years of pollution has reached the Guardian and BBC. However, many thousands remain un-represented and there is no guarantee that the pollution will stop in the event of a settlement. This article gives voice to some of the victims of KCM’s ongoing water pollution whom we met around Chingola, where KCM’s Nchanga open pit and underground mines, concentrators, Tailings Leach Plant, and smelter are located, and details KCM’s sheer disregard for life in Zambia despite several criminal prosecutions for contamination. KCM’s air pollution will be the subject of a separate article.

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MPs sign open Letter of support for Foil Vedanta delegation in Zambia

FV logo15th October 2015.  Green MP Caroline Lucas, Labour peer Lord Des Browne (of Laydton) and MSP Jackie Baillie have added their names to a letter of support for Foil Vedanta’s current delegation to Zambia which will be monitoring the situation with communities around Vedanta’s mines and processing plants.

Open Letter of support for Foil Vedanta delegation in Zambia.

We are public figures concerned with the track record of British registered FTSE 250 mining company Vedanta Resources and the environmental and social violations the company has been convicted of in India, Zambia and elsewhere.

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Northern Governmental Organisations: between the free market and the nation state

A placard addressing NGO's role in Zambia

A placard addressing NGO’s role in Zambia

A short version of this article was published in The Land magazine’s summer edition 2015. A PDF of  the full version below can be downloaded here:Northern Governmental Organisations.

Northern Governmental Organisations: between the free market and the nation state

Samarendra Das and Miriam Rose

The NGO sector is one of the world’s largest industries. In 2009 there were 3.3 million NGOs (or 1 for every 400 people) in India alone,1 with money pouring in from Intergovernmental Organisations (IGOs), Western donor agencies and philanthropic funds.

Though some critiques of the big NGOs and humanitarian aid have reached the mainstream media in recent years, the general Western perception is that NGOs are doing important and effective work on behalf of millions of deprived people without a voice.

This article gives an alternative perspective. Based on conversations with grassroots activists and marginalised communities in India and Africa over many years of our work on extractive industries, we draw together the common critiques of advocacy and development NGOs in the ‘Third world’ or ‘global South’ – from their role in dividing and co-opting people’s movements by professionalising activism, to their lack of accountability to the people they claim to represent. We show that, behind the ‘rights based’ rhetoric, NGOs consciously or unconsciously serve the neoliberal interests of donor countries, institutions, and even companies.

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Prosperity or plunder?: The real story behind the global mining industry

modern technology: Australian iron ore being loaded onto ships

modern technology: Australian iron ore being loaded onto ships

12th August 2015.  This editorial on the ecological economics and social impacts of the global mining industry was published in the July/August edition of the socialist Hindi magazine Samayik Varta. Please click the link to read it in Hindi or download a PDF version of the article here: Prosperity or plunder? The real story behind the global mining industry

Prosperity or plunder?: The real story behind the global mining industry

Samarendra Das and Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta

Foil Vedanta is a grassroots international solidarity group based in London. We aim to hold the FTSE 250 UK listed company Vedanta to account by building a global movement of communities opposing its operations, and using scholar activism to expose the real interests behind Vedanta and other mining companies. In 2014 our report Copper Colonialism: Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia, which followed our visit to Zambia, ignited protests and helped change Zambian mining policy.

A history of mining:

Scientists still don’t fully understand how the deposits of precious metal in the Earth’s surface were formed, but the most recent theory suggests that they were brought to the Earth by enormous meteors which smashed into the planet 200 million years after the earth formed (4.3 billion years ago).1 The earth’s crust is mostly made up of Oxygen (47%) and Silicon (28%), followed by Aluminium (8%) and Iron (5%). Other metals are much more rare; Copper makes up 0.01%, Zinc 0.004%, Lead 0.002%, Tin 0.001%, Thorium 0.001%, Uranium 0.0004%, Silver 0.00001% and Gold 0.000001%. Only a fraction of these percentages are to be found in densities which are economically viable to extract.

In other words, metals are a very rare and very precious resource on our planet, and are completely irreplaceable. However, in 2014, after only a century of industrial scale mining, the speed and scale of extraction of metals has become so immense that most metals are predicted to run out in the next few decades. For example between 1.1 and 1.3 billion tonnes of aluminium has been extracted historically (until 2014), and at the current extraction rate of 40 – 46 million tonnes per year the remaining 8 billion tonnes will be used up in 20 – 40 years.2

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