Albanese with Zambian government ministers on behalf of Vedanta in 2014
20th October 2017. On Tuesday the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a fraud case against Rio Tinto and two of its executives Tom Albanese (until recently Vedanta’s CEO) and Guy Elliot for inflating the value of a misguided coal deal with Mozambique in 2011. Rio Tinto was immediately fined £27.4 million by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK for breaching UK listing rules. Albanese and Elliot now face major fines for ‘ill gotten gains’ plus interest, as well as a ban on serving as directors of any public company.
Albanese presided over multiple human rights violations while serving as Rio Tinto CEO, and was finally forced to leave in 2011 following the disastrous $44 billion dollar decision to merge with Alcan in 2007 that had written off $9 billion, followed by the failed Mozambique coal deal (see previous article on this website). Guy Elliot has exercised considerable influence over India’s mineral policy, telling Indian decisions-makers it should include a fast-track clearance procedure, and allow ‘security of tenure’, i.e. grant long-term lease rights to foreign mining companies in a speech at the India-UK Business Leaders’ Forum in June 2006.
Please read the Financial Times article: Rio Tinto charged with fraud in US and fined in UK for more information.
13th October 2017. Judges today threw out Vedanta’s appeal to the May 2016 High Court judgment allowing Zambian farmers to have their case against the company heard in the UK. The judgment adds further weight to precedents holding UK companies legally responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries.
Judges today released their verdict on Vedanta’s appeal in the case of the Chingola communities suing UK company Vedanta Resources, and their Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), for pollution causing illness and loss of livelihood.
Press coverage: New York Times – Zambian Villagers Win Right to Sue Vedanta in English Courts
Newsclick – Zambian villagers can now sue Vedanta in England over poisoning their water.
Legal analysis at Lexology.com – Jurisdiction and parent company liability – Court of Appeal keeps door ajar for extra-territorial human rights related claims
7th September. This year was Vedanta’s 14th AGM, since registering on the London Stock Exchange in December 2003, and the 14th year that dissident shareholders have attended the meeting to hold the company to account for their environmental and human rights abuses. The minutes published by activist shareholders every year, documenting the company’s response to these, and other questions, represent important disclosures on Vedanta’s operations, finances and legal issues. Please spread them far and wide!
Minutes of Vedanta Resources’ 2017 AGM
In the beginning
1. After lengthy introductory remarks, the Chair, Anil Agarwal, opened the meeting. He called 2017 a year of great potential for Vedanta, noting they were now the sixth largest diversified resources company. He claimed that since 2003 the group has returned over £2 billion to shareholders, and heralded Vedanta’s positioning, because India and Africa give a unique opportunity for growth. While other companies look to China, he said, Vedanta has India, which is the fastest growing country in the world. Vedanta claims to be one of the biggest tax payers in India. By way of demonstrating his political connections in India, Mr. Agarwal noted he was able to join the Indian State visit to South Africa.
2. He assured shareholders that safety across the company continues to be a priority, claiming again that they are making zero harm, zero waste and zero discharge the ultimate goal. There is some way to go, but he claimed they will not stop until they have achieved this. Agarwal highlighted the ‘challenge’ of climate change and claimed that Vedanta takes its responsibility to society seriously, with various claims to be helping up to 2 million people, especially women and children. In July the company had held its third annual sustainable development meeting with various stakeholders in London. They claimed to welcome ongoing dialogue with NGOs, governments and stakeholders.
14th August 2017. Loud and theatrical protests were again held outside the AGM of British mining company Vedanta Resources’ at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London at 2pm today accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. Parallel protests and meetings were held today by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders asked questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, as well as tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion.
Please see the video of today’s protest in London!
and excellent photos from Peter Marshall here.
Coverage on Xinhau news: Environmental protesters picket annual meeting of mining firm Vedanta.
Dissident shareholders in London poured scorn on Vedanta’s 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company ‘demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility’. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the ‘cloak of respectability’ of a London listing noting that Vedanta was again excluded from the Norwegian Pension Fund’s investments this year following an investigation which found “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements”at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia. The report concludes, “there continues to be an unacceptable risk that your company will cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”
On Sunday farming communities living downstream of copper mines run by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola, Zambia, held a meeting in Hippo Pool to renew their resolve in their twelve year struggle against the company for severe water pollution which has caused major health problems, and rendered land uncultivable. Police had refused them permission to hold a protest. Government officials visited their villages in Spring this year asking them to drop their London case against Vedanta and settle out of court with the company. The Headmen of Hippo Pool village submitted this statement to the Vedanta board and shareholders which was asked by Shoda Rackal from Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike:
“The people here are sick and tired of pollution which is killing us through illness and loss of our crops and fish. The pollution must end at all costs. Whether we receive compensation or not, we are asking you to stop polluting us now.”
Red paint spilled at the entrance to Vedanta’s 2012 AGM
The annual Global Day of Action against Vedanta will take place on Monday 14th August 2017, as their AGM is conducted in London.
While the Vedanta board try to don the ‘cloak of respectability’ of their London listing, communities affected by the company’s pollution, human rights abuses and tax evasion around the world will raise their voices through protests and reports showing the true face of this deadly British mining company. As usual we will bring the defiant energy and demands of these communities to London, in our theatrical protest outside the London AGM, and shareholder activism inside it.
JOIN US OUTSIDE VEDANTA’S LONDON AGM WHILE COMMUNITIES PROTEST ACROSS AFRICA AND INDIA!
Monday 14th August 2017, 2 – 4pm .
The Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3ED
Bring drums, placards and loud voices.
Please join our Facebook event page if you can come to London on 14th August.
More info on why we are protesting Vedanta’s 2017 AGM below:
6th July. This report is a detailed account of hearings in Vedanta’s appeal against Justice Coulson’s 2016 judgment allowing the case of Zambian villagers polluted by KCM/Vedanta to be heard in the UK, which took place during the 5th and 6th July.
At 9am on Wednesday 5th of July activists from Foil Vedanta Pan African Society Community Forum (PASCF), Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike and London Mining Network rallied outside the Royal Courts of Justice with placards and banners calling for justice for thousands of Zambian villagers polluted by Konkola Copper Mines, a subsidiary of UK firm Vedanta Resources PLC. At 10am the court session in Vedanta’s appeal to the May 2016 judgment, which allowed the claimants case to be heard in the UK, began.
The protesters sat in the public gallery of the small court which was packed with observers and press. In the benches, Vedanta’s legal team consisted of two QCs instructed by ‘magic circle’ corporate law firm Herbert Smith Freehills , as well as three assistants. Behind them Vedanta’s company secretary Deepak Kumar attended along with Geoffrey Green, a non executive director and former partner in law firm Ashurst LLP. On the claimant’s side personal injury firm Leigh Day Solicitors also had two QCs and a number of lawyers and assistants including firm partner Martyn Day sitting at the back. Above them on the judges bench the case was heard by Lord Justice Jackson, Lord Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Asplin.
Wednesday’s hearing was almost entirely taken up with the lengthy appeal plea of Vedanta’s lawyer, Mr Charles Gibson QC. His argument, which we give in detail here, hung on these points:
5th July 2017. The latest hearing in the case of the Chingola communities consistently polluted by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) began at the Court of Appeals in London today. A rally organised by Foil Vedanta with Pan African solidarity groups took place outside the court in solidarity with the victims of ongoing pollution who have been fighting legal battles for justice in Zambia, and now the UK, for eleven years.
Activists from Pan African Society Community Forum (PASCF), Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike and London Mining Network joined Foil Vedanta today to rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice calling for justice for thousands of Zambian villagers polluted by UK firm Vedanta Resources, and echoing their demands. The protesters sat in the public gallery of the court which was packed with observers and press.
artists impression of Deepak Kumar in court today
Inside the court Vedanta’s lawyers began their appeal against a May 2016 decision to allow the villagers’ case to be heard in the UK, arguing that Vedanta has no duty of care to claimants potentially polluted by subsidiary KCM. The case Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe vs Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines is being heard by Lord Justice Jackson, Lord Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Asplin and may continue for several days. Vedanta’s company secretary Deepak Kumar attended the hearing along with Geoffrey Green, a non executive director and former partner in law firm Ashurst LLP.
16th March 2017. In its latest report, released on 9th March 2017, the Norwegian Council of Ethics has again excluded Vedanta from the Government Pension Fund’s investment universe. The report is an indictment of Vedanta’s pattern of operation at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia, finding “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements” and concluding that “there continues to be an unacceptable risk that your company will cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”
The Fund first divested from the company in 2007 after Vedanta Sterlite’s operations in India — Thoothukudi, Chhattisgarh and Orissa — and in other parts of the world were found to be in violation of accepted human rights and environmental norms.
The Pension Fund is “the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with shares in 9,000 companies. . .[and] 1.3 percent of the entire world’s listed equity, giving the decisions it takes to drop or reinstate shareholdings or warn firms considerable weight among investors.”
Read the Council’s full assessment of Vedanta’s operations below. Continue reading
A worker at Alcoa’s smelter
This special report by Miriam Rose originally appeared on Saving Iceland website.
In 1969 the first of three aluminium smelters was built in Iceland at Straumsvík, near Hafnafjörður, on the South West side of Reykjavík by Alusuisse (subsequently Rio Tinto-Alcan). In 1998 a second smelter was constructed by Century Aluminum (now a subsidiary of controversial mining giant Glencore), at Hvalfjörður near Reykjavík, and in 2007 the third, run by Alcoa, was completed at Reyðarfjörður in the remotely populated East of the country. The Icelandic Government had been advertising the country’s vast ‘untapped’ hydroelectric and geothermal energy at ‘the lowest prices in Europe’ hoping to attract jobs and industry to boost Iceland’s already very wealthy but somewhat fishing dependent economy. The industry, which would permanently change Iceland’s landscape with mega-dams, heavy industry scale geothermal plants and several kilometer long factories, was promoted by the Icelandic Government and the aluminium companies as ‘good employment for a modern age’. However, ten years after the flagship Alcoa Fjarðaál project was completed, unemployment is higher than it was in 2005, and Iceland’s economy has become dependent on an industry which is vulnerable to commodity cycle slumps and mass job losses. Worse, the price charged for Iceland’s energy is tied to the price of aluminium and analyses of the country’s 2008/9 economic crisis suggest it was exacerbated by the poor terms of Iceland’s late industrialisation. Yet demands for further industrialisation remain, and more than 1000 Icelanders are employed in the aluminium sector.
This article exposes the conditions inside Iceland’s aluminium smelters based on interviews with workers conducted in 2012. The stories from two smelters share correlating accounts of being forced to work in dangerous conditions under extreme pressure, and without adequate safety equipment, leading to serious accidents which are falsely reported by the companies. These shocking allegations require serious attention by the trade unions, Icelandic government and health and safety authorities. This especially in the current context of labour disputes with the aluminium companies, alongside revelations about the same companies’ tax avoidance schemes and profiteering in the country.
On 2nd September indigenous Dongria Kondh and Dalit Bahujan residents of Niyamgiri mountain held a demonstration in Muniguda, Odisha, under the banner of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti. The protest demanded an end to harassment, false arrests and murder of indigenous activists by police and paramilitary forces, and rejected the involvement of NGO’s in their decades long movement to prevent Vedanta and other companies mining their sacred mountain.
Protesters blocked the main road for several hours and burnt tyres.
The demonstration is part of ongoing anger at the false arrest of Dasuru Kadraka, the thirty year old Dongria Kondh youth leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), who was picked up from the Muniguda market by the police six months ago, and subsequently brutally tortured and implicated in several false cases.