2nd April 2015. The Supreme Court of Zambia today upheld a 2011 High Court verdict which found Vedanta (KCM) guilty of water pollution which poisoned thousands of Chingola residents in 2006(1).Meanwhile in London protesters held a vigil outside outside the Zambia High Commission, drumming and holding banners in solidarity with the victims of Vedanta’s water pollution. The judgement will be officially read out in court in seven days time.
The High Court had awarded 10 billion kwacha in total to 2000 claimants who had suffered illness and liver and kidney damage as a result of drinking the water.(2) However Vedanta challenged the decision which was not re-heard until June 2014. Today’s judgement delivered some justice to the poisoned victims after eight long years wait, but will not award compensation until an assessment is carried out by the High Court Deputy Registrar. This is likely to reduce the total award since the claimants were only able to show twelve medical reports which they had been able to obtain at the time of the pollution incident. The High Court had previously ruled that these twelve reports were indicative of the damage caused to all residents who had drunk the water, and had heard testimonies from victims who were unable to obtain medical reports from the doctors (many of whom worked in Vedanta sponsored medical centres).
James Nyasulu, a poultry farmer from Chingola and the lead claimant in the case reacted to the judgement today:
“The court should have stood firm and fully supported the High Court judgement. Compensation should even be increased due to the damage done to our health and interest on the original award. The poison we drank violated our right to life, but the court is treating life as cheap. Citizens of this country cannot be treated as guinea pigs for investors.”
On Friday 6th February 200 people who were victims of a major pollution incident caused by Konkola Copper Mines in 2006, which poisoned the Kafue river and made thousands sick, flooded the Supreme Court of Zambia. They were attending the hearing of an appeal (by KCM) against the precedent judgement in January 2011 which awarded them K10 billion ($2 million) in damages for the sickness caused by drinking polluted water, and defended the original judgement.
The 2000 claimants in the original case, led by lead claimant James Nyasulu, had feared they would never get justice until President Michael Sata intervened after meeting them in April 2014 and arranged a hearing of the Supreme Court in Ndola on June 3rd. The hearing took place but one of the three judges, Justice Albert Wood, had previously been an advocate for KCM in earlier hearings of the case. Nyasulu and his group complained to the Supreme Court about this undeclared conflict of interest and were granted a re-sit of the hearing on Friday 6th Feb in Lusaka.
However justice was not delivered as Vedanta asked for an adjournment in order to find another lawyer and prepare more documents. The judges granted them 10 days to file any additional information, and the respondents (the victims) to file a response to that. However the judges stated that they were ‘suspicious about Vedanta’s activities’ and asserted that the judgement will be delivered by them at the next sitting of the Supreme Court.
7th February 2015 The New York Times has published an exposé of Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal as part of a series on the people behind shell companies buying up New York real Estate, entitled ‘Towers of Secrecy’ by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul. The section on Vedanta is copied below and the full article is highly recommended.
Like most Time Warner owners, Anil Agarwal, an Indian mining magnate, is anonymous in New York. While interviews and private documents reviewed by The Times confirm he is behind condos purchased by the Amantea Corporation for $9.1 million in 2004, his name appears nowhere on public records. The deeds for Amantea’s Time Warner condos — one on the “maids floor” and another with sweeping views of Central Park — are signed by a New York lawyer named Constance Cranch. When contacted, she said: “You cannot say anything with respect to me. It’s a client of mine’s apartment, and I pay their bills.”
For all the secrecy at Time Warner, Mr. Agarwal is hardly private about his wealth. He spends much of his time in London and told a newspaper in 2005: “I have to have a Bentley, the best of chauffeurs and butlers.”
But Mr. Agarwal and his company, Vedanta Resources, are known in some parts of the world for having left financial and environmental problems in their wake.
26th January 2015. Just five days before January’s Sri Lankan Presidential elections former Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka dropped a bombshell, accusing Mahinda Rajapaska’s government of failing to collect $7 billion in inflated share value from Cairn Energy – the first oil company to discover gas in the Mannar basin. His firey argument (aimed at shaming the then incumbent President) was that mineral exploration rights had been sold to British oil company Cairn Energy for a song following meetings between Rajapaksa and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (who was a school friend of Cairn Energy boss Bill Gammell) in 2006. In 2011, after gas was discovered in their Mannar block – SL 2007-01-001, the value of shares skyrocketed and Cairn Energy sold them on at a highly inflated value to Vedanta Resources, a British-Indian company, who bought Cairn Energy’s South Asian oil and gas subsidiary Cairn India, assisted by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
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10th December 2014. Bangladeshi activists, in conjunction with a diverse group of environmental and left political activists in London, heckled the investors of Global Coal Management Resources with their noise demo and coal play yesterday. Activists blocked the entrance to the Aeronautical Society by dumping coal in the doorway. They surrounded GCMs’ CEO Gary Lye and his fellows who are aggressively moving ahead to implement a massive open-pit mine in Phulbari, the northwest region of Bangladesh. At the same time a delegation of protesters disrupted the AGM of GCM by questioning the investors inside the AGM about their fraudulent business in London’s Alternative Share Market (AIM).
The demo was organised by the UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil- Gas-Mineral Resources and Port-Power in Bangladesh, in conjunction with Phulbari Solidarity Group. The event was endorsed by Socialist Party of England and Wales, London Mining Network, World Development Movement, Occupy London, Foil Vedanta, Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition, UK, and several community organisations including Nari Diganta, Swadhinota Trust, Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, Jubo Union, Friends of Chatro Union, Bangladesh Workers Party (UK branch), Bangladesh Communist Party (UK branch), and Bangladesh Socialist Party (UK branch).
A speech originally given at the Foil Vedanta & Centre for World Environmental History Activist Academia forum, September 13th 2014.
I would like to start by saying that since the two world wars the leading powers have learned nothing. Its the same old squabbles: religion and material wealth. Scottish independence could be the thin end of the wedge in clearing the way for nuclear reduction. As I understand it the rest of the UK has no appropriate facility that can accommodate Trident or its replacement. I hope you would agree that these weapons are a destructive nightmare which keep the economic justice of the common man’s welfare down, as the billions spent on a weapons of defence can only encourage others to equip themselves with the same, only a little more powerful. Why? in ‘defence’. As I hope you’ll agree there are so many avenues in which these beneficial funds could be distributed in the many places of the world we know of which are pillaged for the resources required to maintain the armaments industries where the economic bodies of the world are embroiled. The question is how do we fix it?
A two day event bringing international activists and academics together to reflect on academic pursuit and forms of knowledge production, and establish working links between those working against the impacts of neoliberalism, the extractive industries, including damage to communities, ecology, democracy and governance.
Hosted by the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) University of Sussex.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or BOOK HERE
Places are limited. Please book as soon as you can. Last booking date is 1 September 2014.
2nd ANNIVERSARY DEMONSTRATION
AGAINST THE BRUTAL MARIKANA MASSACRE
SOUTH AFRICA HOUSE, TRAFALGAR SQUARE, LONDON
2-5PM Sat 16th August 2014
Join the facebook event!
and see MINERS SHOT DOWN film
7pm FRIDAY 15th AUGUST 2014 @ 365 Brixton Road, BRIXTON, LONDON, SW9
THE MARIKANA MASSACRE WAS DELIBERATE. S.A. POLICE KILLED 34 AND INJURED 78 STRIKING MINERS. MANY WERE SHOT IN THE BACK &/or ON THE GROUND. RAZOR WIRE, SUB-MACHINE GUNS AND ARMOURED CARS. HORSES AND HELICOPTERS WERE USED. 270+ SURVIVORS WERE ROUNDED UP AND CHARGED WITH THE KILLINGS. WITNESSES ARE BEING REGULARLY MURDERED AS THE WHITEWASH OFFICIAL INQUIRY ROLLS ON. THE WORKERS STRUGGLE CONTINUES.
Please read more below..
August 1st 2014. Protesters from Foil Vedanta, MPs and other organizations today held a loud and colourful demonstration at the AGM of controversial FTSE 250 mining company Vedanta at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London. On 31st August parallel demos were held in Odisha, Delhi and Johannesburg. 400 miners protested Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines in Ndola, Zambia. In Odisha, India, a consultation on the proposed six fold expansion of the Lanjigarh refinery on 30th July met with major opposition after Vedanta lost permission to mine the Niyamgiri Hills this year. Meanwhile, Vedanta are accused of tax evasion and mismanagement at their Konkola Copper Mines subsidiary in Zambia after investigations revealed they may be externalising up to $500 million per year in profits.
60 people railed against Vedanta’s London AGM today, representing a variety of organisations including diaspora from Zambia, Goa, Tamil Eelam and Odisha where Vedanta is currently embroiled in scandals and accused of major illegalities. Tamil Parai drummers kept up a loud rhythm throughout the demo. Shortly before the AGM started at 3pm a huge banner was unfurled from the top of the next door building saying ‘Vedanta out of London’ eliciting cheers from the crowd. The protesters were joined by a 6m inflatable blade of grass referring to Anil Agarwal’s repeated claim at previous AGMs that Vedanta ‘have not touched a single blade of grass’ at the Niyamgiri Hills. Company executives were hassled as they entered the AGM.
See the film of today’s demo in London here, and the Parai dummers here, and see MP John McDonnell and others update the protesters after the AGM here.
And photos on Demotix here and here
A full account of the questions asked inside the AGM, and Vedanta’s responses can be found at London Mining Network’s website here.
Coverage by: Economic Times, Activists protest at Vedanta’s AGM over alleged illegalities
The Ecologist, India: Foil Vedanta protests erupt in Delhi
Odisha Sun Times, Foil Vedanta stage protest in London; decries company’s move in Odisha.
The Statesman, Protesters target Vedanta, Govt.
31st July, 2014. Yesterday public hearings on the six fold expansion of the Lanjigarh refinery, at the base of the Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha, were disrupted by around 1000 local people including Dongria and Kutia Konds virulently opposing the expansion.
Some Konds waved their axes demanding that Vedanta (Sesa Sterlite) leave Lanjigarh immediately and citing their objection to the Niyamgiri mine (voiced unanimously in a precedent referendum last year). The Land Losers Association also registered their objection citing the false arrests and imprisonment they have suffered since losing their land to Vedanta without proper compensation or employment as Vedanta had promised. A recent report from a local activist detailed how 34 of the Land losers have died since they lost their land, attributing this to poverty and disease from the Lanjigarh plant.
See a film of the public hearing and the key points raised by opposing groups here.