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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Talwandi Sabo Power laborers strike for unpaid wages

Contract workers blockade gate demanding overdue payment

Contract workers blockade gate demanding overdue payment

Aug 7, 2015. Banwali village, Punjab.

Contract Labourers at Vedanta’s Punjabi power company Talwandi Sabo Power Limited are striking today and protesting in front of the plant gates demanding payment for which they have been waiting for four months.

The Talwandi Sabo plant will be Punjabs biggest greenfield power plant. It is being constructed by SEPCO, the Chinese firm who were found guilty alongside Vedanta for causing more than 40 deaths at the Korba plant in Chhattisgarh when a chimney collapsed on workers in 2009 . Like the Talwandi Sabo workers they were contracted, un-unionised and without rights.

Hardeep Singh, engineer said, “27/28 contractors working for Vedanta have not received salaries for the last 4 months for which we are holding a non-violent protest in front of the gate of Vedanta/ TSPL. In this matter we met the DC and the GM of SEPCO. Nothing has been resolved. We will not stop our protest until our due wage worth 80 crores is settled. We demand from the company and the government that we are given what is owed to us.”

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Eight global demos against Vedanta in Afrika, India and London

Foil Vedanta AGM 2015 protest3rd August Seven global locations in India and Africa held angry protests today and over the weekend opposing the activities of British-Indian mining company Vedanta while Vedanta’s AGM at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, London was mobbed by a loud rally organised by Foil Vedanta, accusing the company of pollution, human rights abuses and financial mismanagement. In London a comical staged boxing match between Vedanta’s 69.6% owner and Chairman Anil Agarwal and new CEO Tom Albanese, revealed the company’s debt problems and internal dynamics while protesters chanted ‘Corporate criminal, shame on you!’ and drummed loudly. Vedanta’s share price has slipped 61% this year to 377p, and continues to dive as Q1 results show increased debt, and Cairn India minority shareholders oppose their attempt to merge with the oil and gas subsidiary to gain access to its $2.6 billion cash reserves for debt servicing.

See the film of London protests and more pics at Demotix..and here and here.

See coverage in the Economic Times of India, the Hindu Business Line, the New International , Odisha Channel , Odisha Sun Times and the Lusaka Times.

See an account of the AGM shareholders meeting here.

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A Critical Legal History of Mining in Goa

Sesa Goa mine waste flood at the peak of the mining boom  in 2009

Sesa Goa mine waste flood at the peak of the mining boom in 2009

14th July 2015Krishnendu Mukherjee, Barrister and Advocate at Doughty Street Chambers, has been very involved in exposing the gross scale illegal mining carried out by Vedanta subsidiary Sesa Goa, and other iron ore miners in Goa. This article is a detailed analysis of the manipulations of legal procedures and previous judgements by mining companies and their government and judicial stooges, currently taking place in a desperate attempt to re-start mining in Goa.

Sesa Goa's Sanquelim mine, a demonstration site of proper mine closure, but Sesa Goa have not reclaimed any of their other closed mines.

Sesa Goa’s Sanquelim mine, a demonstration site of proper mine closure, but Sesa Goa have not reclaimed any of their other closed mines.

Meanwhile in Goa, mining dumps which are the result of illegal mining are being auctioned off, and local residents in Caurem claim that companies are taking away twice the amount of reject ore-bearing material as they are buying.  Once a mine lease is terminated mined land should be reclaimed by the leasing company (as according to mine closure plans) and then returned to the state. However in a recent interview published in The Hindu’s Business Line,  Vedanta CEO Tom Albanese is quoted as saying: “We are waiting for clarification on some environmental issues. We have been dumping waste on the land we bought, but we have been permitted to dump waste outside lease areas. We want clarification on whether it will be a proper mining practice to do so.” This slip of the tongue by Albanese raises an important question: Do mining companies intend to enact Mine Closure Plans and give the leased land back to the state at all? If not will they attempt to develop the land or sell it on to another buyer? These are important questions to be asked in Goa, where 18% of the state is affected by mining.

 

A Critical Legal History of Mining in Goa

by Krishnendu Mukherjee

On the 12.8.11, the High Court of Bombay at Goa, delivered a landmark judgment in relation to environmental protection. In Shankar Raghunath Jog v Talaulicar and Sons Pvt Limited and Union of India PILWP 6/2011, the High Court interpreted the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification (EIA) 1994, Paragraph III (c) provides the following:

The [environment] clearance granted shall be valid for a period of five years from the commencement of the construction or operation of the project.”

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Trial of mining execs at Responsible Extractives Summit

Responsible Extractives Summit29th June 2015. Representatives from Foil Vedanta, Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike, Black dissidents, All Africa Women’s Group, Sorry you Feel Uncomortable, Survivial Guides and Parai Voice of Freedom today opposed the 6th Annual Responsible Extractives Summit at the Tower Bridge Hilton Hotel in London today. They held a theatrical trial of some of the conference attendees and key public figures from the mining industry and NGOs behind the concept of ‘responsible mining and oil and gas’. Protesters wearing masks of Former Shell Executive and UN Global Compact founder Mark Moody Stuart, post-war mining profiteer Tony Blair, Vedanta CEO and former Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese, mining-fixer in Iraq and Afghanistan Ian Hannam, and NGO financier and former business magnate George Soros were found guilty of a list of crimes against humanity and the environment by a woman dressed as a judge in full robes and wig.

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Global days of action against Vedanta’s 2015 AGM

AGM 2015 flyer excerpt Join us for the 11th annual Global Days of Action against Vedanta Resources and its subsidiaries.

On Monday the 3rd of August we will hold a loud and colourful demonstration outside Vedanta’s Annual General Meeting in London in solidarity with the many communities suffering pollution, illness, oppression, displacement and poverty as a result of Vedanta’s operations.

In the days leading up to this event communities suffering from Vedanta’s operations across India and Afrika will hold rallies and meetings as part of the Global Days of Action against Vedanta. News of these protests will be spread via press and social media and shared between affected communities who are joined in this global movement opposing this careless corporate, and all profit-driven corporates colonising and polluting our planet.

Join us in London with drums and placards on Monday 3rd of August, 2pm at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, EC2Y 8AA.

Download the AGM 2015 flyer here.

Extractive Industries on Trial! Protest at the Responsible Extractives Summit 2015.

Responsible Extractives Summit 2015 flyer excerptPlease join us to oppose the 6th Annual Responsible Extractives Summit at Tower Bridge Hilton on Monday 29th June.

Expose crooked executives from Shell, Vedanta, Rio Tinto, JP Morgan, Bechtel and more, co-opting UN’s human rights mechanisms and using sustainability and CSR spin to cover up their extensive and ongoing crimes against humanity and the environment.

Monday 29th June, 12 midday. Hilton Hotel, Tower Bridge, London, SE1 2BY.

Bring drums and placards!!

download the flyer here: Responsible Extractives demo flyer

More info on the true neocolonial faces of the key speakers at the event:

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Zambia: Evidence of corruption and miscarriage of justice in KCM water poisoning case

Mushishima Stream, polluted by Vedanta KCM

Mushishima Stream, polluted by Vedanta KCM

2nd June. This article also appeared in the Lusaka Times on May 19th.                    On 2nd April the Supreme Court of Zambia upheld a precedent High Court verdict that Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) is guilty of major water pollution which turned the Kafue into a river of acid in 2006 and poisoned thousands of people, some of who have suffered long term impacts to their liver, kidneys and other functions(1). But the $2 million compensation originally awarded by the High Court to 2001 victims who self organised to sue KCM, has been reduced to virtually nothing, denying them their long due justice.(2)

Now lead claimant James Nyasulu has been receiving threats and harassment from agents working on behalf of KCM, telling him not to fight this multinational company, which has connections in the judiciary.Nyasulu and the committee of claimants have evidenced multiple incidents of procedural irregularities, bribery and corruption during their nine year struggle for legal redress:

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Zambia Supreme Court holds Vedanta guilty of water poisoning

Supreme Court demo London2nd 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).

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James Nyasulu, a poultry farmer from Chingola and the lead claimant in the case reacted to the judgement today:

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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.”

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