‘Zero harm’ – Minutes of Vedanta Resources’ 2017 AGM

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 16.58.457th 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.

3. Mr. Agarwal thanked the staff for their contribution to the company. He noted that Tom Albanese will soon leave the company, moving to be reunited with his family in US, and that they are looking for a suitable replacement. He then ran through various notes of  changes to the board, before handing over to Mr. Albanese, the CEO.

Seven workers die

Police at Vedanta AGM 20174. Mr. Albanese reiterated that it had been an important year for the company. They had built on previous successes. He noted that, after the merger with Cairn, they are a simpler, more streamlined company, which is better for returning value to shareholders. On health and safety, he again reiterated the aim is to do zero harm, claiming it is “our ultimate goal and top priority”. They have apparently improved their HSE training, but nonetheless last year was overshadowed by seven deaths. He noted that although so far the numbers for this year are lower than last year, there has already been one fatality this year. Yet, the company have confidence they are on the right track.

5. He went on to praise Vedanta’s market performance last year. Prices have in general risen, especially for oil. Vedanta has made the most of a good market performance. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) is up to $3.2 billion. The company will continue to reduce the debt they are carrying, while continuing to return value to shareholders. Last year was one of simplifying the structure after the Cairn merger. Vedanta has been ramping up production, with a record annual production at aluminium, power, zinc and silver (at Zinc-India) and copper.

6. Coming back to sustainability issues, he noted that Vedanta has a global footprint. He claimed they have been doing their best to reduce the impact of the company on the environment:  surpassing their water saving target, reducing and recycling more waste (including using fly ash in construction), and producing biodiversity management plans. He made specific reference to Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), the subject of a major UK court case on behalf of thousands of polluted farmers, claiming that Vedanta has been doing its best to deal with ‘legacy issues’ there, including reducing problems from the waste dam. Despite the Annual Report’s admission that Vedanta’s greenhouse gas emissions were up to 53 million tons in 2016/17, against 42 million tons the previous year, he claimed that there has been an active revision of carbon policy, and they now have a group wide carbon strategy setting carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets for 2020 (targeting a 16% reduction from a 2012 base).

FPIC

7. With regard to the social license to operate, the company claimed again to respect free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) for indigenous peoples which relates both to Vedanta itself and their domestic suppliers. The company are spending over $17million on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects, improving, he claimed, 260,000 lives.  He boldly claimed that the company’s commitment to sustainable development is something shareholders can be proud of, and has been recognised by others.

8. To conclude, he said, the company will continue to increase production, will keep a tight control on costs, de-leverage the balance sheet, simplify the group structure, will protect and preserve its social license to operate and the environment. Mr Albanese noted how much he will miss the company and working with its chairman.

Questions from the floor

9. We then moved onto questions. For the first time this year all questions had to be submitted to the board on entry into the AGM. The Chair could then decide on question order, and which to accept. Despite this new policy all activist shareholder questions were asked this year.

Cash and cobalt

10. Pradeep Sharma said he was  grateful to Tom Albanese for his leadership, with a noticeable improvement in teamwork. He also passed on thanks to the Chairman. He said that the Cairn merger is the biggest achievement in the last year, and he noted that the chairman relinquished a sizeable share in the company and should be thanked for that. The question was: looking to the future, with regard to the need for new metals and understanding that Konkola has the potential to produce cobalt,  are there any plans to develop this?

11. Mr. Agarwal noted that in terms of returning money the company is keen to ensure the money will go back to society. The company plans to adopt 50 million children and 20 million women, noting “we need to ‘lift them’”. There is a need to create a “world class India”. “India is the largest democracy in the world and we need to educate our children”, he said. Referring to his thus-far scuppered plans for a Vedanta University in Puri, he said “we will put in a billion dollars to create a university, a think tank.” He noted that the liberal arts create great potential and will be a strong focus. The question on cobalt was passed over to Steven Din, who noted that KCM already extract cobalt at 2-5 tonnes a year and have larger total resources. They are exploring the opportunities to expand and are aware of potential markets.

Niyamgiri

12. Gordon Bennett  said he was glad to hear the acknowledgement of Mr Albanese regarding FPIC. He also noted that the people of Niyamgiri have roundly rejected the proposed mine there, and so hopes the company will not pursue it.

13. Mr. Albanese replied that he wanted to reinforce that the policy covers not just Vedanta, and includes what is happening in Odisha. “We will respect the wishes of people,” he said. The situation in India is that FPIC is in the law, and the gram sabha system codifies it.

Worker injury

14. Simon Chambers noted that a letter had sent on 18th July to Mr Tom Albanese with regard to a man who lost his arm while working for the company. The question was whether the company have been able to investigate and do anything about this? This person has a young baby and cannot work because he lost his arm. Also, how does the company ensure that zero harm is being done locally? Non-company people visit the mine sites, and it seems sometimes it is up to others to point out problems.

15. Tom Albanese noted his own personal commitment to the safety of every worker and contractor. The company had sent a reply to the letter last week, but it sounded like Simon had not received it. Mr Albanese’s understanding is that the accident was unfortunate, that medical care was offered and in one case refused. The man in question is being given full care and is still on the pay roll of contractor.

16. An exchange then followed, with Simon asking how long this man would be on the payroll, and noting that there appears to be a disparity between what is being asked and given. Mr. Agarwal then intervened, asking whether the desire was for the man’s child to have an education. He then stated, “I confirm in this open meeting that I am taking a pledge that we will take care of this child’s education.” Simon noted the communication needed to be with the man directly on his demands, and insisted this offer should be written in a letter to him. Mr. Agarwal replied that the argument was over.

Korba disaster

Korba placard 2017 Vedanta AGM17. Simon pointed out that his question was whether to trust the company, as they had been promised to see the results of the investigation of the Korba chimney disaster but had not got that yet. He noted that it is clear the company could not be trusted on that, so he again asked them to write to the man in question. Mr. Albanese noted that they had accepted the letter with pure respect, and had replied to the original letter.

Talwindi Sabo Power

18. Kavita Bhanot stated that Vedanta’s Punjab power generating subsidiary, Talwindi Sabo Power Limited, claims to be the “Greenest Thermal Power Plant in North India”. She said: “Your Annual report claims that you are committed to ‘zero harm, zero waste and zero discharge’ and the principle of Free Prior Informed Consent. Yet, a recent fact finding visit to the area around Banawala village in Mansa found that:
–   No public hearing or consultation was carried out prior to land acquisition as per environmental clearance norms.
–   Compensation paid to farmers was below market value as Talwindi Sabo Power Ltd claimed the land was barren when it was in fact fertile land with standing crops.
–   Dalit and landless labourers received no compensation for their loss of livelihood and loss of access to Panchayati land.
–   Ash from the plant rains down on local communities and crops causing respiratory problems, itching and burning eyes, rashes on the body and headaches, as well as serious diseases in cattle.
–   Four labourers died in construction of the plant, and two more in 2015 while cleaning cooling towers.

“Your report also admits an increase in carbon footprint from 42 million tonnes of CO2 emitted last year to 53 million tonnes this year. How do these reports square with your sustainability claims?”

19. Anil Agarwal said that it was the Government of Punjab who took the land. He said it was not Vedanta’s responsibility to buy the land. He then passed over to Samir Cairae. Mr Cairae noted that he knows the plant well as he goes there every month. He claimed it is one of the most advanced plants, and that it complies not just with the Indian Government’s standards, but that it is one of best in the world. On the situation of fly ash, the technology is world class, it is not being dispersed. He noted they are proud of the plant as the fly ash is being used for building material in the region. He issued an invitation to join him on one of his visits.

20. Ms. Bhanot responded that actually, what was being said was blatantly untrue. She had been to Banawala and saw with her own eyes people returning from working for a few hours on the fields, covered in ash. She heard people complaining about the fly ash problem. It is affecting crops, it is affecting the short term and long term health of local villagers in the area. “The environment that people are living in around the power plant is very disturbing, so you can’t tell me that everything is fine.” There was then an offer from the board to follow up later in writing.

Bodai-Daldali

Manual workers at Bodai Daldali mines

Manual workers at Bodai Daldali mines

21. Mining researcher Roger Moody prefaced his question by saying hello in particular to Mr Albanese, noting that in his time he had brought a certain weight to the company and done his best to balance some of the bombast from others. Mr Moody noted although Mr Albanese was leaving, he was still up for election as a director, so not really leaving the company. (Mr Albanese said he would respond to this, but unfortunately it was lost in other responses). Mr Moody’s question was in response to points made by the Norwegian Pension Fund Council of Ethics (NPF CoE), noting that, having been in touch with them since 2012 regarding the 2007 exclusion of Vedanta by the Fund, the NPF had recently produced a new report and confirmed the company’s exclusion. With regard to the company’s explanations on the reported poor conditions at the Bodai-Daldali mine, the new report noted that Mr Albanese had promised that he would visit the mine. Was this promise fulfilled?

22. Tom Albanese  replied that yes, he did visit both of the mines in Chhattisgarh as he had promised to do. He said he appreciated the exchanges with Mr Moody on this, and knows that Roger recognises these are complex issues. The NPF also understands this, and they are listening not just to what the company says, but what it is doing. Roger followed up asking for a report on the state of the mines.

23. Mr. Albanese noted he visited both sites, and that Samir had visited too. First, there were conditions among manual labourers that have improved, but are not where they should be. The company’s aim should be mechanised mining. However, they have had opposition to introducing it from the workforce. The local community wanted the manual work. They have changed some of the conditions, i.e. put ramps in place where it had been highlighted that these were needed. Samir Cairae said that there has to be nothing short of a cultural revolution. The sustainable solution is mechanisation, but there was a backlash. If it will be manual mining then it has to be safe. Mr. Albanese then noted they still need to do more, and respects Mr Moody’s observations,  and Mr Moody himself. (At a later point it was noted that the position of CEO was open, and Mr Moody may wish to apply … which raised various levels of mirth from all parties).

24. A further exchange continued over Mr Moody being thwarted in going to the site to inspect it unannounced, and Mr. Albanese noting that there had been an invitation, but that Mr Moody had already left the mining area. Mr Moody then asked about how long Albanese had visited, and Mr. Albanese noted it was two days in June and that he had spoken to local people. Mr Moody noted he wanted to stress that he wasn’t saying he wanted an end to manual labour, and there should be consent among the workers/community to any change. Mr. Albanese said he thought the company did its best in difficult circumstances.

25. Mr Moody raised another issue that was in the CoE report, which was with regard to the BALCO (Korba) disaster and the situation of the workers involved. Mr. Albanese noted that there are ongoing court proceedings, but the company had done studies. Samir Cairae took over on this, noting they have been improving the situation with regard to families. There should be an investigation and liabilities should be fixed, but the company’s priority should be to the families. They asked researchers to do a study looking at 40 families. The company will share the report, but note that the initial results show that the majority of income levels have increased. Roger said that we would like to see the report being referred to. He added that it was after the event, and is about compensation, but the point is – asking them to agree – that the accident should not have happened. There has still not been an independent report on what caused the accident. The Bakshi report is still under wraps, thanks to the company, and is sub judice.

26. Mr. Albanese replied that the company is fully respecting the court process. He confirmed, “I wish the accident in 2009 had never happened”, noting that all the families also wish it hadn’t happened. Mr Moody noted they had referred to 40 families, but there is evidence there is more than 40; that 40 is an absolute minimum. Mr. Albanese said that the ongoing processes of investigation are serious, and the full facts will come out.

27. Mr Moody noted that we were still not much further on, but Mr. Albanese disagreed, noting that the issues had been raised with the company and 40 families are better off. Mr Moody then asked if there was anything new on the table (in terms of information), and Mr. Albanese replied “only with regard to 40 families”.

General free-for-all

28. At this point something of a general free-for-all argument broke out when a shareholder (Mr Pradeep Sharma) objected to the line of questioning. He argued that this was an operational concern, and the AGM was for strategic discussion: “This should be strategic. It is accident – accidents are terrible, but this is operational and more for the Government of India”.

29. Samarendra Das from the floor reiterated that Vedanta is a British mining company and is on trial here, and so there is no need to  drag the Government of India in unnecessarily. Mr Moody tried to reply, and make a final comment, Mr. Albanese offered to meet with him, and various arguments, and counter-arguments (and angry interjections) flew around the floor. It was noted that one of the reasons people kept coming back and asking the same questions is that answers are not given. Simon Chambers called out, “we are as sick of asking as you are of listening.” Some order was eventually restored.

KCM in the High Court

polluted water comes from a borehole in Shimulala, Zambia

polluted water comes from a borehole in Shimulala, Zambia

30. Andy Whitmore observed that page 50 of the company’s sustainable development report states that “Our human rights policy is aligned to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights”. Therefore one can assume that the Board fully endorses the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, and the importance of due diligence with regard to the human rights impact of Vedanta’s companies, particularly in the developing world. Also the Board have knowledge of the complaints of systematic environmental concerns arising out of KCM’s operations, because such complaints have been brought to previous AGMs. “How then can this be reconciled with Vedanta’s lawyer’s contention in your appeal at the UK High Court in July this year that Vedanta has both no knowledge of, and no control over, KCM’s environmental record?

31. Mr. Albanese replied that the company do take human rights very seriously, and lived up to what was in their reports. He suggested that the paraphrasing used may not have captured the detailed legal arguments. However, he noted that there was a court case under way and so he cannot be too specific on the issues in the case. He said that these were mainly legacy issues, and that they had been going on for 70 years or more. He passed over to KCM CEO Steve Din, who explained what the company was doing with regard to sorting issues around the dam and on activities in downstream water management. They are “doing what they can and are improving the company’s ecological footprint, working with the Zambian Government. They are listening more closely to the concerns of local communities, and have a number of projects including the improvements to the smelter so that it is a world class smelter”.

32. Mr Whitmore noted that he could leave some of the detailed replies on KCM to other shareholders who may know more, but was deeply concerned by the statements. He was paraphrasing to save time, but encouraged other shareholders to read the transcripts, as the statements of the lawyers did seem to damn the hard work that had been done to create social, environmental and human rights policy. If they are right, then aren’t the policies  worthless?. Mr Albanese responded that he was just a “simple mining engineer”, but that he did respect legal processes.

Korba and the Modern Slavery Act

33. Krishnendu Mukherjee – a lawyer – said he had a comment and a question. On the comment, he attended to many of the victims of the BALCO/KORBA disaster in 2009 and found it one of the most harrowing experiences of his life. He understands they have been compensated, in the figure of 7-8 lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of rupees for each fatality. Given that most of those who died would have been in their 20’s and 30’s and would have had perhaps up to 30 years of working life, this is only a fraction of the compensation to which they should have been entitled. He said that compensation is divided into different heads of damage which under Indian law also includes punitive damages which could be up to double general and special damages. His question was with regard to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA), which requires companies with a turnover of more than £36m to take steps to ensure that their is no modern slavery in their supply chains. Modern slavery, according to the UK  Home Office Guidance, includes, as well as child and bonded labour, health and safety and environmental issues, and the law imposes a duty to disclose those policies on companies’ websites. The purpose of this is to give a choice to consumers as to which company’s products to buy (thus incentivising good practice, in the same way as the Transparency in Supply Chains Act in California). The s.54 MSA statement on the Vedanta website is to be applauded because it is better than many companies, and it includes a risk assessment in relation to modern slavery in geographical area and commodity. “I would ask that that risk assessment be made public to see how year on year Vedanta is improving its compliance with the MSA. In addition, Vedanta’s commitment to the UNGP Guidelines therefore includes a commitment to an operational-level grievance mechanism. Could the Board confirm that properly-functioning operational grievance mechanisms will be implemented?”

34. Mr. Albanese replied that he had already noted the huge regret over Korba, and so would move on. On modern slavery, he would like to think Vedanta is an early adopter. He noted that controls over supply chains are good, and the Modern Slavery Act is good for an efficient business. He said that the company will report in a way that is consistent with their peers. With regard to dispute resolutions, the company would do a gap analysis on that.

35. Mr. Mukherjee asked if it would be made public. Mr Albanese noted they would take his point into their input, and that the company was compliant.

KCM and its history of 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

36. Another shareholder asked about KCM. He noted it has a historic and systemic record of poor performance on environment and sustainability. This had come up in evidence in court cases, and he  also noted that funds are being diverted to improve the environmental situation. The question was “what reporting had been put in place to ensure that shareholders can see how the  promised money for environmental improvement has been spent?”

37. Mr. Agarwal responded that the company is continuously investing to improve the situation, but the shareholder pressed on the question, asking “where is the reporting mechanism on spending?”

38. Mr. Albanese responded that many have said that KCM does not publish its results. However, KCM is a separate company in Zambia, and its directors have fiduciary responsibilities. They have started publishing financial reports there every six months in the newspapers. They do not have to do that.

39. There was then a response from Steven Din who said he though there was a confusion. The money mentioned by the chair is a commitment to development. However, they have another raft of spending which will be on environmental improvements. The money mentioned will be on development, and will not be spent on one particular area, but across a number of different areas.

Hippo Pool

40. Shoda Rackal, from Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike, announced that  the headmen of Hippo Pool village in Chingola, Zambia, one of the main villages affected by twelve years of pollution of their water sources by Vedanta subsidiary KCM, had submitted this statement to the AGM: “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.” Ms Rackal asked “What is your response to this?”

41. The question was passed to Steven Din. He noted there are four communities. One includes Hippo Pool. They have had sediment deposited for 70 years, not just the last twelve. The four communities all rely on KCM for schools, clean water, hospitals and access to their communities. Each of those four communities are part of the CSR programme. He said, “I am very surprised that head men are making these claims.” He then referred back to earlier questions on what is being done to support them. Shoda pressed with “what other support can be given to them today?”  The response was that this question goes back to the court case, and there was an offer to talk later.

Climate change

42. A representative of Hermes investment said that the climate change strategy is in place, but stressed a need to be satisfied it is being taken seriously. Euan MacDonald had moved on from the board: was there still continued commitment? “How much does the whole board consider environmental issues, and if so, have commitments to environmental, social and governance issues got better over the last five years?”

43. Katya Zotova responded that the overall concern of the board has not diminished. Environmental matters are discussed at every board meeting. There are separate specific meetings too. Ms Zotova visits the sites. She had a passionate and personal commitment to these issues.

44. Mr. Albanese replied that they take this seriously. He noted as an American he still believes in the Paris Accords. He claimed India takes this issue seriously. Access to power is important to the country becoming more affluent. This has to be done quite quickly. The company have had discussions with the Government of India on carbon capture and storage, to help the Government of India in this regard. “We are seriously increasing our commitment to renewables. The world will look different soon with how it sources its electricity”.

KCM’s accounts and reports

45. Samarendra Das started by referring to the earlier concern about what was said to Simon Chambers. There was a request to look at another incident that was raised in 2015, regarding a victim called Rajkishore Yadav who had acid poured over his body by accident and never got any compensation. Yadav is living in a small town near Gaya in Bihar and has lost his sight and apparently cannot walk. Mr. Albanese asked for more details, and gave a commitment to look into it.

46. Samarendra then followed with regard to KCM and the legal status of the company: “Under Zambian law, public companies (PLCs) are obliged to file annual accounts with the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA). Members of the public are entitled to request copies of these accounts from PACRA”.  Steven Din said you can obtain the details by applying for a small fee. Samarendra responded that using channels available to ordinary Zambian citizens, one can obtain the accounts with a fee for this service of approximately £3.50 for each company. “Since 2012, it appeared that accounts for some of these companies, including Vedanta, had not been filed with PACRA. The experiences of OECD and DfID in trying to obtain these accounts appears to substantiate the allegations that the system is not working properly at present. For private companies, there is no requirement to file accounts with PACRA. The main mining companies operating in Zambia are private companies. Under the Securities Act, Cap 354 of the Laws of Zambia, all financial intermediaries conducting securities business in Zambia must be licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission;  the licensing process includes submission of financial statements; and these financial statements are available to members of the public. Whilst this mainly applies to financial institutions, some private companies are also registered as issuers of debt and equity instruments. However submission of accounts is only required at the time of licensing or renewal, not annually.”

47. Samarendra went on: “Since the company have been mentioning the case that is brought by the Zambian communities to London, shareholders may be interested to know that Vedanta and its Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines are currently the subject of a landmark case in which 1,826 farmers living downstream of KCMs mines have been granted jurisdiction to sue Vedanta in London for twelve years of pollution leading to loss of health and livelihood (Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe & Others v. Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc).

48. “At Vedanta’s appeal of the jurisdiction judgment in July your lawyers claimed that the company’s sustainability and human rights reports are in fact only produced for show as a requirement of London Stock Exchange rules and Vedanta Resources has very little actual oversight or involvement with subsidiary operations such as Konkola Copper Mines.

49. “So the question is to explain why the company have failed to mention this significant liability in your Annual Report? In addition please clarify the lawyer’s claims. Does the company have close involvement with, and oversight of, subsidiaries on matters of health, safety, environment and human rights?”

50. Mr. Albanese replied that the latter were related to the legal case, and had already been replied to in detail.

51. On the filing, he noted the company do filings, and have voluntarily published these in the news paper. One doesn’t need to pay 3.5 dollars, as one can read them in the newspapers. The company has been the subject of a number of forensic investigations and found nothing of concern. They have an audit committee and audit report. There is a clear delineation, and they would stand by that. Samarendra then followed up asking what is the status of KCM in Zambia? Tom Albanese’s whispered reply was that it is a private company.

Why is Tom Albanese leaving?

52. Mr Pradeep Sharma thanked the board for the dividend, but was disappointed in the share price (in comparison to Glencore’s). He noted that he had read that Mr. Albanese was leaving the company quickly, with no time for finding a replacement. He quoted Mr Albanese in his leaving statement, saying he thought company had a bright future, but as he is only 59, why is he not staying? What is the growth vector of the company?

53. Mr. Albanese noted the growth vector is good. He said he will almost be 60, and so wants to spend time with his family. He appreciates the point on notice.

54. Mr. Agarwal said that the company really appreciates what Mr Albanese has done. He came out of Rio Tinto. “We were an unpolished diamond, and he helped us polish it.”

Hijacking the AGM

55. Mr Sharma then made an observation that he felt the AGM was being hijacked by some activists over a number of years. He believed that if they didn’t get a reply they want, they should go to the Government of India. He claimed they don’t write to the company, but just bring issues here.

56. Mr. Agarwal replied that a company like BALCO is “a proper company”. 49% of BALCO is owned by the Government of India. They have the full responsibility to run this company. Vedanta has an investment in the company: “I come from India,” he said. “My daughter came to study here. Unless you are 25% better than others you can’t get the chance. That is what we are doing. We did not pluck a blade of grass from Niyamgiri.”

57. Simon Chambers then intervened, saying that the company did build an illegal refinery. He reiterated that the company’s critics do write letters (after all his question was a follow up to a letter!), but the problem is they don’t get answers. At this point Simon walked out, angry at not getting adequate answers.

Who’s in charge here?

58. Peter Frankental, of Amnesty International, said that many of the questions came down to the issue of what is the responsibility of the company? Vedanta has been playing catch up with regard to its policies. But what controls do the board have to ensure that the policies are put in place? “It is a question of accountability. It seems the company rely too much on NGOs to report problems. This really is a governance issue.”

59. Katya Zotova noted that such issues were referred to at each sustainability meeting. All heads of departments attend and they go on for hours. There is a review of accidents. The company also do regular audits. Part of this is to look at every meeting in terms of follow up on recommended actions. The meetings are thorough, and it is Ms Zotova’s duty  to report to the main board about the results of these meetings. It is not just for show.

Has Vedanta ever done any good?

60. Giorgio Riva said that he worked for an Italian daily paper, and read the newspapers. He noted that he never reads any story on how good Vedanta is. He wanted to go back to what Mr Moody said regarding the Norwegian Pension Fund’s Council on Ethics report. He noted it finds numerous reasons for exclusion, and concludes there is a ‘high risk’ to investment. Do the points made in the report have any direct impact?

61. Mr. Albanese said that he takes on board the request to get out better news. With regard to the Norwegian Pension Fund, he noted it is the deepest of ironies that the money for it comes from oil. He stated that there are a number of companies that are excluded. It does not affect the company pension provision; it is a separate investment fund. He affirmed that the company do take it seriously, particularly as it affects other investors. The Council on Ethics is not going to be in a rush to change their opinion. The company needs steady, regular engagement. He noted the key target of investment people would be to get their investment back.

Risk assessments and environmental reports

62. Richard Harkinson said he was disappointed that the company won’t publish its risk assessment for the Modern Slavery Act. The suggestion was that it is based on publicly available information. But surely the opposite should be true. The company should be transparent on that. So will the company publish it?

63. His second question was with regard to KCM.  It seemed that the company had not replaced a smelter, but put in SO2 capture. There had been an increase in the output of the refinery, as well as its responding to environmental issues. “It seems that there has been an avoidance of the question of environmental reports, by talking about financial transparency. There has not been enough heard about the environmental impacts.”

64. Mr. Albanese said that with the Modern Slavery Act, the UK is a world leader on this issue and the company sees itself in compliance and consistent with the best who are reporting. It was not on anyone’s radar a few years back. The company treat it seriously.

65. “To be clear on the smelter on Zambia, there was a smelter in Kitwe. It was shut down 8-9 years ago and is being demolished. The new smelter has 99.8% capture. Our sustainability report has quite a lot of information on this.”

The end is nigh

66. There was then a discussion on how to do electronic voting, and with some relief the meeting was closed..

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