This article by Buntungwa Ward Councillor, Soko Mumba, details attempts by Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary KCM to cover up circumstances surrounding the death of a worker earlier this year. It is not clear if Mr Mwape’s tragic death is counted as one of the nine fatalities recorded in Vedanta’s 2018 Annual Report, which make a mockery of their ‘zero harm’ policy. Adding insult to injury, Vedanta CEO Kuldip Kaura’s statement in the report:
“Our training programmes have focused on getting our employees make better risk decisions so that they can start to identify those behaviours that result in injuries and fatalities.”
Every mining undertaking has its risks but such risks can be avoided if a company operates within the confines of the Mining and Safety Regulations, which are there to promote both human life and mining business. You can not talk of a successful business without safety and you can’t of course talk about successful safety without human life.
It takes serious investment to implement the mining and Safety Regulations if a mining company is to have Zero fatalities as Vedanta claims. If there is no serious investment in both human and business capital, the chances of having fatalities are very high.
This is the case at Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary KCM, which has been operating without capital injection into the business and human capital. This has resulted in the company cutting down costs to maximise profits by bypassing certain safety procedures in the quest to meet the growing demand for copper.
The first covers the myriad police violations of 22nd May in Thoothukudi, including attempts to split the movement prior to the protest, and torture of youth after the fatal shootings. The second details the plight of Thoothukudi’s fishermen whose seas have been rendered barren due to pollution.
Gunning down a protest
The police open fire, in a “stage-managed” riot situation, on people protesting against the Sterlite copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. The death of 13 people and the grievous injuries suffered by many have only strengthened the residents’ resolve to fight against industries that threaten lives and livelihoods.
On the morning of May 22, Vanitha stood at the doorstep of her one-room house in Lion’s Town, a fishermen’s locality in Thoothukudi town in southern Tamil Nadu, and caught sight of her daughter waving to her from the street corner. The 18-year-old “darling” of her parents and two elder brothers was on her way to the Our Lady of Snows Basilica nearby. Residents had been asked to assemble there to participate in a rally to mark the 100th day of the “anti-Sterlite struggle”.
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.