Category Archives: Articles

Vedanta’s toxic debt tricks

Vedanta AGM 20135th May 2016 With $2.9 billion in debt covenants and inter-company loans due in 2016 Vedanta is turning to increasingly controversial and irregular methods to bleed cash from its few profitable subsidiaries. Having already asset stripped the Zambian Konkola Copper Mines, being prevented by an employees union from getting access to Hindustan Zinc Ltd’s $4.6 billion cash reserves, and by shareholder action from getting hold of Cairn India’s cash, Vedanta are now paying themselves ridiculous 1200% dividends in a desperate attempt to grab the cash and keep the lenders happy.

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How KCM is killing the Zambian Copperbelt. Part 1: water 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

19th February 2016. In October 2015 Foil Vedanta visited Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) for the second time to investigate the legacy of pollution that has destroyed the environment and livelihoods around Chingola since 2004, when Vedanta bought controlling shares in KCM. KCM is Africa’s largest copper mine and the largest mining company in the copper dependent economy of Zambia. Our 2014 report Copper Colonialism: Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia exposed some of KCM’s major corporate malpractices including large scale tax evasion and mis-declaring profits, labour rights violations, and gross pollution which has continually contaminated the river Kafue causing sickness and loss of livelihood for tens of thousands of Zambians. We accused Vedanta and the UK government, which has given KCM active and tacit support, of neo-colonialism and of treating Zambian lives and environment as cheap.

In 2015 an eight year long legal battle by 2000 contaminated residents finally ended when the Supreme Court of Zambia confirmed the High Court’s opinion that KCM was guilty of ‘gross recklessness’ and damaging villagers’ health. However, the $2 million in damages earlier awarded by the High Court was removed, leaving the residents short of real justice. Subsequently London law firms have filed for damages from Vedanta Resources on behalf of approximately 3000 of the contaminated villagers, and the shocking story of ten years of pollution has reached the Guardian and BBC. However, many thousands remain un-represented and there is no guarantee that the pollution will stop in the event of a settlement. This article gives voice to some of the victims of KCM’s ongoing water pollution whom we met around Chingola, where KCM’s Nchanga open pit and underground mines, concentrators, Tailings Leach Plant, and smelter are located, and details KCM’s sheer disregard for life in Zambia despite several criminal prosecutions for contamination. KCM’s air pollution will be the subject of a separate article.

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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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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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