Crowds throng at 24th March 2018 public meeting
20th April 2018. This detailed history of the anti-Sterlite movement by Ilangovan Rajasekaran was first published in Frontline magazine on April 17. Reproduced with permission of Frontline and the author here.
In Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district, protests against Sterlite’s copper smelter plant get a second wind as local residents’ health and environmental concerns over the company’s expansion plan lead to the revival of a long-forgotten people’s movement.
PEOPLE of the port town of Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu had never before poured out onto the streets in such large numbers as they did on March 24 in solidarity with the 100-odd residents of Kumareddiapuram who are waging a battle against the proposed Rs.3,500-crore expansion plan of Sterlite Industries (India) Limited’s giant copper smelter plant situated in the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited (SIPCOT) complex that adjoins Kumareddiapuram and a few other villages.
Anil Agarwal’s London mansion
24th March 2018 A noisy protest took place at 42-44 Hill Street in Mayfair, London, today, as British Tamils armed with traditional Parai drums joined with major demonstrations in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, India, against the expansion of British company Sterlite’s copper smelter in the State. The London protest, which took place at the $20 million home of company boss Anil Agarwal, was called by Foil Vedanta, Tamil People in UK and Parai – Voice of Freedom.
See a short video of the London protest HERE
Coverage in Hindustan Times – British Tamils protest outside Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal’s home in London
The News Minute – Can you hear the voice of UK Tamils? Sterlite protests outside Vedanta founder’s house in UK
Meanwhile in Tuticorin 250,000 people packed the streets for a major demonstration and public meeting organised by the Anti Killer Sterlite People’s Movement. Shutters on shops throughout the town were also down today following a total shutdown (bandh) called by The Merchant’s Association. This is the biggest protest yet against the Sterlite plant, and comes on the 40th day of continuous protest in the town, demanding that the plant is permanently closed and the expansion stopped. Permission for the protest was initially turned down by police but was successfully challenged by activists and granted by the High Court on 14th March.
16 March 2018. The AGM of Lonmin Plc in London yesterday was met with angry protests as three delegates from Marikana in South Africa addressed crowds before attending the meeting. Families and victims of the Marikana massacre, in which 34 platinum miners were shot dead by private security and police while on strike in 2012, still have no apology, no compensation and no justice.
At a public meeting later that day, the delegates – Jo Seoka, retired Bishop of Pretoria; Thumeka Magwangqana from Marikana women’s organisation Sikhala Sonke (“We cry together“); and Andries Nkome, the attorney 275 arrested and injured miners – described in detail the chilling events of the massacre, and the traumatised and impoverished state of the community today.
The Farlam Commission into the killings have now proven that orders to take drastic action against the striking miners came from government level, including from Lonmin Non-Executive director and 20% shareholder Cyril Ramaphosa, who is now President of South Africa. Platoons of heavily armed police were ordered to the strike with a number of mortuary vans instead of ambulances, showing that there was calculated intent was to kill large numbers of people. Razor wire was spread out around the miners to prevent them from running into the townships, and instead funnel them into the line of fire.
Children’s placards read: ‘Sterlite: mercy killers’
15th February. On Monday up to 500 people declared a hunger strike and indefinite protest against the planned expansion of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), Tamil Nadu. Two days into the protest police rounded up and arrested 270 people including many women and children, eventually releasing all except eight so-called ringleaders including social worker and Anti Sterlite Struggle Federation Coordinator Professor Fatima Babu, who are still being held by police. Large groups of school children and their mothers made up the majority of the protest. Their placards and statements to the media demand an end to years of toxic pollution from the plant, which is causing respiratory diseases and fainting, especially affecting the children, with long term consequences to their health. Water is also being polluted, and huge amounts used by the plant, in an already water-stressed area.
Lionel Persey QC passed the judgment against KCM
18th Jan 2018 In the third major London case against Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) since 2014, the English High Court on January 2nd ordered KCM to pay $139 million plus costs to Zambian government entity ZCCM Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) for sums owed as part of a copper and cobalt price participation agreement dating back to 2004, when Vedanta took over the Zambian copper mine. ZCCM-IH is the 20.6% shareholder of KCM. In February 2013 various claims of non-payment against KCM were the subject of a Settlement Agreement in which KCM agreed to pay a total of $119 million to ZCCM-IH in two instalments. However they subsequently reneged on the agreement after paying only $19 million, forcing ZCCM-IH to take them to London courts. In the High Court’s January summary judgment a further $36 million was awarded for KCM’s further breaching of the Settlement Agreement by making payments to its parent company Vedanta Resources while the amounts due to ZCCM-IH were still outstanding. (Download the full judgment here)
12th December 2017. Despite the cold, a loud and theatrical protest was again held outside the AGM of British mining company Global Coal Resources Management (GCM) at the Aeronautical Society in 4 Hamilton Place in London at 10am today. In solidarity with the communities in Phulbari, where three people were shot dead as paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration of 80,000 people in 2006, protesters reaffirmed that they will not sleep until GCM is ousted from Bangladesh. A parallel protest followed by a press conference was held in Phulbari against the plans by GCM, an AIM-listed company who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. Inside the AGM in London, dissident shareholders asked questions on behalf of the communities in Phulbari and Dinajpur by accusing the company of human rights abuses as the CEO of the company has filed multiple arbitrary charges against 26 frontline defenders, indigenous farmers, small entrepreneurs and local leaders who opposed the mine.
A full report of the AGM proceedings from dissident shareholders can be found here: Flogging a Dead Horse: the 2017 GCM Resources AGM
Albanese with Zambian government ministers on behalf of Vedanta in 2014
20th October 2017. On Tuesday the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a fraud case against Rio Tinto and two of its executives Tom Albanese (until recently Vedanta’s CEO) and Guy Elliot for inflating the value of a misguided coal deal with Mozambique in 2011. Rio Tinto was immediately fined £27.4 million by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK for breaching UK listing rules. Albanese and Elliot now face major fines for ‘ill gotten gains’ plus interest, as well as a ban on serving as directors of any public company.
Albanese presided over multiple human rights violations while serving as Rio Tinto CEO, and was finally forced to leave in 2011 following the disastrous $44 billion dollar decision to merge with Alcan in 2007 that had written off $9 billion, followed by the failed Mozambique coal deal (see previous article on this website). Guy Elliot has exercised considerable influence over India’s mineral policy, telling Indian decisions-makers it should include a fast-track clearance procedure, and allow ‘security of tenure’, i.e. grant long-term lease rights to foreign mining companies in a speech at the India-UK Business Leaders’ Forum in June 2006.
Please read the Financial Times article: Rio Tinto charged with fraud in US and fined in UK for more information.
6th July. This report is a detailed account of hearings in Vedanta’s appeal against Justice Coulson’s 2016 judgment allowing the case of Zambian villagers polluted by KCM/Vedanta to be heard in the UK, which took place during the 5th and 6th July.
At 9am on Wednesday 5th of July activists from Foil Vedanta Pan African Society Community Forum (PASCF), Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike and London Mining Network rallied outside the Royal Courts of Justice with placards and banners calling for justice for thousands of Zambian villagers polluted by Konkola Copper Mines, a subsidiary of UK firm Vedanta Resources PLC. At 10am the court session in Vedanta’s appeal to the May 2016 judgment, which allowed the claimants case to be heard in the UK, began.
The protesters sat in the public gallery of the small court which was packed with observers and press. In the benches, Vedanta’s legal team consisted of two QCs instructed by ‘magic circle’ corporate law firm Herbert Smith Freehills , as well as three assistants. Behind them Vedanta’s company secretary Deepak Kumar attended along with Geoffrey Green, a non executive director and former partner in law firm Ashurst LLP. On the claimant’s side personal injury firm Leigh Day Solicitors also had two QCs and a number of lawyers and assistants including firm partner Martyn Day sitting at the back. Above them on the judges bench the case was heard by Lord Justice Jackson, Lord Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Asplin.
Wednesday’s hearing was almost entirely taken up with the lengthy appeal plea of Vedanta’s lawyer, Mr Charles Gibson QC. His argument, which we give in detail here, hung on these points:
5th July 2017. The latest hearing in the case of the Chingola communities consistently polluted by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) began at the Court of Appeals in London today. A rally organised by Foil Vedanta with Pan African solidarity groups took place outside the court in solidarity with the victims of ongoing pollution who have been fighting legal battles for justice in Zambia, and now the UK, for eleven years.
Activists from Pan African Society Community Forum (PASCF), Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike and London Mining Network joined Foil Vedanta today to rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice calling for justice for thousands of Zambian villagers polluted by UK firm Vedanta Resources, and echoing their demands. The protesters sat in the public gallery of the court which was packed with observers and press.
artists impression of Deepak Kumar in court today
Inside the court Vedanta’s lawyers began their appeal against a May 2016 decision to allow the villagers’ case to be heard in the UK, arguing that Vedanta has no duty of care to claimants potentially polluted by subsidiary KCM. The case Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe vs Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines is being heard by Lord Justice Jackson, Lord Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Asplin and may continue for several days. Vedanta’s company secretary Deepak Kumar attended the hearing along with Geoffrey Green, a non executive director and former partner in law firm Ashurst LLP.
16th March 2017. In its latest report, released on 9th March 2017, the Norwegian Council of Ethics has again excluded Vedanta from the Government Pension Fund’s investment universe. The report is an indictment of Vedanta’s pattern of operation at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia, finding “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements” and concluding that “there continues to be an unacceptable risk that your company will cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”
The Fund first divested from the company in 2007 after Vedanta Sterlite’s operations in India — Thoothukudi, Chhattisgarh and Orissa — and in other parts of the world were found to be in violation of accepted human rights and environmental norms.
The Pension Fund is “the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with shares in 9,000 companies. . .[and] 1.3 percent of the entire world’s listed equity, giving the decisions it takes to drop or reinstate shareholdings or warn firms considerable weight among investors.”
Read the Council’s full assessment of Vedanta’s operations below. Continue reading