1st August 2013. Foil Vedanta’s report with pictures:
Today protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organizations held a loud carnival demonstration at the AGM of controversial FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square London. A parallel demo was held in Johannesburg. Yesterday in Delhi almost a hundred people braved rains to raise their protest at Odisha Bhawan. Meanwhile, the majority of tribal village meetings given legal power by the Supreme Court of India have unanimously voted against Vedanta’s flagship Niyamgiri mine.
Vedanta’s London AGM was again disrupted today by protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organisations who raised a number of human rights concerns. Chanting and singing was continuous throughout the two hour protest and could be heard inside the AGM. Protesters held placards painted with defiant anti-company quotes from the Dongria Kond tribe in Odisha, India, where the company has been trying to mine illegally for ten years, and has now been stopped. Another group performed street theatre holding a giant inflatable monster with Vedanta Resources painted on it, and snake like heads bearing the names of Vedanta’s subsidiaries. Some Sri Lankan protesters played Parai drums (a Tamil drum of revolution) outside the Mayfair venue. Vedanta subsidiary Cairn India is drilling in the fragile Mannar basin off Sri Lanka. At the peak of the protests a sit in was staged as the Vedanta monster was used to block the road.
Protesters in Delhi yesterday sang, chanted and heard speeches. The protest was timed to coincide with Vedanta’s London AGM and was organised in association Foil Vedanta. It received wide press coverage. A video of the demonstration by Shridhar Sudhir can be found here.
Meanwhile in Panaji, Goa, a group of ‘clowns’ staged a satirical performance outside the offices of Vedanta subsidiary Sesa Goa asking them to please cause more mine waste floods, health problems and environmental damage – which they have been accused of.
The protesters in London and India celebrated the victory of the Dongria Kond over Vedanta.In April the Supreme Court of India gave a precedent final verdict that the ultimate decision on the contentious Niyamgiri mine should be taken by village meetings (palli sabhas) held on the mountain. On Monday the majority vote was in, as the seventh of twelve meetings registered an unanimous NO to the project. To date nine palli sabhas have been held and each one has unanimously voted against the project. Commentators are suggesting the mine will now be cancelled, losing Vedanta a $7 billion investment.
Societe Generale’s analysts report states:
‘Niyamgiri bauxite reserves in the state of Odisha were central to Vedanta’s aggressive expansion plans in aluminium. We think Vedanta’s management was overly confident and committed too much capital without getting all the relevant clearances in this case.
…As the environmental clearance (in Niyamgiri) has not happened, and we do not see it coming any time soon, an investment of close to $7bn is generating close to 0 EBIDTA.’
The fiery speeches given by the tribal community, and quoted at today’s AGM, have been reported daily in India’s national papers, in what has now become a major national issue(6). From Odisha, Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti’s Lingaraj Azad said:
“Vedanta has built its refinery at Lanjigarh without environmental and forest clearances, and expanded from 1 to 6 million tonnes, encroaching on reserves forest land and violating a multitude of laws. It has told so many lies to the Supreme Court. Now that the people’s verdict has given a clear NO to the Niyamgiri mine the refinery should be dismantled and closed for good.
From Lanjigarh to London the people’s battle has been won!”
In Johannesburg a picket by Earthlife Africa protested a coal fired power station planned by Vedanta Zinc. Their press release states:
In Johannesburg, Earthlife Africa held a picket at Anglo American’s headquarters. The demonstration was carried out in solidarity with the demonstration in London: there, Foil Vedanta and supporters voiced their disapproval about Vedanta’s inhumane business practices during Vedanta’s annual general meeting.
“Today, we protest in solidarity with anti-Vedanta activists all over the world,” states Lerato Maregele, Education and Youth Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.
“For us, this picket is part of a series of protests that will continue until Anglo stops hurting this country and the world. As Anglo American and Vedanta want to build yet another climate killer, we confront Anglo with their poor energy choice.”
Inside the AGM dissident shareholders disrupted the meeting by asking questions on Vedanta’s environmental and human rights record. The protests highlighted controversies and violations caused by Vedanta since their last AGM, including:
- * The major toxic gas leak which killed one, and hospitalised hundreds at their subsidiary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Tamil Nadu, India in March.
- * Fly ash dumping and pollution at Vedanta’s Jharsuguda Aluminium complex in Odisha, India.
- * Ongoing health impacts and pollution at Vedanta’s MALCO plant, Mettur, Tamil Nadu (See full quote on this at the end of this report).
- * The seven tax havens where Vedanta keeps it’s profit, making it one of the mining companies with the highest percentage of profit in tax havens.
- Vedanta’s major planned restructuring, which will transfer it’s loss making and high debt subsidiaries into Indian entities, making the Indian government potentially liable for Vedanta’s $13.5 billion toxic debt.
- Protests at Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary – Konkola Copper Mines – over workforce conditions.
Miriam Rose from Foil Vedanta said:
“This year we brought the defiant voice of the Dongria Kond to London, as they unanimously reject Vedanta’s illegal attempts to mine their sacred mountain. Vedanta thinks it can hide from it’s atrocities here in London. We brought the evidence to the AGM to show investors and the public Vedanta’s consistent pattern of violating laws and human rights with relative impunity.
We demand that Vedanta is formally investigated by the FCA and de-listed from the London Stock Exchange in recognition of it’s proven abuses of law and Human Rights.”
Please see the video here
Times of India – Activists plan protest at Vedanta’s London meet tomorrow
Press Trust of India – Activists hold protest outside Vedanta AGM over Niyamgiri
The Hindu – Echo from Niyamgiri hills reaches the capital
Indian express “photos of the day”
The Statesman – Niyamgiri agitators hold demonstration in capital
see a film of the demo here.
Full quote from local activist and writer Nityanand Jayaraman in Chennai:
“In Mettur, Tamil Nadu, Vedanta subsidiary Malco operates a 100 MW coal fired power plant. The plant’s cooling towers and flyash storage infrastructure are located right next to Ramamoorthy Nagar, a predominantly dalit (historically oppressed caste) community. Hot drafts from the cooling towers are causing heat stress, particularly among the elderly and infants, even while flyash from the plant invades the entire residential area. The worst affected is the primary school across the wall from Malco. Children studying in that school return home covered in toxic dust. Rates of respiratory disorders, particularly among children is high. To make matters worse, Malco is constructing yet another cooling tower near the village. Sekar, a resident of Ramamoorthy Nagar, said that they were roundly abused by Mr. Suryaprakash, PRO, Malco, when they complained. Mr. Suryaprakash used foul language and dared them to raise the issue with the authorities.”