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.
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.
14th August 2017. Loud and theatrical protests were again held outside the AGM of British mining company Vedanta Resources’ at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London at 2pm today accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. Parallel protests and meetings were held today by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders asked questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, as well as tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion.
Please see the video of today’s protest in London!
and excellent photos from Peter Marshall here.
Coverage on Xinhau news: Environmental protesters picket annual meeting of mining firm Vedanta.
Dissident shareholders in London poured scorn on Vedanta’s 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company ‘demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility’. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the ‘cloak of respectability’ of a London listing noting that Vedanta was again excluded from the Norwegian Pension Fund’s investments this year following an investigation which found “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements”at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia. The report concludes, “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.”
On Sunday farming communities living downstream of copper mines run by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola, Zambia, held a meeting in Hippo Pool to renew their resolve in their twelve year struggle against the company for severe water pollution which has caused major health problems, and rendered land uncultivable. Police had refused them permission to hold a protest. Government officials visited their villages in Spring this year asking them to drop their London case against Vedanta and settle out of court with the company. The Headmen of Hippo Pool village submitted this statement to the Vedanta board and shareholders which was asked by Shoda Rackal from Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike:
“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.”
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
Dongria Kond leader Lado Sikaka speaking to press
7th June, 2016. A seven day padyatra (foot march) involving occupants of up to 112 of the remote villages of the Niyamgiri hills ended on Sunday in Jaganathpur (Lanjigarh). The padyatra, led by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti and indigenous leaders from the villages, amplified demands to decommission Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery and celebrated the recent victory when the Supreme Court turned down Vedanta’s appeal to the decisive 2013 referendums which had put an end to mining plans on the mountain, as well as protesting the ongoing harassment from the company and the colluding state government and police forces. Various local and national Indian media covered the major event which ended in a large rally on World Environment Day, 5th June. The Orissa Post reported that:
Coming down heavily on the government, Loda Sikaka, a member of the Samiti, said the government has unleashed a reign of terror on the foothills of Niyamgiri by deploying platoons of paramilitary forces and special operation group japans.
CRPF and SOG jawans, instead of checking Maoist activities and providing security to inhabitants, kill poor tribals under cover of encounters. They misbehave with tribal women, loot their houses, domestic animals and poultries, lodge false cases against innocent people by branding them Maoists. The most worrying factor us that the government is conspiring to snatch the livelihood of tribals by leasing out the hills to Vedanta for bauxite mining.
The procession aimed at gaining public support against alleged anti-tribal activities of the government. It also aimed at urging the government to ensure sustainable development of the region while keeping the ecology intact.
The fighting is not limited to this specific region. It is a struggle of the humanity to protect nature and civilisation, Dadhi Pusika, another member of the Samiti, said.
3rd August Seven global locations in India and Africa held angry protests today and over the weekend opposing the activities of British-Indian mining company Vedanta while Vedanta’s AGM at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, London was mobbed by a loud rally organised by Foil Vedanta, accusing the company of pollution, human rights abuses and financial mismanagement. In London a comical staged boxing match between Vedanta’s 69.6% owner and Chairman Anil Agarwal and new CEO Tom Albanese, revealed the company’s debt problems and internal dynamics while protesters chanted ‘Corporate criminal, shame on you!’ and drummed loudly. Vedanta’s share price has slipped 61% this year to 377p, and continues to dive as Q1 results show increased debt, and Cairn India minority shareholders oppose their attempt to merge with the oil and gas subsidiary to gain access to its $2.6 billion cash reserves for debt servicing.
See the film of London protests and more pics at Demotix..and here and here.
See coverage in the Economic Times of India, the Hindu Business Line, the New International , Odisha Channel , Odisha Sun Times and the Lusaka Times.
See an account of the AGM shareholders meeting here.
Sesa Goa mine waste flood at the peak of the mining boom in 2009
14th July 2015. Krishnendu 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.
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.”
Mushishima Stream, polluted by Vedanta KCM
2nd June. This article also appeared in the Lusaka Times on May 19th. On 2nd April the Supreme Court of Zambia upheld a precedent High Court verdict that Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) is guilty of major water pollution which turned the Kafue into a river of acid in 2006 and poisoned thousands of people, some of who have suffered long term impacts to their liver, kidneys and other functions(1). But the $2 million compensation originally awarded by the High Court to 2001 victims who self organised to sue KCM, has been reduced to virtually nothing, denying them their long due justice.(2)
Now lead claimant James Nyasulu has been receiving threats and harassment from agents working on behalf of KCM, telling him not to fight this multinational company, which has connections in the judiciary.Nyasulu and the committee of claimants have evidenced multiple incidents of procedural irregularities, bribery and corruption during their nine year struggle for legal redress:
7th February 2015 The New York Times has published an exposé of Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal as part of a series on the people behind shell companies buying up New York real Estate, entitled ‘Towers of Secrecy’ by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul. The section on Vedanta is copied below and the full article is highly recommended.
Like most Time Warner owners, Anil Agarwal, an Indian mining magnate, is anonymous in New York. While interviews and private documents reviewed by The Times confirm he is behind condos purchased by the Amantea Corporation for $9.1 million in 2004, his name appears nowhere on public records. The deeds for Amantea’s Time Warner condos — one on the “maids floor” and another with sweeping views of Central Park — are signed by a New York lawyer named Constance Cranch. When contacted, she said: “You cannot say anything with respect to me. It’s a client of mine’s apartment, and I pay their bills.”
For all the secrecy at Time Warner, Mr. Agarwal is hardly private about his wealth. He spends much of his time in London and told a newspaper in 2005: “I have to have a Bentley, the best of chauffeurs and butlers.”
But Mr. Agarwal and his company, Vedanta Resources, are known in some parts of the world for having left financial and environmental problems in their wake.