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
A worker at Alcoa’s smelter
This special report by Miriam Rose originally appeared on Saving Iceland website.
In 1969 the first of three aluminium smelters was built in Iceland at Straumsvík, near Hafnafjörður, on the South West side of Reykjavík by Alusuisse (subsequently Rio Tinto-Alcan). In 1998 a second smelter was constructed by Century Aluminum (now a subsidiary of controversial mining giant Glencore), at Hvalfjörður near Reykjavík, and in 2007 the third, run by Alcoa, was completed at Reyðarfjörður in the remotely populated East of the country. The Icelandic Government had been advertising the country’s vast ‘untapped’ hydroelectric and geothermal energy at ‘the lowest prices in Europe’ hoping to attract jobs and industry to boost Iceland’s already very wealthy but somewhat fishing dependent economy. The industry, which would permanently change Iceland’s landscape with mega-dams, heavy industry scale geothermal plants and several kilometer long factories, was promoted by the Icelandic Government and the aluminium companies as ‘good employment for a modern age’. However, ten years after the flagship Alcoa Fjarðaál project was completed, unemployment is higher than it was in 2005, and Iceland’s economy has become dependent on an industry which is vulnerable to commodity cycle slumps and mass job losses. Worse, the price charged for Iceland’s energy is tied to the price of aluminium and analyses of the country’s 2008/9 economic crisis suggest it was exacerbated by the poor terms of Iceland’s late industrialisation. Yet demands for further industrialisation remain, and more than 1000 Icelanders are employed in the aluminium sector.
This article exposes the conditions inside Iceland’s aluminium smelters based on interviews with workers conducted in 2012. The stories from two smelters share correlating accounts of being forced to work in dangerous conditions under extreme pressure, and without adequate safety equipment, leading to serious accidents which are falsely reported by the companies. These shocking allegations require serious attention by the trade unions, Icelandic government and health and safety authorities. This especially in the current context of labour disputes with the aluminium companies, alongside revelations about the same companies’ tax avoidance schemes and profiteering in the country.
On 2nd September indigenous Dongria Kondh and Dalit Bahujan residents of Niyamgiri mountain held a demonstration in Muniguda, Odisha, under the banner of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti. The protest demanded an end to harassment, false arrests and murder of indigenous activists by police and paramilitary forces, and rejected the involvement of NGO’s in their decades long movement to prevent Vedanta and other companies mining their sacred mountain.
Protesters blocked the main road for several hours and burnt tyres.
The demonstration is part of ongoing anger at the false arrest of Dasuru Kadraka, the thirty year old Dongria Kondh youth leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), who was picked up from the Muniguda market by the police six months ago, and subsequently brutally tortured and implicated in several false cases.
5th August 2016 Protests have been held in India and Zambia in parallel with today’s AGM of British mining company Vedanta Resources’ at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, London. Inside the AGM dissident shareholders asked incisive questions submitted by Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, as well as displaced farmers who were never compensated for their land in Lanjigarh, Odisha, India and accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion. A loud protest organised by Foil Vedanta took place outside the meeting, demanding that Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines publish its hitherto secret annual accounts in Zambia, and accusing the company of pollution, human rights abuses and financial mismanagement in India and Afrika.
See the video of the London demo here… and of the Delhi demo here.
Please see a full report on proceedings inside the AGM bu London Mining Network entitled ‘Vedanta’s 2016 AGM: evidence, evasion and arguments‘.
and coverage in The Mining Journal, the New International, and Reuters.
At Vedanta’s London AGM activists from Foil Vedanta interrupted the meeting asking incisive questions to the Vedanta board and gathered shareholders on behalf of the Zambian Copperbelt villagers living downstream of Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), who are demanding an end to twelve years of pollution by KCM, which has turned the Kafue into a ‘river of acid‘ and left them with no access to clean water. They asked why KCM has never submitted annual accounts in Zambia in accordance with national laws, and whether Vedanta’s deliberately obstructive approach to compensation cases as revealed in a recent London judgement was company policy.
The time has come around again for our annual Global Day of Action against Vedanta at their AGM. As usual we will bring the defiant energy of communities fighting (and winning) against Vedanta around the world to London! From pollution affected communities of Zambia who won their 9 years battle in their Supreme Court, and now won the right to have their case heard in Britain, to the indigenous Dongria Kond who are now demanding the dismantling of their refinery in Lanjigarh after winning their case in the Supreme Court of India (see below for more).
Parallel demonstrations are already planned in Zambia and India on the 4th August for this Global Day of Action and questions raised by the communities will be asked inside the AGM meeting.
JOIN US OUTSIDE VEDANTA’S LONDON AGM WHILE COMMUNITIES PROTEST ACROSS AFRIKA AND INDIA
CELEBRATE THE VICTORIES WON THIS YEAR AT NIYAMGIRI AND ZAMBIA!
Bring drums, placards and loud voices.
Friday 5TH AUGUST 2016, 2 – 4pm.
Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, EC2Y 8AA
LOOTER! POLLUTER! CRIMINAL!
Please join our Facebook event page if you can come to London on 5th August.
If you would like to plan a demonstration or organise any event in solidarity with any Vedanta affected community, in any part of the world please get in touch.
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.
7th June, 2016. On Friday 27th May the Hon Mr Justice Coulson published his judgment on the jurisdiction hearing between 1,826 Zambian villagers and Vedanta and it’s Zambian subsidiary KCM which took place in April in London, finding in the villagers’ favour that their case demanding compensation for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution could be heard in the UK. The judgment (which can be downloaded at this link: KCM Coulson Judgment May 2016) is an indictment of KCM’s financial secrecy, historic dishonesty and attempts to pervert the course of justice, detailed in this article. To those of us experienced in legal cases against some of Vedanta’s Indian subsidiaries this does not come as a surprise but fits with the pattern of corruption and deception which Vedanta has become famous for.
This is a great victory in the preliminary stages of this major case against Vedanta and KCM for knowingly causing gross pollution from 2005 (just after they acquired KCM) to the present day. Our previous article details the shocking living conditions of thousands of villagers whose water sources have been chronically polluted causing sickness, poverty and even death. Video testimonies from some of the claimants and victims detail how people have ‘collapsed and died’ as a result of prolonged exposure to high levels of contaminants (as scientific papers attest).
20th May 2016. A massive thank you to all the writers, bloggers, activists and supporters who made the JLF boycott a huge success. Please read more on the London protest and and press coverage below:
A group of protesters from a wide range of organisations today disrupted the Jaipur Literature Festival at London’s Southbank Centre, taking over the stage with their placards and giving shouted speeches to the eminent audience about the multiple criminal convictions and abusive pattern of operation of the festival’s main sponsor, the British mining company Vedanta. A number of attendees left the event in response. NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt’s presentation was also disrupted by chanting naming the news channel for taking Vedanta funding for the Our Girls Our Pride campaign which is accused of being a whitewash sham for the company.
Vedanta’s logo stickered over on programme
Earlier two speakers at the festival – the scientist and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad and K. Satchidanandan, a Malayalam and English poet – had pulled out in response to an open letter calling for a boycott of the event in view of its sponsorship by ‘the world’s most hated company’. Another four speakers – Vasundhara Raje, Meghnad Desai, Gavin Francis and Rachel Spence – also had their names removed from the programme suggesting they too have refused to participate. Nonetheless Sanjoy Roy, the managing director of Teamwork Arts and festival organisers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple have continued to defend their sponsor in the media even claiming Vedanta are not guilty of any criminality, despite multiple convictions cited in the open letter. However, the Vedanta logo was removed from publicity on the day and stickers were used to poorly conceal the logo on the programmes.
Kavita Bhanot – JLF Brings ‘Exotic India’ To Your Doorstep – Who Pays The Price?
The Hindu – Anti Vedanta protests mar JLF event in South Bank London
Ravinder Kaur – JLF Southbank: By ignoring boycott call, writers may have missed out on powerful stories of dissent
The Wire – Writers Protest Vedanta Sponsorship of Jaipur Lit Fest London
Sabrang India – Protesters Disrupt Jaipur Lit-fest Sponsored by Vedanta in London
Sabrang India – Boycott Vedanta’s London festival and bid to seek legitimacy: Writers
Eyezine – Why Jaipur Lit Fest needs to remove Vedanta from its sponsors