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.
31st August. This news from Phulbari Solidarity following their celebration of a decade of resistance to UK company GCM’s open cast coal mine plans, and commemorating the death of three protesters shot by paramilitary forces in 2006.
Friday the 26th August, marked a decade of halt to plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management (GCM), who want to build a massive open cast coal mine by forcibly displacing 130,000 people in Phulbari, northwest Bangladesh. A four day long Commemoration for victims of Phulbari outburst, where three protesters were shot dead by police in 2006, was held in Dkaka, Dinajpur, Phulbari, London and Germany. On the final day of remembrance, on 30th August, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh has declared a fresh programme in Phulbari to kick GCM out of Bangladesh as the CEO of the company has recently filed multiple arbitrary charges against indigenous farmers, small businessmen and local leaders who opposed the mine.
In London, in support of Phulbari protesters, community activists under the banner of Phulbari Solidarity Group and Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh held a colourful and powerful commemoration rally and protest at London Stock Exchange , calling for the de-listing of the company from London Stock Exchange. Despite heavy securitization and repeated attempts of interruption by police last Friday, protesters blocked up the pavement at the main entrance of London Stock Exchange (LSE) for two hours and demanded immediate de-registration of GCM for its unethical business, deceitful marketing of Phulbari project, and for human rights abuse in Dinajpur and Phulbari. Prior to the demo, Phulbari Solidarity Group has submitted evidence of unethical business of the company to the CEO of London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet KBE, via email.
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.
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
14th May 2016. On May 21st the high profile Jaipur Literature Festival will take place in Southbank London with Vedanta as its key sponsor*. Foil Vedanta and Roundtable India have authored this open letter to the many renowned authors taking part, asking them to boycott the event in view of Vedanta’s criminal activities.** The letter has been signed by eminent writers, academics, activists and people directly affected by Vedanta’s criminal activities. A protest will also be held outside the event from 10am to 1pm at the Southbank centre, SE1 9PX, London.
*JLF have now removed Vedanta’s logo from their website. Please see the original page with Vedanta logo on the internet archive.
** Please see the update to this post as authors are pulling out.
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.
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, 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.
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.
Please join us to oppose the 6th Annual Responsible Extractives Summit at Tower Bridge Hilton on Monday 29th June.
Expose crooked executives from Shell, Vedanta, Rio Tinto, JP Morgan, Bechtel and more, co-opting UN’s human rights mechanisms and using sustainability and CSR spin to cover up their extensive and ongoing crimes against humanity and the environment.
Monday 29th June, 12 midday. Hilton Hotel, Tower Bridge, London, SE1 2BY.
Bring drums and placards!!
download the flyer here: Responsible Extractives demo flyer
More info on the true neocolonial faces of the key speakers at the event:
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: