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.
26th January 2015. Just five days before January’s Sri Lankan Presidential elections former Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka dropped a bombshell, accusing Mahinda Rajapaska’s government of failing to collect $7 billion in inflated share value from Cairn Energy – the first oil company to discover gas in the Mannar basin. His firey argument (aimed at shaming the then incumbent President) was that mineral exploration rights had been sold to British oil company Cairn Energy for a song following meetings between Rajapaksa and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (who was a school friend of Cairn Energy boss Bill Gammell) in 2006. In 2011, after gas was discovered in their Mannar block – SL 2007-01-001, the value of shares skyrocketed and Cairn Energy sold them on at a highly inflated value to Vedanta Resources, a British-Indian company, who bought Cairn Energy’s South Asian oil and gas subsidiary Cairn India, assisted by the British Prime Minister David Cameron.
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August 1st 2014. Protesters from Foil Vedanta, MPs and other organizations today held a loud and colourful demonstration at the AGM of controversial FTSE 250 mining company Vedanta at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London. On 31st August parallel demos were held in Odisha, Delhi and Johannesburg. 400 miners protested Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines in Ndola, Zambia. In Odisha, India, a consultation on the proposed six fold expansion of the Lanjigarh refinery on 30th July met with major opposition after Vedanta lost permission to mine the Niyamgiri Hills this year. Meanwhile, Vedanta are accused of tax evasion and mismanagement at their Konkola Copper Mines subsidiary in Zambia after investigations revealed they may be externalising up to $500 million per year in profits.
60 people railed against Vedanta’s London AGM today, representing a variety of organisations including diaspora from Zambia, Goa, Tamil Eelam and Odisha where Vedanta is currently embroiled in scandals and accused of major illegalities. Tamil Parai drummers kept up a loud rhythm throughout the demo. Shortly before the AGM started at 3pm a huge banner was unfurled from the top of the next door building saying ‘Vedanta out of London’ eliciting cheers from the crowd. The protesters were joined by a 6m inflatable blade of grass referring to Anil Agarwal’s repeated claim at previous AGMs that Vedanta ‘have not touched a single blade of grass’ at the Niyamgiri Hills. Company executives were hassled as they entered the AGM.
See the film of today’s demo in London here, and the Parai dummers here, and see MP John McDonnell and others update the protesters after the AGM here.
And photos on Demotix here and here
A full account of the questions asked inside the AGM, and Vedanta’s responses can be found at London Mining Network’s website here.
Coverage by: Economic Times, Activists protest at Vedanta’s AGM over alleged illegalities
The Ecologist, India: Foil Vedanta protests erupt in Delhi
Odisha Sun Times, Foil Vedanta stage protest in London; decries company’s move in Odisha.
The Statesman, Protesters target Vedanta, Govt.
21st January 2014. In December Foil Vedanta activists made a trip to Zambia to investigate the operations of Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), Zambia’s biggest copper miner, and to make links with grassroots movements, academics, journalists and those in the political system who may be questioning the unjust terms of copper mining in their country.
We were shocked to discover the environmental and social devastation wrought by Vedanta’s operations, and the lack of information held by policy makers and regulators in Zambia on this multinational as well as on wider issues with copper market manipulations, material flows and the real interests controlling their country. This report is a comprehensive account of the origins of, and interests behind the rapid loot of Zambia’s copper resources which is currently taking place.
The Mine Workers Union of Zambia have now launched a full investigation into the evidence in the report, and Vedanta Executive Tom Albanese has been flown out to Zambia to refute the evidence we have published.
Download the report here, or read the full (35 page) report online below.
To download the report click here: Copper Colonialism: British Miner Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia
Anil Agarwal and Priyanka Chopra at Our Girls Our Pride launch on NDTV
2nd September 2013. On the same day that the last of twelve villages voted Vedanta out of Niyamgiri for good, Vedanta announced a new major Corporate Social Responsibility and PR campaign to save its tattered reputation. The campaign, in partnership with the Vedanta funded station NDTV, entitled ‘Our Girls, Our Pride‘, will focus on nutrition, education, health, foeticide and infanticide affecting girl children in India. Miss World 2000, Bollywood superstar and UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador for child rights – Priyanka Chopra, will be the face of the campaign. The idea that Vedanta could be an ambassador for the well being of India’s poorest girl children is beyond farcical. Vedanta’s mining and processing operations have displaced, poisoned and polluted thousands of families. Their low pay, anti-union activities and worker’s deaths have deprived hundreds of young girls of their parents and plunged their families into poverty.
Vedanta used the launch of the Our Girls Our Pride programme to promote another PR campaign which they have run since 2008 to make India ‘a child malnourished free nation’. To achieve this goal they promote their take-over of 14,000 Anganwadi (child day care) centres – as part of a mass privatisation programme. This privatisation has been opposed by Anganwadi workers who claim centres are being shut down and jobs lost as a result. Karnataka Anganwadi teachers held a protest in August which demanded an end to Vedanta’s privatisation or a state wide strike would be held.
Vedanta also emphasised their widespread promotion of Self Help Groups which they claim have ‘transformed 14,900 women into Rural Entrepreneurs’, plus health camps, a Heart Hospital in Rajasthan and a 350 bed Cancer Hospital in Raipur. These health centres will be necessary for those living near or working in Vedanta’s plants which have repeatedly polluted and poisoned their locality. Just this year Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelting subsidiary in Tamil Nadu released toxic gases (thought to be largely sulphur dioxide) which choked thousands of local inhabitants leading to ongoing health impacts and one death. Self Help Groups on the other hand have been effective in reducing mass dissent against Vedanta’s operations, as women receiving money as part of the scheme sometimes feel unable to criticise the company despite the obvious health impacts on their children and themselves. Not in every case however, as even Vedanta’s CSR darling village of Phuldumer on the Niyamgiri mountain adamantly opposed their proposed mine despite the Self Help Groups they had set up there. This article looks at a few specific cases in which young girls have suffered as a result of Vedanta’s activities and aims to demonstrate the total incompatibility of Vedanta’s style of operation with the well being of communities and their girls.
Foil Vedanta is coordinating a mass letter to Priyanka Chopra signed by women’s orgamisations urging her to pull out of the campaign and avoid helping to clean Vedanta’s rightly sullied reputation.
Please sign a public petition asking NDTV to pull out their support for the campaign here, and a petition asking Priyanka Chopra to pull out here, or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if your organisation wishes to be a signatory to the letter (which can be found at the end of this post).
Local resident holds her medical records to show how pollution is affecting them
This report comes direct from Mettur, Tamil Nadu, where Vedanta subsidiary MALCO operates a power plant and large red mud dump at the edge of the Stanley reservoir. The red mud dump and power plant have caused misery for the local community, who live practically on top of it, for years, and now MALCO are building a new cooling tower which will make matters worse. Already local people who oppose the plans have been threatened, and a fact finding team was sent to investigate the situation, but was itself attacked by local pro-industry goondas. This is what the local community face every day thanks to Vedanta’s callous approach to profit making.
Team investigating MALCO’s environmental violations attacked by goons in Mettur
Mettur, 5 August 2013: A fact-finding team investigating the alleged environmental violations and high handedness of the officials of MALCO Thermal Plant in Mettur, was attacked by goons today afternoon. The team comprising of Dr. Adithya Pradyumna of SOCHARA, Bangalore, and Kavin Malar, social activist and journalist, was attacked when they came out of the meeting with MALCO public relations officer Mr. Suryaprakash and were on their way to visit the company operated coal yard in Thangamapuripatnam near Mettur Railway Station.
1st August 2013. Foil Vedanta’s report with pictures:
An inflatable monster representing Vedanta with the subsidiaries as snake like heads
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.
Please see the video of the London demo here, video of the Delhi demo here, pictures here, and details of coverage of the demo’s in South Africa, Delhi and London below.
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.
Indian Supreme Court judges today handed the final decision on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine to the Dongria Kond tribe and farmers living around the mountain. Two Gram Sabha’s (village councils) or local self-government within 10km of the proposed mine should announce their decision to the Ministry of Environment and Forests within three months1. The decision will have a major financial and reputational impact on Vedanta and may force them to close their Lanjigarh refinery, costing them billions.
In London, activists from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups descended on Vedanta’s nominal Mayfair headquarters later today celebrating what they see as a victory for local self-determination, but calling for thorough independent oversight of the decision making process which they say is wide open to abuse by Vedanta officials and state police. They held a loud noise demonstration, and held a banner stating ‘MoEF: No u-turn on Niyamgiri’ while shouting slogans with a large megaphone. The protesters again called for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.
See the video of today’s demo here, and another short clip here.
More photos on demotix here.
See video of celebrations on Niyamgiri mountain as the verdict was delivered and an interview with Kumuti Majhi here.
Street vendors hide their faces from the gas leak last weekend
Shops, restaurants, taxi ranks and autorickshaws have shut shop in Thoothkudi, Tamil Nadu, today in a bandh (shutdown) called by members of the Anti-Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee demanding permanent closure of Sterlite’s Copper smelter. According to reports only a few medical shops and others selling essentials remain open, and police have been deployed around the town.
Residents have shut their town in response to last week’s Supreme Court order which allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite plant to continue operating but pay 100 crore rupee ($2 million) compensation for environmental violations including a major gas leak on 23rd March. Residents say there is no price for their health and safety and demand the plant is closed.