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.
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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Miriam Rose, Samarendra Das, John McDonnell MP and Richard Solly in the House of Commons
Speakers from Foil Vedanta and London Mining Network yesterday presented evidence in the House of Commons on the criminal behaviour of some London Listed mining companies, and called for better accountability measures and the de-listing of criminal companies. Focusing on contentious UK miner Vedanta Resources, they exposed new evidence of tax evasion, illegal land grabs, displacement, major pollution and water poisoning, as well as the UK’s role in promoting and protecting the company, and called for its immediate investigation and potential de-listing in London.
In a packed meeting hosted by John McDonnell MP in the House of Commons speakers told MPs, journalists, diplomats and members of the public attending that high risk mining companies like ‘the world’s most hated company’ Vedanta Resources are bringing shame on the London Stock Exchange, and demanded better accountability measures and the de-listing of criminal companies. MPs attending were Jeremy Corbyn, Eric Joyce and John McDonnell.
Tues 3rd June. On Friday 30th May a group of Pan Afrikan activists and supporters held their annual Afrikan Liberation Day Demonstration outside the London headquarters of Vedanta Resources, highlighting it’s role in plundering and neo-colonising Afrika – particularly in Zambia.
The press release is copied below, and video’s of the demonstration, which included Tamil Parai drummers alongside Afrikan drums can be seen here and here.
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.
The British Oil Interest in Sri Lanka Phil Miller, 2nd August 2013
Oil and gas are about to gush out of the sea around Sri Lanka. Vedanta Resources Plc, a UK-listed company, are set to profit from this long anticipated prospect through their subsidiary Cairn Lanka Pvt Ltd. Both the Sri Lankan government and Vedanta have their critics. Tamil groups are calling for British Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that is scheduled for November in Colombo, arguing that his attendance will legitimise the Rajapaksa regime’s untold atrocities against their people. Protestors descended on Vedanta’s AGM in London yesterday, highlighting the corporation’s abuse across the Commonwealth, from copper mines in Zambia to the aluminium industry in India: they say it has the worst environmental and human rights record of any company. Despite these campaigns, some poignant questions are yet to be asked. How has a British company with no prior experience in the oil or gas industries, acquired oil fields in Sri Lanka? And what influence will this have on UK politicians visiting the island?
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.