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.
Anil Agarwal’s London mansion
24th March 2018 A noisy protest took place at 42-44 Hill Street in Mayfair, London, today, as British Tamils armed with traditional Parai drums joined with major demonstrations in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, India, against the expansion of British company Sterlite’s copper smelter in the State. The London protest, which took place at the $20 million home of company boss Anil Agarwal, was called by Foil Vedanta, Tamil People in UK and Parai – Voice of Freedom.
See a short video of the London protest HERE
Coverage in Hindustan Times – British Tamils protest outside Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal’s home in London
The News Minute – Can you hear the voice of UK Tamils? Sterlite protests outside Vedanta founder’s house in UK
Meanwhile in Tuticorin 250,000 people packed the streets for a major demonstration and public meeting organised by the Anti Killer Sterlite People’s Movement. Shutters on shops throughout the town were also down today following a total shutdown (bandh) called by The Merchant’s Association. This is the biggest protest yet against the Sterlite plant, and comes on the 40th day of continuous protest in the town, demanding that the plant is permanently closed and the expansion stopped. Permission for the protest was initially turned down by police but was successfully challenged by activists and granted by the High Court on 14th March.
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.
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
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.
Freddy Muntete in his garden
July 20th 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.
East 1st Street, only 50m from the smelter
We were particularly shocked when we visited KCM’s Nchanga smelter in the heart of Chingola town, to see communities living less than 50m away from the fume belching and extremely noisy smelter. KCM is less known for emitting toxic fumes than Swiss miner Glencore’s Mopani smelter in nearby Mufilira town which causes misery for the residents of Kankoyo district, but walking along East 1st Street and 2nd Street which run directly along the factor wall our eyes immediately began burning and itching and we developed headaches and sore throats within a few minutes.
Residents of Nchanga South explained how the plant was built in 2006 without any prior consultation with the community, who were only aware of the development when they saw construction taking place. The construction of the smelter encroached into their community as the factory wall was moved out, covering 1st Street, which had previously run alongside the wall, and instead building a new wall directly behind the resident’s plots, bringing the polluting plant right up to their garden walls. When the community (many of whom work for KCM) met with representatives to voice their concerns about fumes and pollution from the smelter they were told it was a modern plant with no detectable fumes and would have no impact on them.
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.
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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