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.
7th September. This year was Vedanta’s 14th AGM, since registering on the London Stock Exchange in December 2003, and the 14th year that dissident shareholders have attended the meeting to hold the company to account for their environmental and human rights abuses. The minutes published by activist shareholders every year, documenting the company’s response to these, and other questions, represent important disclosures on Vedanta’s operations, finances and legal issues. Please spread them far and wide!
Minutes of Vedanta Resources’ 2017 AGM
In the beginning
1. After lengthy introductory remarks, the Chair, Anil Agarwal, opened the meeting. He called 2017 a year of great potential for Vedanta, noting they were now the sixth largest diversified resources company. He claimed that since 2003 the group has returned over £2 billion to shareholders, and heralded Vedanta’s positioning, because India and Africa give a unique opportunity for growth. While other companies look to China, he said, Vedanta has India, which is the fastest growing country in the world. Vedanta claims to be one of the biggest tax payers in India. By way of demonstrating his political connections in India, Mr. Agarwal noted he was able to join the Indian State visit to South Africa.
2. He assured shareholders that safety across the company continues to be a priority, claiming again that they are making zero harm, zero waste and zero discharge the ultimate goal. There is some way to go, but he claimed they will not stop until they have achieved this. Agarwal highlighted the ‘challenge’ of climate change and claimed that Vedanta takes its responsibility to society seriously, with various claims to be helping up to 2 million people, especially women and children. In July the company had held its third annual sustainable development meeting with various stakeholders in London. They claimed to welcome ongoing dialogue with NGOs, governments and stakeholders.
14th August 2017. Loud and theatrical protests were again held outside the AGM of British mining company Vedanta Resources’ at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London at 2pm today accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. Parallel protests and meetings were held today by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders asked questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, as well as tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion.
Please see the video of today’s protest in London!
and excellent photos from Peter Marshall here.
Coverage on Xinhau news: Environmental protesters picket annual meeting of mining firm Vedanta.
Dissident shareholders in London poured scorn on Vedanta’s 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company ‘demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility’. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the ‘cloak of respectability’ of a London listing noting that Vedanta was again excluded from the Norwegian Pension Fund’s investments this year following an investigation which found “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements”at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia. The report concludes, “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.”
On Sunday farming communities living downstream of copper mines run by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola, Zambia, held a meeting in Hippo Pool to renew their resolve in their twelve year struggle against the company for severe water pollution which has caused major health problems, and rendered land uncultivable. Police had refused them permission to hold a protest. Government officials visited their villages in Spring this year asking them to drop their London case against Vedanta and settle out of court with the company. The Headmen of Hippo Pool village submitted this statement to the Vedanta board and shareholders which was asked by Shoda Rackal from Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike:
“The people here are sick and tired of pollution which is killing us through illness and loss of our crops and fish. The pollution must end at all costs. Whether we receive compensation or not, we are asking you to stop polluting us now.”
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.
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
17th May. On 14th May we released an open letter calling for the renowned authors and artists participating in the Jaipur Literature Festival at Southbank, London, to pull out of the event in view of its sponsorship by Vedanta Resources – dubbed ‘the world’s most hated company’. The letter has now been signed by over 100 writers, academics, activists and people directly affected by Vedanta’s operations, including poets Nabina Das, Hemant Devate, Rafiq Kathwari and Surya Vahni Priya Capildeo and writers Tariq Mehmood, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Courttia Newland and Gladson Dungdung.
In response two speakers have already pulled out. The scientist and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad and K. Satchidanandan, a Malayalam and English poet have both refused to participate. (Please see the full article critiquing the neocolonialist approach of the Jaipur Literature Festival by Kavita Bhanot here)
Despite this, Sanjoy Roy, the managing director of Teamwork Arts, which produces the festival, issued this statement to the media on behalf of the festival organisers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple:
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.