Today more than 40 protesters from Foil Vedanta, the Afrikan diaspora and other organisations in London chanted, played drums and held banners and placards outside the Zambia High Commission in London. They demanded that some of the revelations in Foil Vedanta’s groundbreaking report Copper Colonialism: British Miner Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia are addressed by Vedanta and the Zambian government, and asked the UK Government to formally investigate the company. Meanwhile Vedanta may be about to de-list from the London Stock Exchange as Chair Anil Agarwal becomes the 70% owner by buying up shares in the suffering company.
and read the national debate following the demonstration in the Post Newspaper, Zambia:
Protesters at the Zambian High Commission today held a banner reading ‘Vedanta plunders, Zambia bleeds’ and placards asking the UK government to bring Anil Agarwal to trail. Loud and rhythmic drums and megaphone chants echoed in the streets during the vibrant demonstration. A delegation met the Deputy High Commissioner and handed over a copy of the report in the presence of Zambian TV and diplomats. The delegation pledged to assist the Zambian government in monitoring Vedanta and making links with its operations in other parts of the world to understand its pattern of operation. The protesters called for Vedanta and the Zambian government to release KCM’s annual reports, containing figures on profits and tax payment, which are currently kept secret. Figures from Vedanta’s own documents, revealed in the report, suggest that KCM made $362 million in 2013, contrary to its own claims that it was making a loss and may need to be saved by the Zambian government.
The report also highlighted that the true volumes of production and export from KCM are not known, and suggested that tax evasion scams such as transfer mis-pricing (undervaluing exports) and under-declaring production may be occurring. Protesters demanded an independent investigation into volumes of copper and cobalt mined, processed and exported from KCM’s plants, and their direction of export.
In the UK Foil Vedanta will continue to echo the calls of parliamentarians and financiers to formally investigate and bring Vedanta to trial for its environmental and humanitarian crimes and poor corporate governance.
They will also demand that Vedanta is forced to pay the fine of $2 million served by Zambian courts in 2011 as compensation to 2000 claimants poisoned by major pollution of the river Kafue in 2006, and stop ongoing spills affecting Chingola residents.
Finally, they joined the calls of KCM employees and former employees in Zambia, demanding that retrenched workers are properly compensated for taking redundancy, and existing contract labourers are unionised. Following the visit of new Vedanta CEO Tom Albanese in February, newspapers reported that Vedanta has come to an agreement with the labour minister that retrenchments would be stopped and casual labourers unionised. Protesters in London will demand that this promise is fulfilled.
Since Foil Vedanta’s report was published in late January, Vedanta executives have visited Zambia more than four times, and claimed that the report is misleading and incorrect. However, as of yet no evidence has been presented by Vedanta to dispute the figures and other claims presented in the report.
“There is a clear pattern in the way this company operates across India – building projects without permissions, evading tax, de-unionising and illegal mining. They have also been found guilty of gross negligence leading to mass fatalities and major pollution incidents. The Government of Zambia must make KCM’s accounts and annual reports public. The Zambian people and the international community demand to know the volume of copper leaving KCM’s plants.”
Vedanta’s share price dropped by a third during 2013, prompting Chairman and majority owner Anil Agarwal to raise his stake in the company to 69.71% to keep the company afloat, and raising questions about whether Vedanta will soon de-list and become a private company. The loss of earnings was largely due to illegalities and local protests at Vedanta’s operations in India. In Goa, Vedanta’s iron ore mines have been stopped for the past year following revelations that they had exported 150 million tonnes of iron ore in 2010/11 while only declaring 7.6 million, their agreed export allowance. In Odisha, their Niyamgiri mine has been banned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests due to local opposition, costing them $10 billion in lost investments, and in Australia their Mount Lyell copper mine has been suspended following a series of fatal accidents.
“KCM workers are being over taxed and under paid, and Vedanta has shifted the majority of workers onto contractual labour who’s union they do not recognise. Those who were retrenched from KCM this year as part of cutbacks have received peanuts in redundancy pay, just like the rest of the 752 retrenched workers in our group. Their factory chokes us with sulphur and we can’t even grow crops. Is this development?
We demand that Anil Agarwal answers our question: who is with-holding our severance benefits?”