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Protests outside Vedanta's London AGM call for an end to British support for their pollution, corruption and murder in India, Zambia and London

Written By Krishna on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | 11:28 PM

Global day of action at four of Vedanta's projects draws attention to illegalities, workers deaths and large scale pollution.

Protesters from Foil Vedanta, South Asia Solidarity Group, Save Goa Campaign and other organizations are picketing the AGM of controversial FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta at the Lincoln Centre, London on 28th August. In Goa, Tamil Nadu and Orissa in India, and Chingola in Zambia parallel demonstrations involving hundreds of people affected by the company's activities is scheduled.

Vedanta have been named the 'world's most hated company' by the Independent newspaper for their long list of environmental and human rights crimes for which they are being opposed all over the world[1]. Most famously Vedanta's plan to mine a mountain sacred to the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa, India, has led to mass protests and the Bank of England among others pulling out investments.

Protesters in London are coordinating with activists at four of Vedanta's most damaging projects to highlight some of the other major scandals surrounding the company:

In Goa thousands of villagers affected by Vedanta subsidiary Sesa Goa's pig iron plant in Amona took to the streets on August 27. They were protesting a major pollution incident in which houses in the area were swamped with black powder from the plant just last weekend[2]. Sesa Goa have also caused toxic mine waste floods and are accused of large scale fraud (1). Environmental activist Claude Alvares, who was involved in the demo, comments;

“Vedanta is committed to turning Goa into a graveyard in which it will bury not just the Goans but their environment as well. Almost every mining lease Vedanta is operating violates some environment or mining law, from mining in excess of environment limits to overloading its trucks to distress ordinary folk on Goa's roads in the mining belt. The company violates its environment clearance conditions with impunity.“(2)

In Tamil Nadu activists are drawing attention to the major violations of the Tuticorin copper smelter where 16 workers died between 2007 and 2011. The plant has been shut down by the state courts twice for having no permission to operate and for major pollution incidents.
In Orissa demonstrations of Dongria Kondh people alongside farmers and villagers are opposing mining of the Niyamgiri hills for the Lanjigarh alumina refinery. They have fought a seven year battle which has so far prevented the mine, leading this week to a major lack of bauxite for Vedanta, who are now being pressured to close the plant in view of their huge losses[3].
In Zambia residents of Chingola are protesting the ongoing contamination of their water supply by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines who were already fined $2 million in 2011 for turning the Kafue river green with copper pollution. Edward Lange of Southern Africa Resource Watch comments:

"The Kafue river in Chingola on many occasions has been heavily polluted by Konkola copper mines (KCM). Today the river has virtually no form of life in its waters. The boreholes are rarely used by the local Shimulala community because they contain Copper, Iron, Acid and other dangerous minerals. "

Protesters in London are confronting Vedanta’s shareholders and its CEO Anil Agarwal with a 30 foot long banner proclaiming ‘Vedanta: Olympic Champion in Murder, Pollution and Corruption’, and placards with slogans such as ‘Anil Agarwal Wanted for Murders and Environmental Crimes!’. They are drawing attention to recent news including:

Vedanta's involvement in a major coal scam currently rocking the Indian government (3).
Accusations in the British parliament that Vedanta has given the FTSE 100 a bad name.(4)
British Government's ongoing support for Vedanta through DfID, and even David Cameron, who were recently revealed to have forced through a deal to buy out energy company Cairn India by pressuring the Indian Government[4].
Resignation of the whole of Cairn India's senior management since Vedanta's takeover.[5]
Vedanta's ten billion dollar debt crisis.(5)
Vedanta's continued donations to India’s two main political parties, the ruling Congress and the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP[6]. Under the name Anil Agarwal foundation, it also supports projects such the Krishna Avanti school in London run by the I foundation which has close links to the Hindu supremacist groups.

Amrit Wilson (South Asia Solidarity Group and Foil Vedanta) says:

“This year the list of Vedanta’s atrocities is longer than ever before and there are massive popular struggles against it in India and Zambia. Like the notorious Lonmin in South Africa, Vedanta is bringing shame on the London Stock Exchange. Isn’t it time they were deleted from it? We call on the British government to stop backing this lawless and murderous corporate.”

Notes to editors:
Contact: Miriam Rose: 07765 501687 miriam.rose@che.ac.uk
or if unreachable: Amrit Wilson 07857017749 or Zuky Serper 07951476093
Foil Vedanta www.foilvedanta.org
1) Vedanta and its subsidiary Sesa Goa are also implicated in an Early Day Motion tabled by John McDonnell MP and signed by 9 other MPs criticizing mining practices in Goa and urging that the British government intervene to prevent further damage[7]. In addition to large scale fraud and illegal mining Vedanta was held responsible for pit wall collapse which drowned a village in toxic mine waste last year. As environmental experts have noted if such activities do not stop Goa may well lose its Heritage status.
2) Full quote from Claude Alvares, Director of Goa Foundation:
“Never have I seen a company so obsessed with profits that it cannot see the beauty of the place it has settled on to destroy. At the moment, the company has in fact speeded up its mineral extraction because it fears the climate in Goa may turn against mining forever or it may face as grave a setback as its mines in Bellary, Karnataka. Goa government must takeover Vedanta's mines in retaliation for the environmental havoc this company's operations have caused. Almost every mining lease Vedanta is operating violates some environment or mining law, from mining in excess of environment limits to overloading its trucks to distress ordinary folk on Goa's roads in the mining belt. The company violates its environment clearance conditions with impunity. At the helm in Goa is a BJP government which has acknowledged that its party got funding from Vedanta in excess of Rs.400 crores. What chance do those without cash (mother nature included) have in the circumstances?”
3) Vedanta stands accused of corruption in the gigantic CAG report Coal scam which is currently rocking the government of Manmohan Singh. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, coal blocks allocation by the government of India between 2004 and 2006 ‘was not transparent’ and the delay in competitive bidding led to huge losses for the state while firms including Vedanta, Tatas, Jindals, Laxmi Mittal’s Arcelor were among the beneficiaries[8].
4) Vedanta was described in Parliament by Labour MP Lisa Nandy as ‘one of the companies that have been found guilty of gross violations of human rights’ . Ms Nandy in her speech quoted Richard Lambert the former Director General of the CBI: ‘It never occurred to those of us who helped to launch the FTSE 100 index 27 years ago that one day it would be providing a cloak of respectability and lots of passive investors for companies that challenge the canons of corporate governance such as Vedanta…’ [9]
5) Credit Suissie Group says $10 billion debt is the reason for Vedanta's recent attempt to merge two of its subsidiaries Sesa Goa and Sterlite to create a so-called ‘corporate rubbish bin’.’ Sesa Sterlite, as the new company will be known, will, according to the analysts ‘have a market capitalization of about $20 billion, making it big enough to house Vedanta's unwanted assets’ and also ‘the recently acquired 38.8% stake in Indian oil company Cairn India Ltd., and, more importantly, the $5.9 billion of Vedanta debt linked to the stake. In it, too, goes Vedanta's 70% stake in Vedanta Aluminum, a money-losing operation that has about $4 billion of debt’[10].

[1] 'http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/vedanta-resources-the-worlds-most-hated-company-2037977.html
[2] http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-20/goa/33286643_1_villagers-pig-iron-plant-pollution
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/article3826991.ece[3] http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/vedanta-may-temporarily-shut-down-odisha-refinery-/483954/
[4] http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/news/environment/secret-state-lobbying-for-scots-energy-giant.17637007?_=b01e9da15ba25ee1f9aa58e1ea0d4bb75f039d33
[5] http://www.hindustantimes.com/business-news/CorporateNews/Vedanta-takeover-aftermath-Cairn-India-CEO-quits/Article1-910439.aspx
[6] http://www.targetgoa.com/inbox_d.php?id=87
[7] http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/409
[8] http://ibnlive.in.com/news/coalgate-caused-a-loss-of-rs-186-lakh-crore-cag/282348-37-64.html
[9] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120522/debtext/120522-0002.htm
[10] http://www.thedeal.com/content/restructuring/vedanta-reshuffle-creates-corporate-rubbish-bin.php
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