MAC: Mines and Communities

Activists protest at Vedanta's 2014 AGM over alleged illegalities

Published by MAC on 2014-08-04
Source: Statement, Economic Times, Reuters, Mining.com (2014-08-04)

Global Protests Rage against Vedanta's AGM

Foil Vedanta AGM

1 August 2014

On 1st August protesters from Foil Vedanta(1), MPs and other organizations held a loud and colourful demonstration at the AGM of controversial FTSE 250 mining company Vedanta(2) at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London. On 31st August parallel demos were held in Odisha, Delhi and Johannesburg. 400 miners protested Vedanta's Konkola Copper Mines in Ndola, Zambia. In Odisha, India, a consultation on the proposed six fold expansion of the Lanjigarh refinery on 30th July met with major opposition after Vedanta lost permission to mine the Niyamgiri Hills this year. Meanwhile, Vedanta are accused of tax evasion and mismanagement at their Konkola Copper Mines subsidiary in Zambia after investigations revealed they may be externalising up to $500 million per year in profits.

60 people railed against Vedanta's London AGM today, representing a variety of organisations including diaspora from Zambia, Goa, Sri Lanka and Odisha where Vedanta is currently embroiled in scandals and accused of major illegalities. Shortly before the AGM started at 3pm a huge banner was unfurled from the top of the next door building saying 'Vedanta out of London' eliciting cheers from the crowd. The protesters were joined by a 6m inflatable blade of grass referring to Anil Agarwal's repeated claim at previous AGMs that Vedanta 'have not touched a single blade of grass' at the Niyamgiri Hills(3). Company executives were hassled as they entered the AGM.

MP John McDonnell joined the demonstration and asked questions inside the AGM after he and other MPs heard the case for investigating and de-listing Vedanta in a House of Commons meeting last week(4). Inside the AGM the leaked conclusions of the suppressed Sandeep Bakshi Judicial Commission report which holds Vedanta guilty of negligence in the 2009 chimney collapse which killed 40 workers at Korba, Chhattisgarh were released.(5) Rajshri Gupte, a journalist from Korba spoke to the crowd via phone link detailing Vedanta (BALCO)'s illegal expansion onto forest land, and lack of permission to operate at their Smelter no 3.(6)

Meanwhile Vedanta held a consultation on the six fold expansion of the contentious Lanjigarh refinery on 30th July which was met with protests of 1000 people, including many Dongria Konds, who disrupted the meetings objecting to the expansion1 and noting that the proposed source of bauxite is 3.5km from the refinery,2 intimating that they are still attempting to mine the Niyamgiri Hills despite unanimously losing a precedent local referendum last year.(7) Shockingly the local and even international media reported a majority in favour of the expansion, an unlikely scenario given the historical opposition.3 4 A rally in Odisha capital Bhubaneswar yesterday described the hearing as 'unconstitutional'5.

Reporting from the hearing Lingaraj Azad, of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti said:

“It was very clear in the public hearing that the government was pro-actively working with Vedanta. The statements of the dissenting villagers, who were the majority, were not recorded. Why were the recorded minutes of the public hearing not read out in the end? There were so many people at the meeting, not everyone could speak, there was no system of voting to gauge how many people were for and how many against the refinery expansion”.

Kumuti Majhi, a Kond leader from Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (Niyamgiri Protection Committee) said:

“Already 18 people have died from pollution-related illness since Vedanta built their refinery and red mud pond near Rengopali village. If the refinery will be expanded to six million tonnes we will all die. Vedanta have no permission to mine here, and their expansion is already illegal. We demand that they leave us in peace”

In Delhi 40 people protested outside the Ministry of Environment and Forests yesterday expressing their solidarity with communities suffering Vedanta's violations and demanding that Vedanta 'keep its hands off Niyamgiri'6.(8)

The crowd gathered in London heard amplified reports from movement leaders and affected people at the previous days demonstrations around the world by phone including one of the 400 miners from Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia who massed in the streets today demanding Vedanta give them fair wages and pensions, and echoing national calls for Vedanta's Konkola Copper Mines to be re-nationalised following recent evidence of their major tax evasion and mismanagement of the Zambian asset. A recent judgement suggested Vedanta may be planning to abandon their $1.5 billion liabilities and debt in Zambia.(9) Vedanta shares were down 2.8% on 30th July due to a 43% fall in earnings in Zambia as the government attempts to re-coup debts from the company.7 8

Darious Yundayunda from the Former KCM Miners Association says:

“Vedanta have told so many lies in Zambia. They say they have invested billions of dollars into our mines and that are are loss making and struggling. Now the truth has come out that Vedanta have bled our country dry, externalising their millions in profits and leaving their debt here. They have not paid tax and have even failed to pay their workers or retrenched workers their dues.

We demand justice and ask for the help of the UK government.”

In South Africa, Earthlife Africa held protests on 31st July and 1st August over Vedanta's planned coal power station in a poor and water-starved area.(10) Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg stated:

"There are many reasons why the Waterberg does not need another coal-fired power station. One, the area is water stressed. Two, the Waterberg is already an air quality high priority area. Three, South African international commitments to climate change cannot support more coal-fired electricity generation."

Protesters in London also highlighted the controversies and violations caused by Vedanta since their last AGM including:

Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta says:

“The case for de-listing Vedanta in London is mounting rapidly as evidence of major tax evasion, illegal mining, insider trading, related party deals, pollution and workers deaths stack up. Vedanta cannot be allowed to continue to violate laws with impunity. We demand that Vedanta is formally investigated and trialled in the UK, and justice is served to its many victims.”

Ends.

--

Notes to editors:

CASE STUDIES IN LONDON, ZAMBIA, SOUTH AFRICA and INDIA ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.

A short film of the demonstration will be released to broadcast media by 00.30 GMT on 2nd August.

Contact: Miriam Rose: 07765 50168707765 501687 miriam.rose@outlook.com

Foil Vedanta www.foilvedanta.org

(1) Foil Vedanta are a London based international solidarity group focusing on the activities of British mining company Vedanta. We link up global communities affected by Vedanta, and hold them to account in London. We are currently aiming to make the case for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for their human rights and corporate governance abuses.

(2) Vedanta is a FTSE 250 diversified oil and mining company, who 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 world14.

The Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha, India, are a mountain range sacred to the Dongria Kond tribe. The tribe and other local farmers and dailts won their long fight against the company in December this year when the Supreme Court granted them a referendum on the proposed 73 million tonne bauxite mine, which was unanimously against it.

(3) Speakers from Foil Vedanta and London Mining Network presented the case for Vedanta's investigation and de-listing for illegalities, mismanagement and poor corporate governance which brought 'shame on the London Stock Exchange' to MPs and diplomats in the House of Commons on Monday 21st July.15

(4) Please contact Foil Vedanta for a copy of a press release on the report, which was suppressed by an injuction taken out by Vedanta subsidiary BALCO.

(5) Full statement from Rajshi Gupte today:

"In its BALCO factory in Korba, Vedanta has built a 5.5LTPA Smelter called Smelter 3. It has permission for construction on only 14acres of land, which is not enough for a smelter of that capacity. The rest of the construction is illegal and on forest land. This is a gross violation of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 in India. On top of that, the earlier smelter which existed from pre-privatisation days, which is Smelter 1 was demolished by Vedanta without seeking the appropriate permissions from the state. And now, the License issued by the Industrial Safety Authority for the demolished Smelter 1 is being illegally used by Vedanta to run Smelter 3. Hence, there is no license ensuring the safety of workers for Smelter 3. This is outrageous, especially in the context of the chimney collapse in 2009 that killed 40 and maybe more workers. Vedanta has also not initiated the procedure for land use change and diversion as required by law. There is no adequate facility for managing the ash from a 1700MW plant and instead the height of the red mud pond was raised by 19m, even if they had permission for only a 16m rise. Given these numerous violations of various legal requirements through Vedanta's aggressive and shameless The Korba venture might face closure soon as well. There is also a case on-going in the Supreme Court of India against Vedanta's BALCO venture for forest encroachment and cutting of trees."

(6) Please contact Foil Vedanta for a copy of the public notice stating that bauxite will be sourced 3.5 km from Lanjigarh.

(7) Please contact Devangana 00 91 8130414606, Aapurv 00 91 991055073600 91 9910550736, Nikita 00 91 958207689100 91 9582076891 for more details of the Delhi demonstration.

(8) A case in the London Court of Arbitration on 2nd July revealed that Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) (Zambia) has been using transfer mispricing (by undervaluing ores sold to a hidden subsidiary Fujairah Gold in Dubai) to evade tax in Zambia16. The judgement also concluded that Vedanta had transferred much of KCMs liabilities to Zambia, and may be planning to abandon the mine, leaving the Zambian taxpayer to pick up $1.5 billion in debt and liabilities. Earlier, a video released by Foil Vedanta had revealed Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal bragging to investors that he makes between $500 million and $1 billion at KCM, contrary to claims made by the company that they are making a loss in Zambia and therefore cannot pay tax17.

(9) Contact Earthlife Africa Johannesburg: Makoma Lekalakala, Senior Programme Manager
    Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662+27 (0) 11 339 3662 Mobile: + 27 (0) 82 682 9177+ 27 (0) 82 682 9177
    Email: makoma@earthlife.org.za www.earthlife.org.za

Also contact Foil Vedanta for a press release.

1 http://odishasuntimes.com/75988/public-hearing-vedantas-odisha-refinery-expansion-disrupted-local-tribals/

2 http://www.foilvedanta.org/articles/lanjigarh-expansion-public-hearing-disrupted-by-thousands/

3 http://odishasuntimes.com/75866/vedanta-refinery-odisha-gets-peoples-nod-expansion-officials/

4 http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/07/30/uk-india-vedanta-aluminum-expansion-idINKBN0FZ13P20140730

5 http://odishasuntimes.com/76142/protest-vedanta-odisha-capital/

6 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2499810/india_foil_vedanta_protests_erupt_in_delhi.html

7 http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/07/30/vedanta-res-plc-results-idUKL4N0Q52U120140730

8 http://www.postzambia.com/post-read_article.php?articleId=51779

9 data from Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA)

10 http://indianexpress.com/article/business/companies/cairn-indias-1-25-billion-loan-offer-to-vedanta-group-raises-concerns/

11 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-14/india-challenges-merger-of-vedanta-units-on-tax-evasion-grounds.html

12 Buried tensions surface in Lisheen Mine court case – Samantha McCaughren, Sunday Times, 24th November, 2013.

13 http://vimeo.com/71430900

14 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/vedanta-resources-the-worlds-most-hated-company-2037977.html

15 http://www.daily-mail.co.zm/index.php/business/item/6711-%E2%80%98vedanta-should-leave-london-bourse%E2%80%99

16 http://www.foilvedanta.org/articles/kcm-hides-profits-in-zambia-by-transfer-mispricing/

17 http://www.foilvedanta.org/uncategorized/video-reveals-agarwals-500-million-a-year-profit-at-kcm/


Activists protest at Vedanta's AGM over alleged illegalities

Economic Times (India)

2 August 2014

London: A group of around 60 people -- representing a variety of organisations from Zambia, Sri Lanka and India -- held protest outside the mining giant Vedanta's London AGM venue yesterday evening against the company's alleged involvement in major illegalities.

Vedanta Resources is reportedly embroiled in scandals and accused of wrongdoings related to its plans of bauxite drilling in Odisha's Niyamgiri hills.

Shortly before the AGM started at 3 pm yesterday, a huge banner was unfurled from the top of the next door building saying 'Vedanta out of London' eliciting cheers from the crowd at the AGM venue.

The protesters were holding a 6-metre inflatable blade of grass referring to Vedanta's chairman Anil Agarwal's repeated claims at previous AGMs that Vedanta 'have not touched a single blade of grass' at the Niyamgiri Hills.

MP John McDonnell joined the demonstration and asked questions inside the AGM after he and other MPs heard the case for investigating and de-listing Vedanta in a House of Commons meeting last week.

Inside the AGM, the leaked conclusions of the suppressed Sandeep Bakshi Judicial Commission report that holds Vedanta guilty of negligence in the 2009 chimney collapse that resulted in a killing of 40 workers at Korba in Chhattisgarh, were released.

Meanwhile, Vedanta on 30th July held a consultation on the six-fold expansion of the contentious Lanjigarh refinery, which was met with protests of 1,000 people, including many Dongria Konds, who disrupted the meetings.

They objected to the expansion, saying that the proposed source of bauxite is 3.5 km from the refinery intimating that the firm is still seeking ways to mine the Niyamgiri Hills despite unanimously losing a precedent local referendum last year.


Vedanta open to scrutiny of Zambian copper business

Reuters

4 August 2014

(Reuters) - Diversified miner Vedanta Resources Plc said it was open to a scrutiny of its Zambian copper business, which has faced protests recently over allegedly not paying enough taxes.

The company's shares were up 2.5 percent at 1077 pence at 1457 GMT on the London Stock Exchange.

Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal said on Friday his comments on Zambia in a video circulating on the Internet had been taken out of context.

"I can assure you we have paid our fair share of taxes in Zambia (and around the world) and we welcome any scrutiny of that," the one-time scrap dealer, who controls the FTSE-250 company, said at Vedanta's annual general meeting.

Zambia's mines minister Christopher Yaluma said in May the government would investigate and recover back taxes if it found that Vedanta made more money from its Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) than it had reported.

Hundred of Zambians protested at KCM's Lusaka headquarters after the video showed Agarwal boasting of vast profits from the mine, in which Vedanta bought a controlling stake a decade ago.

The business - which accounts for about 10 percent of Vedanta's revenue - was part of the company's push beyond its origins in India, but has repeatedly disappointed.

The company reported a 43 percent fall in core earnings at its Zambian copper business for the first quarter ended June 30, earlier this week.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

 


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