MAC: Mines and Communities

Indian protestors link with Britain to take on "Killer" Agarwal

Published by MAC on 2018-03-26

London Calling comes out in solidarity with Tuticorin

Thousands of inhabitants of Tuticorn (Thoothukudi), a town in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, vigorously protested last weekend against the expansion of a copper smelter, accusing it of causing egregious toxic pollution, leading to serious ill health - and even death.

They had been prompted over a month earlier when many people were arrested for declaring an indefinite fast at the entrance to the plant (See:  Villagers protest over copper plant pollution).

Saturday's mass mobilisation was the latest -  most powerful and vocal - manifestation  against Sterlite, a subsidiary of UK-listed Vedanta since it took over the offending enterprise in 1994.

Not just in India

In London too, Tamil families, joined by fellow UK residents, made their anger felt in front of the multi-million pound mansion owned by Anil Agarwal, Vedanta's chairperson, whose family trust is the company's biggest shareholder.

The business tycoon himself wasn't at home.

One likes to believe he was elsewhere, busily preparing his corporate defence in time for this year's London shareholders' AGM, and seeking to justify Sterlite's very presence in Tuticorin.

He certainly didn't dare show his face in the town itself.

 

 

Protests in India against Vedanta's copper smelter

Valentina Ruiz Leotaud

mining.com

25 March 2018

Local media in India report that hundreds of people gathered in the Tuticorin district, which is located in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, to protest against Vedanta’s (LON:VED) Sterlite copper plant.

The protesters were asking authorities and the company to stop expanding the smelter and to shut it down. They say that, for more than two decades, gas emissions and effluents from the facility have been polluting groundwater in the area, all of which has caused an increase in serious diseases among the residents of surrounding villages.

According to the Press Trust of India, many shops in the area remained closed in response to a business strike called by 50 associations in support of the protesters.

The rally took place on Saturday, just one month after 250 people were arrested in the same district for holding a hunger strike against the plant’s expansion.

Activists have been ramping up protest actions as Vedanta’s plan to double the smelter's capacity from 400kt to 800kt p.a in 24 months has just started. “Completion of this project will make the Tuticorin smelter one of the world’s largest single-location copper smelting complexes,” the company has said in corporate statements.

Such expansion goal worries many citizens who still recall that back in 2013, the Tamil Nadu’s Pollution Control Board had to close the plant after a sensor in the smelter’s smokestack showed sulphur dioxide levels were more than double the permitted concentration at the time.

A few days later, India’s Supreme Court allowed the plant to restart operations. However, the company had to pay a fine of over $15 million for polluting the surrounding land and water sources and, according to the press, for running the smelter without approval for a considerable period of time.

MINING.com reached out to Vedanta India for comment on the protesters’ allegations but did not receive a response by publication time.


 Tamil Nadu: Thousands protest against Sterlite Copper’s plan to expand its plant in Thoothukudi

The residents claim the plant is polluting the air and groundwater.

Scroll.in

25 March 2018

Thousands of residents in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi protested on Saturday demanding that the Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant, which is reportedly polluting the air and groundwater, be closed.

Most shops and business establishments were closed after members of more than 50 trade associations called for a shutdown. “The 50 associations have extended support to the one-day strike,” M Krishnamoorthy, a coordinator of the protest, told The Times of India.

The residents, especially those living in the Kumarattiyapuram village, have been protesting for weeks against the plant, alleging poor effluent management by the copper producer – part of the Vedanta Group – over two decades.

Local news channels reported that at least 12,000 shops were shut, and autorickshaws and minivans did not ply. The protests came just a month after 250 residents went on a hunger strike after the plant announced expansion plans.

The Vedanta Group on Saturday said the plant has clearances for expansion and that their “primary commitment is to ensure the development and well-being of all the communities around our operations”, PTI reported.

The company aded: “Zero discharge systems, utilisation of waste for sustainable applications, energy efficient systems and stringent emission monitoring are the hallmark of Sterlite and these will only be strengthened through the expansion.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court had fined Sterlite for polluting the land and water in the area after a gas leak. The court had also rebuked the plant for operating without permits for some time.

“There are lot of environmental dangers as well as health dangers, particularly cancer,” Fathima Babu of the Anti Killer Sterlite People’s Movement said, according to The News Minute. “Almost every house is affected by cancer. Children are most affected. Throat cancer has increased. Eye cancer has also gone up. All this is strange and shocking.”


24-hour strike against sterlite hits normal life in Tuticorin

M K Ananth

Times of India

25 March 2018

TUTICORIN: The protest against the expansion of Sterlite that began in Tuticorin about six weeks ago intensified as there was widespread support for the 24-hour strike that demanded closure of the major copper producer. Residents have put forward the demand, alleging that the plant has been polluting air, water and soil due to discharge of harmful chemicals.

But for a few pharmacies all the eateries, hotels, shops, trade and commercial establishments remained shut from the early hours of Saturday. Autorickshaws, vans and minibuses too did not operate from 9 am. Production was stopped in the salt pans too while the 12 cinemas in the city also did not screen any shows throughout the day.

"More than 2,000 country boat fishermen did not go for fishing. More than 50 associations and organizations have extended support to the one-day strike," M Krishnamoorthy, a coordinator of the protest told TOI. Busy areas such as the Old Bus Stand, New Bus Stand, WGC Road and VE Road in the city wore a deserted look.

There was strong support to the strike also from Muthiahpuram, Mullakadu, Tharuvaikulam, Puthiamputhur and Srivaikundam. Thousands of people are expected to take part in the public meeting that has been organized by the protesters at VVD Signal in the city that would begin at 6.30 pm.


London and Tuticorin mass rally to ban Sterlite

A video of the British event is accessible at:

https://www.facebook.com/FoilVedanta/videos/1849074385154180/?hc_ref=ARTHbL1WkyVvfDI8en8Tp-ZH_WUWSrnQjUMb77lwkUJxJCHoK-hcfEAd8KVG4I4WQn8

Foil Vedanta

24 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.


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.

Professor Fatima Babu from the Anti Killer Sterlite People’s Movement says:

“With its monstrous political clout, its huge money-power and its sheer
unethical practices Sterlite continues to strangulate the rights of the
people of Tuticorin. Since its inception, the giant copper-corporate has
been flouting the laws of the land with impunity, with the connivance of
corrupt political leaders and bureaucrats. It has robbed us of our natural
and constitutional right to life and to livelihood. All our natural
resources are polluted. Health status has touched a new low. Today,
Tuticorin is heading towards becoming the capital of cancer. If this is
development, we do not want it. Don’t take away our land, our water, our
air, our health. We want to live our lives with dignity. Thats all.”

British company Vedanta Resources’ subsidiary Sterlite Copper has begun
construction of a new 4 million tonne/year smelter on the edge of the town
of Tuticorin, almost doubling their capacity, but residents argue the
existing smelter has continuously polluted their water and air since it
was established in 1996, causing respiratory and skin problems, fainting
and other illness, especially among children. Activists also claim that
Sterlite obtained its Environmental Clearance illegally by falsifying
information to statutory authorities, while the existing plant is
regularly found to be dumping toxic waste in the town, and operating
without proper licenses. The plant releases its waste into the sensitive
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, an area of coral reefs and mangrove
forests.

Residents of Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) called an indefinite dharna (protest)
and hunger strike on 12th February and more than 500 people including many
women and schoolchildren blocked the company gates until they were rounded
up and arrested on 14th February. For the last month they have continued
their protests day and night, especially in the worst affected villages
surrounding the plant.

London protests targeted the Mayfair home of billionaire Vedanta boss Anil
Agarwal. The house, owned by a Panama registered firm on Agarwal’s behalf
in order to avoid tax, is the linked address for several offshore Vedanta
subsidiaries as revealed in the recent Paradise papers leak. 48% of
Vedanta’s subsidiary companies were registered in tax havens in 2011
according to a report.

Miriam Rose from Foil Vedanta says:

“Sterlite’s crimes in Thoothukudi and elsewhere in India were well
documented before Vedanta launched on the London Stock Exchange. In 1998
they were even banned from the Indian stock market for two years for major
stock market fraud, yet the British government gave them the clean
reputation of a London listing without carrying out any due diligence.
Meanwhile the Tuticorin copper smelter has continued to operate without
various permissions, and pollute without remorse, causing a detrimental
effect to local health and livelihoods. It is time the British government
stopped supporting Sterlite and de-listed Vedanta from the LSE.”

Karthik from Tamil People in UK says:

“Although the majority of the Tamil population living in the UK have
adopted the British life, local customs and try to blend in with society,
they still feel their heart is left in the Tamil land. This absolute
disregard to life and irreversible environmental damage to their land
brings out strong emotional upheaval hence the support and participation
in protests like these.”

The plant has been the subject of major protests in the town ever since
its foundation stone was laid in Thoothukudi 1994, after being refused
permission to set up in Gujarat, Goa and Maharastra due to pollution
concerns. In March and October 1996 hundreds of fisherman blockaded the
port with their boats to prevent ships carrying copper ore from unloading.
In July 1997 a toxic gas leak from the plant caused 165 women in the
neighbouring Ramesh Flowers factory to faint, some later miscarrying. In
March 2013 another major gas leak affected the whole of Tuticorin, leading
to a bandh (strike) and protests of 5000 people which completely shut down
the town for several days. The plant was ordered to stop operating for
more than a month, and was fined Rs 100 crore ($18 million) for pollution
and damage to the environment since 1997, and for operating the plant
without various environmental permissions over a number of years, by the
Supreme Court. The plant is located beside the fragile Gulf of Mannar,
where toxic waste has damaged fish populations and the livelihood of
thousands of fishermen.

Vedanta’s only other copper smelter in Chingola, Zambia, is the subject of
a precedent UK damages case on behalf of 2000 farmers who have been
polluted by the plant since 2004.

Sterlite was the first company set up by British Indian billionaire Anil
Agarwal in India before he launched Vedanta Resources on the London Stock
Exchange in 2003, where it is now a multi-national FTSE 250 company with
operations across India and Africa. The company even had operations in
military-ruled Myanmar in the 1990s. Vedanta, which was named the ‘world’s
most hated company’ by [a reporter from] the Independent newspaper in
2010, has received considerable support from the British government,
including the direct assistance of former Prime Minister David Cameron in
buying out Indian oil company Cairn India in 2011.

 

 

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