British company accused in Indian scandalsPublished by MAC on 2002-11-21
British company accused in Indian scandals
Press Release: November 21 2002
One of Britain's largest mining companies has been accused of violating India's forestry and environmental laws, while ignoring an order to prevent pollution at one of the country's most important smelters.
Vedanta Resources plc was launched on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) last December, in the second most important UK share flotation that year. The company is a vehicle by which controversial businessman, Anil Agarwal, has re-financed his Indian-based company, Sterlite Industries (1).
Vedanta/Sterlite's biggest single project is a bauxite mine and alumina refinery in the Indian state of Orissa. Last month, opposition Congress party members in the state's legislative assembly accused Orissa's Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, of accepting bribes from Mr Agarwal, to licence the project in violation of national forestry and environmental laws (2).
On Friday November 29th Digvijay Singh, Secretary General of the All India Congress Committee, said Vedanta had been involved in "large scale corruption" (3).
A mountain of arsenic
Last week, too, India's Supreme Court released a report by its Hazardous Waste Monitoring Committee (SCMC) following an investigation of Vedanta's Tuticorin copper smelter in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The SCMC team discovered "several thousands of tonnes a mountain, of arsenic-bearing slag [and] phospho-gypsum" stored on the smelter site in an inadequate waste landfill. The plant, said the SCMC "is also emitting sulphur dioxide far in excess of the permissible standards" (4)
Vedanta is further accused of embarking on a threefold expansion of the plant's output, despite not having permits to do so (4).
For nearly a year campaigners in India and the UK have attacked Vedanta for its abysmal lack of corporate social responsibility and a cavalier disregard for the rights of Orissa's indigenous people. Their accusations are posted on the international website of Mines and Communities, based in London.
Shareholders attending Vedanta's first annual general meeting, held in London last July, demanded to know whether the company had secured all necessary permits for its Orissa venture and the expansion of the copper smelter in Tamil Nadu. Chairman Michael Fowle replied unequivocally that such permission had been obtained (5)
These claims are now demonstrated as threadbare at best and deceitful at worst. Commented Roger Moody, director of Nostromo Research, who visited both Vedanta's Orissa and Tamil Nadu operations earlier this year:
"Vedanta gets away with shameful, illegal acts in India, while claiming to be a responsible British multinational. This is totally unacceptable - for citizens of both countries".
For further information please:
Phone Roger Moody, Nostromo Research: 0207 700 6189
Or email: email@example.com
1) For background data on Vedanta and Sterlite, see A London Calling special
2) Accusations of bribery against the Chief minister of Orissa and Vedanta/Sterlite are posted on: Vedanta's Orissa prospects threatened with the boot
4) To read the SCMC critique of Vedanta's copper smelter, see India's Supreme Court Panel Cracks Down on Hazardous Waste