MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta update

Published by MAC on 2007-08-18

Vedanta update

18th August 2007

The flow in media coverage of Vedanta Resources' annual general meeting (AGM), held in London early this month, hasn't stopped. Three of the more perceptive recent contributions appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and last Saturday in "il manifesto" - Italy's (non-party political) Italian communist daily.

Nick Robins also co-authored with Pratap Chatterjee a major article for CorpWatch, on the sixtieth anniversary of India's independence. This highlighted Vedanta as an example of the "legacy of collusion between global corporations and the expansionist [Indian] state" that, says the authors, "makes this year so poignant and full of enduring lessons". (Nick Robins was involved in putting together the MMSD project, sponsored by a raft of mining companies in the late 1990s. He is employed on selecting socially responsible investments for HSBC, the world's second largest investment bank which has major investments in mining and helped put together the initial funding package for Vedanta Resources plc.)

Also citing the Vedanta case as an example of "looting" India’s natural resources, Jay Mazoomdaar warns against "romantic primitivism", arguing instead for a government policy that reconciles both environmental protection and community desires for self-advancement.

Vedanta's subsidiary, BALCO, has sealed a new deal with the state government of Chhattisgarh, boasting that this will make it the world's biggest aluminium producer "from a single location". The claim came hot on the heels of strident criticisms voiced at the company's AGM over BALCO's increased (and dangerous and arguably illegal) bauxite mining in the state. It’s clearly yet another example of Vedanta's determination to present itself as indispensable to "the expansionist state" and thus deflect rising criticisms of the damage caused or created by its current activities.

Of a piece with this strategy has been the long-nursed plan by Vedanta's executive chairman, Anil Agarwal, to construct a "world class", eponymous university in Orissa. Now the state government plans to build a central university which would serve the needs of disadvantaged tribal students, coming from the areas where they will be most profoundly affected by new mining projects - including those of Vedanta.

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