MAC: Mines and Communities

Those following recent events around the activities in India of the British company, Vedanta, alrea

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Those following recent events around the activities in India of the British company, Vedanta, already know that it is accused of bribery, corruption and violation of the forestry laws, in proceeding to construct infrrastructure for its planned bauxite mine in the Lanjigarh district of Orissa.

The other main issue raised by dissident shareholders at Vedanta's first annual general meeting in London at the end of last July, concerned the company's expansion of its copper smelter in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu.

Local people had expressed grave concern that the huge arsenic and gypsum contaminated wastes stored on the smelter site posed dangers to their health, and that the company had not obtained a permit to mount a huge expansion of its output. In September 2004, the Indian Supreme Court's Monitoring Committee visited the smelter, and has published its report. It doesn't mince its words: the wastes are a hazard and the expansion which has been proceeding from earlier this year should be halted immediately. The Committee was not clear whether responsibility for actions which are unequivocally a breach of law , lies with Vedanta or the state. But the implication is that Vedanta has proceed to expand regardless - and without obtaining the required permits.

The situation exposed in Tamil Nadu seems strikingly similar to that in Orissa. It is unfortunate that the most damning facts are only emerging now, but its not too late to stop the company committing even worse crimes than it has already.

And of course this is a responsibility which lies not just with people in India but those (like JP Morgan) who backed the company's launch in London in 2003, and those - especially ABNAmro, the Netherlands' biggest bank - which are providing it with project funding now.

Following this report on the Vedanta smelter you will find an article from today's ENS by Frederick Noronha setting out the rationale for the SCMM and referring to a number of other cases including mining ones.

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