The bare hills of Queenstown … caused by mining …
From Ta Ann to Vedanta and Copper Mines of Tasmania (or Vedanta) …
During the forestry debate in Tasmania, environmental organisations and the Greens have exposed appalling corruption allegations and human rights abuses in Sarawak by Malaysian timber company Ta Ann Holdings.
But while these groups have remained focussed on Ta Ann’s activities, Vedanta, owner of Copper Mines of Tasmania, has been the target of the Foile Vedanta group in the UK. Foile Vedanta is a grassroots solidarity group based in London where Vedanta is registered and listed on the London Stock Exchange:
Vedanta has been referred to as the [b]world’s worst miner[/b] as a result of continuing human rights abuses, environmental destruction, widespread pollution and breaches of Occupational Health and Safety regulations for workers in numerous countries.
In 1999 the Mount Lyell mine, Copper Mines of Tasmania (CMT) was acquired by Sterlite Industries – part of the Vedanta group of companies – which has operations in India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa, Ireland and Tasmania.
Foil Vedanta outlines the charges against Vedanta:
[i]The company is being opposed everywhere it operates for violations of law, pollution and human rights abuses: In Chhattisgarh up to 100 people were killed when a chimney they were constructing collapsed on workers. In Goa mine waste floods have destroyed homes, while Vedanta were found guilty of illegal mining on a massive scale. In Tamil Nadu their subsidiary Sterlite have poisoned the town with gas leaks and dumped toxic waste near people’s homes. In Sri Lanka they are drilling near fragile coral reefs with the support of the genocidal Sri Lankan government, while in Zambia they have poisoned one of the main rivers causing ongoing birth defects, as well as depriving the Zambian government of billions of dollars in tax revenue.
In Odisha a ten year struggle by tribal communities and farmers led to a historic victory in 2013 when Vedanta was stopped from mining the sacred Niyamgiri hills for bauxite, costing the company up to $10 billion. Foil Vedanta was closely involved in this unique struggle.[/i]
Similarly to Ta Ann boss Taib Mahmud, Vedanta’s boss Anil Agarwal’s activities are being highly scrutinised by media outlets internationally:
[i]Vedanta is headed by one of Britain’s richest people, Anil Agarwal and 67.99% owned by him and his family (as of January 2014) through a series of tax havens and holding companies. It was launched on the London Stock Exchange in 2003 with the assistance of Brian Gilbertson and the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), who continue with their support for the company.[/i]
In February this year the New York Times profiled Agarwal in him in an article on foreign wealth flowing into New York for property buy ups:
[i]Anonymous in New York
Like most Time Warner owners, Anil Agarwal, an Indian mining magnate, is anonymous in New York. While interviews and private documents reviewed by The Times confirm he is behind condos purchased by the Amantea Corporation for $9.1 million in 2004, his name appears nowhere on public records. The deeds for Amantea’s Time Warner condos — one on the “maids floor” and another with sweeping views of Central Park — are signed by a New York lawyer named Constance Cranch. When contacted, she said: “You cannot say anything with respect to me. It’s a client of mine’s apartment, and I pay their bills.”
Chairman of Vedanta, a global mining conglomerate. His company was found to have caused severe pollution in India and Zambia.
For all the secrecy at Time Warner, Mr. Agarwal is hardly private about his wealth. He spends much of his time in London and told a newspaper in 2005: “I have to have a Bentley, the best of chauffeurs and butlers.”
But Mr. Agarwal and his company, Vedanta Resources, are known in some parts of the world for having left financial and environmental problems in their wake.
He moved his company from India to London in the late 1990s, after it was banned from the Mumbai stock exchange for involvement in a prominent insider trading case. An Indian judge later overturned the ban, saying that there was insufficient evidence of a connection to the trading, and that India’s securities regulator did not have the power to impose the penalty. The regulator is still appealing that ruling, a spokesman said.[/i]
A short summary of Foile Vedanta’s campaigns provide useful background to the company’s appalling track record.
In London on 21st January, 2013 Foile Vedanta held a protest in London calling for the de-listing of Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange:
“De-list Vedanta!” protest at FSA headquarters
In London today activists from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups held a silent symbolic demonstration outside the Financial Services Authority headquarters in Canary Wharf, calling for the new Financial Conduct Authority to de-list Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes in Niyamgiri and elsewhere. They handed over documentation and arranged to meet FCA officials in future.
In Delhi on 31st July 2014 The Ecologist reported on a protest against Vedanta:
[i]They allege the company has been using “unfair means” and “the deadly nexus it shares with both state authorities and successive central governments in India” to push through its bauxite mining project in the sensitive wildlife habitat, Niyamgiri Hills of Odisha[/i]
On 8th April 2013 demonstrations and a shut down was held in Tamil Nadu against Sterlite’s Copper Smelter where 100% of Copper Mines of Tasmania’s’ copper is sent for processing:
Bandh against Sterlite shuts down Thoothkudi
[i]Street vendors hide their faces from the gas leak last weekend
Shops, restaurants, taxi ranks and autorickshaws have shut shop in Thoothkudi, Tamil Nadu, today in a bandh (shutdown) called by members of the Anti-Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee demanding permanent closure of Sterlite’s Copper smelter. According to reports only a few medical shops and others selling essentials remain open, and police have been deployed around the town.
Residents have shut their town in response to last week’s Supreme Court order which allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite plant to continue operating but pay 100 crore rupee ($2 million) compensation for environmental violations including a major gas leak on 23rd March. Residents say there is no price for their health and safety and demand the plant is closed.[/i]
Most recently on 2nd April 2015:
[i] The Supreme Court of Zambia today upheld a 2011 High Court verdict which found Vedanta (KCM) guilty of water pollution which poisoned thousands of Chingola residents in 2006(1).Meanwhile in London protesters held a vigil outside outside the Zambia High Commission, drumming and holding banners in solidarity with the victims of Vedanta’s water pollution. The judgement will be officially read out in court in seven days time.
The High Court had awarded 10 billion kwacha in total to 2000 claimants who had suffered illness and liver and kidney damage as a result of drinking the water.(2) However Vedanta challenged the decision which was not re-heard until June 2014. Today’s judgement delivered some justice to the poisoned victims after eight long years wait, but will not award compensation until an assessment is carried out by the High Court Deputy Registrar. This is likely to reduce the total award since the claimants were only able to show twelve medical reports which they had been able to obtain at the time of the pollution incident. The High Court had previously ruled that these twelve reports were indicative of the damage caused to all residents who had drunk the water, and had heard testimonies from victims who were unable to obtain medical reports from the doctors (many of whom worked in Vedanta sponsored medical centres).
James Nyasulu, a poultry farmer from Chingola and the lead claimant in the case reacted to the judgement today:
“The court should have stood firm and fully supported the High Court judgement. Compensation should even be increased due to the damage done to our health and interest on the original award. The poison we drank violated our right to life, but the court is treating life as cheap. Citizens of this country cannot be treated as guinea pigs for investors.”[/i]
[i]It is time[/i] that we start to think more carefully about which corporations, be they mining or logging, that we will allow to operate in Tasmania or anywhere in Australia. I spoke with an official of the Australian Workers Union in Tasmania while the Coroners inquest was being conducted into the miners’ deaths at CMT’s Mount Lyell mine. I advised the official about the global Foile Vedanta campaign only to met with silence on the end of the phone.
[i]It is time[/i] that the Tasmanian community took a stand against supporting any company be it a mining or logging corporation that conducts itself as shamefully as Vedanta. We need to move away from the piece meal approach to conservation in Tasmania, which has to date primarily been directed at protecting Tasmania’s wild areas or forests. We have a duty to support our brothers and sisters in other parts of the globe whose lives are being lost or devastated by the rapacious and unregulated conduct of large corporations…not just Ta Ann. We have to move beyond a NIMBY approach to environmental protection to one that acknowledges the need for integrated policy development on [b]resource extraction[/b], corporate conduct and governance, move back to independent government regulation, rebuilding public good services and government accountability based on community oversight.
For more information on Vedanta : http://londonminingnetwork.org/page/14/?s=Vedanta&paged=7
• Miriam Rose, UK, in Comments: It is so wonderful to finally make contact with concerned community members in Tasmania on this issue. Vedanta operates with a pattern of abuse across India and Africa which we have studied for 12 years since this company launched on London Stock Exchange. This includes de-unionising workers, increasing contract labour, operating without adequate permission, pollution incidents and illegal waste dumping, tax evasion, illegal mining, misdeclaring volumes of mined ores, high debt and high risk, and failure to enact mine closure plans. To manage risk as a result of this corner-cutting approach they tend to have high profile CSR projects – sponsoring local sports, schools, health clinics etc, as well as sponsoring politicians and other public figures. Tasmania must not become the latest victim of this company. There is a global network of affected communities who are resisting this ill-treatment in their own ways, and our London-based scholar-activism consistently exposes the company’s unjust activities and financial manipulations. Please please get in touch if you are interested or would like to be involved or associated with us in any way. We are an unfunded but very effective people’s organisation holding this company to account. Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta, firstname.lastname@example.org