Sun Has Shone On The Communities At The Vibrant Demo Against Vedanta Resources

By Rumana Hashem

Monday, the 14th August, was apparently a bright day for the communities oppressed by a notorious British mining company, called Vedanta Resources. Protests held by communities in Zambia, India and London while activist-shareholders, representing the communities, were interrogating the Vedanta board at their Annual General Meeting at the Lincoln Centre in Lincoln Inn Fields in London. Although residents of Lincoln Inn Fields have seen lousy weather with gusty wind and non-stop rain across London for weeks before Monday, the gorgeous sun has shown up to brighten the colourful and powerful protest of communities against Vedanta Resources last Monday.  Loud and theatrical protest was held outside the AGM of the British mining company, for three hours, accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. I was one of the late comers though there were numerous protesters with noisy instruments and colourful banners and placards till late afternoon who greeted me in smiling face. They said, as were determined, that: “We wouldn’t leave the venue hitherto the miners are out of the block”.

 

Parallel protests and meetings were held by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders in London asked questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, and tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India, who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion. Organised by the Foil Vedanta, the protest in London was joined by many grassroots organisations and community activists from the global South.

 

The shareholders, representing communities, poured scorn on Vedanta’s 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company ‘demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility’. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the “cloak of respectability” of a London listing noting that Vedanta was again excluded from the Norwegian Pension Fund’s investments this year following an investigation which found “numerous reports of Vedanta’s failure to comply with government requirements”1 at four subsidiaries in Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Zambia. The report concludes that: “there continues to be an unacceptable risk that your company will cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”

 

On Sunday, a day before the AGM, farming communities living downstream of copper mines run by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Chingola, Zambia, held a meeting in Hippo Pool to renew their resolve in their twelve year struggle against the company for severe water pollution which has caused major health problems, and rendered land uncultivable. Police had refused them permission to hold a protest. Government officials visited their villages in Spring this year asking them to drop their London case against Vedanta and settle out of court with the company. The Headmen of Hippo Pool village submitted a statement to the Vedanta board and shareholders which was asked by Shoda Rackal from Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike. The statement notes:

 

The people here are sick and tired of pollution which is killing us through illness and loss of our crops and fish. The pollution must end at all costs. Whether we receive compensation or not, we are asking you to stop polluting us now.”

 

Another dissident shareholder asked why Vedanta’s Annual Report makes no mention of its liabilities relating to the landmark legal case in which 1,826 of the farmers have been granted jurisdiction to sue Vedanta in London for gross pollution by KCM. At the July appeal hearing in the case, Vedanta’s lawyers claimed that the company’s sustainability and human rights reports are only produced for show as a requirement of London Stock Exchange rules. Instead they claimed Vedanta Resources has very little actual oversight or involvement with subsidiary operations such as Konkola Copper Mines.2

 

Meanwhile in Zambia debate rages over KCM’s secret finances as the company on Thursday announced it would retrench a further swathe of workers in favour of contract labour at its Nchanga underground mines. KCM have never filed Annual accounts in Zambia according to the recent London judgment.3 Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta says:

The UK Government and London Stock Exchange are directly responsible for failing to investigate Vedanta’s corporate crimes in India and Zambia since its London listing in 2003. The Zambian State’s threats to polluted farmers demonstrate the ongoing colonial power of this British corporation which acts more powerful than the Zambian State.”

“Britain is profiting from the financial transactions of non-domiciled family-run business houses like Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta, while appearing to provide them a service. The opaqueness of the British financial system is gaining directly from giving Anil Agarwal “a cloak of respectability” and in exchange Britain itself is gaining from appropriating the resources of the third world”, adds Das.

 

Anil Agarwal with polluted water at the Vedanta AGM 14 August 2017. Photo credit: Foil Vedanta

In Chattisgarh the organisation Adivasi Resurgence held a protest at Ambedkar Chowk in Raipur, decrying Vedanta’s suppression of the Bakshi Commission report into the death of between 40 and 100 workers when a chimney collapsed at their Korba power plant.4 The inquiry found Vedanta as guilty of negligence and using sub-standard materials and construction methods which caused the death of the workers.5

 

At the University of Hyderabad the group Odisha Scholars for Social Justice held a protest and meeting today in solidarity with communities affected by Vedanta’s operations worldwide. In Delhi, students from Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) held a solidarity demonstration at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) calling for an end to the displacement and repression of Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi communities across India by Vedanta.

 

While their Annual Report claims to respect the right to ‘Free Prior Informed Consent’, Vedanta has not given up its plans to mine the Niyamgiri hills, despite a unanimous referendum against it by tribal inhabitants in 2013. The Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has filed a new plea with the National Green Tribunal to overturn the referendum, claiming it overstepped the provisions of the Forest Rights Act by allowing Palli Sabhas to decide on mining, rather than merely settling their claims.6 In September 2016 a group of Dongria Kond had burned down a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) camp, opposing construction of a road connecting Niyamgiri to Kalyansingpur, which they claim is to aid Vedanta’s mine plans, and opposing ongoing harassment by the force.7

 

Last Friday five villages around another Odisha bauxite mountain – Kodingamali – held a palli sabha (village council) opposing the proposed mining of the mountain by OMC to feed Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery.8 They passed a resolution “not to give any patta land, forest land and community land to any mining company” under the banner of Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan.

 

The Dongria Konds also held a protest on Tuesday in Lakhpadar village on Niyamgiri mountain under the banner of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS). They demanded the dismantling the Lanjigarh refinery since Vedanta did not get permission to mine, and an end to its illegal expansion. They also demand an end to the militarisation of Niyamgiri, claiming that the anti-Maoist programs are in fact targeting the tribal activists. Ongoing abductions, false arrests and State sponsored murders of tribal activists against Vedanta’s mine have been highly publicised in recent months.An NSS spokesperson Lingaraj Azad said:

 

Vedanta didn’t get permission to mine so why are they keeping the Lanjigarh refinery? which continues to pollute our communities, affecting our ecology and water resources and making people and animals sick.”

In August 2016 Vedanta Head, Anil Agarwal, told a press conference that he had asked Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to deal with the ‘disruptive elements’ holding up bauxite mining in the State, suggesting he follow the Tamil Nadu government’s approach with protesters at Kudankulam, where widespread police brutality was reported.9 In February 2016 Vedanta employed the services of former Iraq war General Sir Richard Shirreff, and Lord Peter Hain, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in ‘handling local protest groups’.10

 

Vedanta Resources are again the subject of multiple major scams and several international arbitrations this year. An international arbitration is underway for Vedanta’s withholding of $100 million in dividends from Cairn Energy, owner of 9.8% shares in Vedanta controlled oil company Cairn India.11 In December 2016 London courts ordered Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines to pay $103 million in withheld dividends to Zambian State entity ZCCM-IH.12

 

The Rajasthani High Court has uncovered a Rs 600 crore ($96 million) tax evasion scam in which Vedanta subsidiary Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) benefitted from tax fraud at the hands of shamed IAS officer Ashok Singhvi in 2015.13 HZL is the subject of another major scam in which it closed its Visakhapatnam Zinc smelter on false grounds to enable the sale of the land for high value realty. HZL is also accused of major toxic pollution at the site.14

 

In Punjab, Vedanta subsidiary Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd is the subject of a major power purchase scam in which the Akali Dal government bought power at inflated prices from the private company over cheaper State owned companies.15 Former Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, will step down from Vedanta’s board at this year’s AGM along with executives Euan MacDonald and Aman Mehta. Vedanta’s CEO of Zambian operations Steven Din has recently been accused of offering bribes for the Simandou iron ore mine by the former Guinean mining minister, as part of a major corruption investigation. Din was head of Rio Tinto’s Guinean operation at the time the scandal unfolded, while Tom Albanese was CEO.16 Recent analyst reports highlight Vedanta’s high debt, lack of bauxite at Lanjigarh refinery, and operational issues in Zambia.

Reports have detailed how twelve years of pollution by KCM has turned the river Kafue into a ‘river of acid’19 20 and left the farmers with no access to clean water. As well as suing KCM and Vedanta in the UK for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution, the villagers are demanding that KCM de-silt and remediate the contaminated areas so they can return to normal life.

An estimated 40,000 people in total are affected by contaminated water which also affects the municipal piped water system21. A number of scientific papers have documented the extent of contamination, with acid pH and heavy metal content regularly tens and even hundreds of times above legal limits.22 23 24

 

One villager Judith Kapumba appears in a youtube video testifying to how contamination has destroyed their livelihood and their lives, has claimed that many have ‘collapsed and died’ as a result of illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water, and that crops can no longer grow leading to starvation and extreme poverty. 25

 

 

For further details visit Foil Vedanta website:  www.foilvedanta.org

For photos and a short film of London demonstration, visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoilVedanta/

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Mark the Decade of Resistance, Mark Phulbari Day!

Celebrating 10 years of Halt to Open Cast Mining, Commemorating the lives of brave Villagers

What? RED Vigil at London Stock Exchange

 When? 11am to 1pm on Friday, 26 August 2016

Where? London Stock Exchange HQ for International Trading , 10 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7LS  (nearest tube station: St Paul’s)

Find Map

Phulbari 2014

 

Friday, the 26th of August marks a decade of the Phulbari outburst. In 2006 three people were shot dead and two hundred injured in a demonstration of 80,000 people who marched against plans by an AIM-listed British company, Global Coal Resources Management , who wants to build a massive open cast coal mine in Phulbari, a location in northwest Bangladesh. The day has been called Phulbari Day since, and powerful resistance in the aftermath of the shooting against open-cast mine in Phulbari has put a decade long halt to the project. Government has cancelled the company’s license. Although GCM does not have a valid contract with Bangladesh, they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari project. The company has changed its name from Asia Energy to Global Coal Management in 2010, and continued its dodgy deals and lobbying for Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh.

If the mine is built, 130,000 families of farmers in Phulbari would be forcibly displaced. It would destroy 14,600 hectares of highly cultivable land, would pose threats to clean water resources and would leave devastative impact on one of the world’s largest mangrove forests and UNESCO heritage site, the Sunderbans.  Despite grave concerns at national and international level, and declaration made by seven UN rapporteurs, GCM is pushing the government to give it a go ahead.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh has called upon national and global environmentalists to observe 10th anniversary of Phulbari outburst and to protest against GCM’s dodgy business and to mark the decade of Phulbari Resistance.  In conjunction with the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Port-Power and Mineral Resources, we will celebrate the decade-long struggle in London.

Phulbari Day POster by NCBD 2016

We will hold a Red Vigil for Victims of Phulbari outside the London Stock Exchange at 11am next Friday. We will ask London Stock Exchange to De-list GCM Plc and to show cause Gary Lye’s gang for selling fake shares. We will commemorate for the lost lives by rallying against GCM. We will celebrate our decade-long resistance by turning the commemoration event into a powerful rally against dark coal business.

JOIN US at London Stock Exchange (nearest tube station: St Paul’s).

Bring your organisation’s banner, noisy/music instruments and flowers for the victims if you can. Wear Red, Black or Blue as symbols of Resistance, Anguish and Celebration of struggle!

Please confirm participation via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/641147849383562/

Contact for further information:  07714288221, 07956260791, 07861686036

Email: nationalcommittee.uk@gmail.com , phulbarisolidaritygroup@gmail.com

Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh, UK branch     Phulbari Solidarity Group

Download Mark the Decade of Halt, Observe Phulbari Day Flyer August 2016

LMN call out for Phulbari Solidarity demo in London on 19 dec 2012

Local women, men and children cried out to save their homes, lands and lives in Phulbari in the aftermath of the GCM-provoked shooting in Phulbari. Photo: 28 August 2006

Mothers, sisters, wives and all the effected women vowed to protect  Phulbari through outburst after the shooting on 26 August 2006. Copyright: PSG

 

News – Polo Resources Limited: Update on GCM Holding

Source: Business Wire

Polo Resources Limited: Update on GCM Holding

TORONTO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Polo Resources Limited (AIM and TSX: POL) (“Polo” or the “Company”), announces that it has held discussions with interested parties over the last year regarding the sale of its 29.77 per cent stake in GCM Resources plc (“GCM”). Discussions are ongoing and at a very early stage and there can be no certainty that an offer for some or all of its interest will be forthcoming.

As at today’s date, Polo holds 15,220,985 ordinary shares in GCM, representing approximately 29.77 per cent of the issued ordinary share capital of GCM.

About the Company
Polo Resources is a natural resources investment company focused on investing in undervalued companies and projects with strong fundamentals and attractive growth prospects. For further details on Polo Resources please see our website: www.poloresources.com.

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT

The AIM Market of London Stock Exchange plc does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release. No stock exchange, securities commission or other regulatory authority has approved or disapproved the information contained herein. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, in this news release are forward-looking statements that involve various risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, statements regarding potential values, the future plans and objectives of Polo Resources Limited. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate, achievable or recognizable in the near term.

Actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. These and all subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements are based on the estimates and opinions of management on the dates they are made and are expressly qualified in their entirety by this notice. Polo Resources Limited assumes no obligation to update forward-looking statements should circumstances or management’s estimates or opinions change.

Source: Reuters

BRIEF-Polo Resources says held talks about sale of GCM stake

Jan 22 (Reuters) – Polo Resources Ltd : * Has held discussions with interested parties regarding the sale of its 29.77

per cent stake in GCM Resources Plc * Talks are ongoing and at a very early stage and can be no certainty that an

offer will be forthcoming.

 

City Diary: Santa visits GCM Resources, but investors are left wanting

News story on the GCM AGM published by The Daily Telegraph (UK) on the 3 January, 2013:

City Diary: Santa visits GCM Resources, but investors are left wanting

By Harriet Dennys

Environmental activist Ashley Feils was evicted from the GCM Resources AGM after presenting chairman Gerard Holden with a stocking full of coal

Environmental activist Ashley Feils was evicted from the GCM Resources AGM after presenting chairman Gerard Holden with a stocking full of coal.  Photo Credit: Anonymous.

Where now for GCM Resources’ controversial mining project in Bangladesh, after a protestor dressed as Santa Claus stormed the company’s pre-Christmas AGM and deposited a stocking full of coal in the lap of chairman Gerard Holden?

It seems the Aim-listed miner has already shrugged off the scenes of the St Nicholas imposter – 19-year-old grass-roots activist Ashley Feils of the Climate Justice Collective – being frogmarched out of the meeting at the Institute of Directors.

A spokesman says GCM Resources is still “very committed” to getting the project approved, and plans to meet Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina “as soon as possible” to discuss how the project can address the country’s energy needs.

The groups opposing the mine say the Phulbari Coal Project could displace 220,000 people. Not so, responds GCM, which claims 40,000 people will be resettled over 10 years, and that 17,000 new jobs will be created as the open-pit coal project develops.

“We welcome the opportunity to speak in a constructive dialogue with any group, but have not yet been taken up on this offer,” says GCM, which has reassured shareholders it is “aware” of their frustration.

Link to article.

Protesters ask Asia Energy to remove local offices by Mar 30

News coverage published in New Age of the demonstration that took place in Phulbari on the 1 January, 2013:

Protesters ask Asia Energy to remove local offices by Mar 30

The organisations doing movement against opencast mining of Phulbari coal mine by British company Asia Energy gave an ultimatum on Tuesday to withdraw its local offices by March 30.

Local unit of the National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports and Phulbari Peshajibi Sangathan said the company must remove its two offices from Phulbari by that date.

The establishments will be destroyed if the company fails to heed to the demand by March 30, the protesters threatened.

The two organisations from separate rallies at Phulbari gave the ultimatum. They also brought out processions before the rallies.
The speakers at the rallies restated their condemnations of the government, saying that by favouring Asia Energy and its open-pit mining proposals it pushed the people of Phulbari towards absolute uncertainty.

National Committee Phulbari unit leaders Aminul Bablu, Joy Prakash Gupta, Shikder Sarker, Syed Saiful Islam Jewel and Phulbari Peshajibi Sangathan convener Murtoza Sharker Manik spoke at the rallies, among others.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The following photographs were taken at the rally in Phulbari and are copyright of the National Committee of Bangladesh.