Vedanta Resources

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Mining-alcans-60px.jpg This article is part of the Mining and Metals project of Spinwatch
Vedanta Resources is an Indian owned and London Stock Exchange listed mining and metals company. It is one of the fastest growing and most controversial mining companies in the world. Vedanta and its subsidiaries operate copper, zinc, iron, lead, coal and aluminium mining and production in Asia, Africa, Australasia and Europe.[1]

Vedanta's Cairn deal

Vedanta secured a $8.5 billion takeover of Edinburgh oil company Cairn Energy's subsidiary Cairn India in July 2011. The deal was delayed due to investigations by the Indian government into Vedanta's environmental track record and ability to manage strategically important oilfields, and disagreements over royalty rates between Vedanta and Rajahstani state owned company ONGC, a 30% shareholder in Cairn's largest producing oilfield which is in Rajahstan[2][3]. When the Indian government demanded an investigation into Vedanta's controversial track record before agreeing to the Cairn deal, the British government stepped in to urge the deal along and prevent 'unnecessary delays'[4].

Vedanta is borrowing $7 billion to make the Cairn deal, raising its gross debt to $16 billion and causing speculation over whether this is a good move for the company.[5]

For more info on the British government's involvement in the Vedanta-Cairn deal, see here

Wikileaks cables - Vedanta's tax evasion in Armenia

Wikileaks US embassy cable revealed a 2007 cable from the American Embassy in Armenia to Washington expressing concern about the Ararat Gold Recovery Company (AGRC) being forced out of Armenia by the president and other ministers over allegations of tax evasion and underreporting of profits. AGRC are 100% owned by Vedanta's 83% subsidiary Sterlite. The cable states that;

AGRC has a poor reputation in Armenia as an exploitative company that does not protect workers' rights. Vedanta and Anil Agarwal also have a poor reputation internationally and it is plausible that AGRC may have been involved in tax evasion and underreporting profits.[6]

AGRC owned two mines and a processing plant making them the largest foreign investor in 1999. In 2004 AGRC's proposal for a new processing plant near Lake Sevan was turned down by the Minister of Nature Protection due to unacceptable environmental impact on the lake, and AGRC was accused of tax evasion and failure to report profits. Anil Agarwal met with Armenia's President Kocharian in September 2006 and subsequently verbally agreed a $100 million investment plan for Armenia to mitigate the environmental impact of the plant and mines. The cables claim according to AGRC's CEO B.K Sharma that the written agreement of this proposal from the Armenian Government was substantially altered and not acceptable to AGRC who sent a revised proposal back. In January 2007 the President reacted by re-opening a 2005 official investigation into tax evasion and freezing AGRC's assets in February forcing them to halt operations. Despite making appeals to a number of embassies (including the US and German embassies who had an interest in AGRC buying millions of dollars worth of Catepillar equipment from a German supplier), it was too late and the operations had to be closed. AGRC's CEO claimed that they were being forced out to make way for Russian mining companies who would buy the mines at low price[7]. In 2008 AGRC was purchased by a Georgian company - Madneuli Resources. A BBC article quoted a local trader on his fears about lack of community benefit saying; "People were promised jobs by the previous owners, but then Indian workers were brought in". [8]

Tax evasion

In October 2011 an ActionAid report on FTSE 100 companies tax evasion revealed that in the mining sector Vedanta has one of the highest proportion of subsidiaries located in tax havens at 48% or 30 out of 62 companies registered in tax havens, second only to Randgold Resourcs with 52.6%[9].

Public Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility, Spin

In July 2010 Vedanta employed advertising agency Leo Burnett to produce two commercials promoting 'the importance of child development'[10]. When visiting Orissa Vedanta's CSR project adverts can be seen along many of the roads, in the airports and newspapers. An article in the Indian newspaper the Business Standard quotes a company official claiming that the CSR activity is driven by Chairman Anil Agarwal. He says:

“We will be spending Rs 500 crore [£68 million] this year alone on different CSR related work. Money will not be an issue… We are a $7.9 billion conglomerate,”[11]

The article goes on to list Vedanta's CSR projects which include:

3,000 angaanvadis [mother and child care centres] in Orissa, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh; mid-day meals for 250,000 children in 3000 schools; around 2000 women empowerment and self-help groups to set up micro enterprises involving 25,000 women; the Balco cancer hospital in Korba in Madhya Pradesh with 360 beds, out of which 20 per cent will be reserved for BPL [Below Poverty Line] families. Besides, there is an upcoming heart hospital in Udaipur and a medical college and research centre in Bharatpur in Rajasthan. An MoU has also been signed with the Rajasthan government for computer training for 50,000 school children from government-run rural schools in four districts and a 150 member dedicated in- house CSR team tracking 2.5 million people[12].

However the popular documentary film 'Cowboys in India' by Simon Chambers showed a 100 bed hospital near the Lanjigarh refinery lying empty and without doctors[13]. Corporate Watch claim that 'many of their local development programmes live a full existence only on their website' and point out that when the company has destroyed the livelihood for local people they have nothing left to live off but the 'tokenistic' CSR programs they provide[14].

Defenders of Vedanta are often keen to highlight Vedanta's Golden Peacock Award for Environmental Management[15] and Anil Agarwal's nomination as a 'Hero of Philanthropy' by Forbes magazine.[16] Behind these accolades is a company whose social, environmental and legal disregard has prompted a major PR and CSR campaign to clean up its image. PR and lobbying agency Finsbury and bespoke CSR advisors CO3, both London-based firms, attempt to manage Vedanta's public image: yet their involvement with the miner has only mired their own. Survival International presented Finsbury and its founder Ronald Rudd with its 2010 'PR Disaster of the Year award', Survival's Jo Woodman stating:

Finsbury said they were convinced Vedanta’s behaviour was ‘best practice’, but in the end they were the only ones saying so – everyone else, from expert committees to the government itself, was slamming the company’s ‘total contempt for the law'. [17]

CO3's CEO Tim Purcell, formerly of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Finsbury, failed to convince activists that the mining of 73 million tonnes of bauxite from the Niyamgiri mountain, which he described as affecting "a relatively small area on the top of one hill", could be responsibly partaken by Vedanta.[18] Though claiming to be an "independent advisor" to Vedanta rather than a representative, Purcell was sent to meet actor and Vedanta-critic Michael Palin at Vedanta's Lanjigarh smelter in 2010.[19] Appearing unswayed by Purcell, Palin called for Vedanta to "abandon" the Niyamgiri project at its 2011 AGM.[20]


Upholders of Vedanta's 2009 Golden Peacock might do well to recall how the award presentation ceremony turned to farce as senior dignitaries, including Tibetan Prime Minister in exile Samdhung Rinpoche, left when informed of the Environmental Management award winner's legacy of environmental destruction.[21] Also, Forbes accorded Anil Agarwal with their philanthropy award chiefly on the basis of his Vedanta University donations. The University, which was hoped to rival Stanford University, has since been near-shelved due to the high court of Odisha finding major legal breaches and high-level corruption in the Vedanta University's land procurement process.[22] It seems no amount of spin can re-tell Vedanta's legacy of destruction and violations.

Global Operations

Vedanta has mining operations in Australia, India, Ireland, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Liberia.

Asia

India

Vedanta's main operations are in India and its main interests are in the mineral rich state of Odisha (formerly named Orissa), where over 50 per cent of India's total bauxite deposits, worth billions of dollars, are found. It has been accused of various environmental and human rights crimes, briefly summarised below with links:

Niyamgiri

In 2004 Vedanta (initially via its subsidiary Sterlite) began attempting to get a license to mine the Niyamgiri mountains for the 73 million tonnes of bauxite found at the mountain's flat top. They plan to process 1 million tonnes per year at the Lanjigarh refinery, which they built below the mountain before getting any permission to mine the mountain. The project has become a major international issue due to the threat of mining to the Dongia Kondh tribe who would consider the mountain sacred and would be displaced by the mining.

Corporate Watch have documented the involvement of the UK's Department for International Development in bringing the mine to Odisha in their series on 'dodgy development'. They also provide a good summary of the issues as they stood in early 2010[23].

On August 24th 2010 the Indian Government's Saxena Report accused Vedanta of 'flouting environmental laws' at Niyamgiri. As a result permission to mine was denied by environment minister Jairam Ramesh who refused forest clearance, and subsequently also environmental clearance in July 2011.[24] [25]. Ramesh cited multiple counts of environmental violations including illegal occupation of forestry and inadequate resettlement of displaced people.

However, the company is not willing to give up, having already built the Lanjigarh refinery, which is currently operating at break even at 1 million tonnes per year, awaiting the sixfold expansion it plans with Niyamgiri bauxite. Vedanta are appealing the refusal to mine in the Indian High Court and also plan to resubmit the application to mine, stressing the involvement of the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation as main applicants for the mining lease. In July 2011, shortly before the company's AGM in London, a government reshuffle transferred the previous environment minister Jairam Ramesh for Jayanthi Natarajan who promised in an interview to CNN-IBN that ‘the past is over’ and ‘speedy decisions will be ensured’ for ‘major projects’ such as those of Vedanta. [26]

Vedanta has a number of friends within the Indian government, including home minister P. Chidambaram - a former director of Vedanta, who stepped down a day before becoming Finance Minister in 2004.[27]

Sesa Goa

In November 2009 the Bombay High Court at Goa ruled that Vedanta’s Sesa Goa iron ore subsidiary was illegally dumping mining waste near Advalpal village in north Goa. On 6 June 2010, the dumps collapsed due to heavy rains. Tonnes of mining waste overflowed leading to floods. The Indian Bureau of Mines found that the mining plan had been violated.[28]

Sesa Goa was condemned in May 2011 by the Indian Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for falsifying records for tax evasion and bribing a sales agent to enable iron ore exports to foreign buyers. The SFIO recommended prosecution of the managing director and company secretary.[29]

On 16th July 2011 a waste pond at the Bicholim mine in Goa broke open flooding local villages and water bodies with toxic waste. This led the Goa 'Bharat Mukti Morcha' campaign group to call for the immediate arrest of the managing director as well as the controlling shareholder and chairman Anil Agarwal.[30][31]

Vedanta University

Chairman Anil Agarwal set up the Anil Agarwal Foundation as a public company in 2006 with a high profile $1 billion personal donation in order to build a 'world class university' in the heart of Odisha. The university was billed to be as renowned as Stanford or Cambridge and would attract 100,000 students with a campus spread over 6,892 acres. Part of the proposed campus included the world-famous Shri Jagannath temple which the foundation intended to buy. But the project was fiercely opposed by local people who did not want to leave their land, as well as temple goers. In September 2010 the project was ruled illegal by the Lok Pal anti- corruption committee due to illegal land acquisition and 'unlawful deeds' by the foundation, including in fact being a private and not public company. The Odisha state government was also accused of illegally trying to acquire land on behalf of a private company. The land must now be given back to its original owners.[32]

Chhattisgarh

In September 2009 a chimney at Vedanta's subsidiary BALCO's Korba power plant in the right wing state of Chhattisgarh, India collapsed killing more than 40 workers. The company claimed that a lightning strike had caused the collapse but investigations later revealed that inadequate materials and poor working conditions were the cause, accusing the company of 'negligence' for their resistance to the investigation.[33]

Jharsuguda, Odisha

According to the Indian weekly magazine Telekha:

In July 2009, a show cause notice was issued by the Orissa [Odisha] State Pollution Control Board (ospcb) to Vedanta Aluminium for violating water and air pollution Acts at its smelter and another nine captive power plants in the Jharsuguda district of north Odisha. In September 2010, it was discovered that these projects were operating without clearances from the ospcb. According to an rti (Right to Information) reply obtained from the ospcb, two 135 mw captive power units of Vedanta Aluminium’s 5 lakh tonne-a-year smelter never got any clearance from the board[34].
Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu

According to the Indian weekly magazine Telekha:

In September 2010, the company was ordered by the Madras High Court to stop production at its Thoothukudi copper smelter for environmental reasons — a decision that has been overturned by a stay order of the Supreme Court for the time being. Villagers from Thoothukudi complain of the health impact, including cases of cancer and increase in severe respiratory ailments. In November 2008, Sterlite was also found guilty of environmental damage in the Kolli Hills[35].

Europe

Ireland

Main article: [Lisheen] In February 2011 Vedanta took ownership of the Lisheen mine in county Tipperary, as part of its acquisition of Anglo American's zinc assets. Many of Lisheen's miners, local residents and politicians publicly expressed concern over their sale to Vedanta.

Africa

Liberia

In August 2011 Vedanta's subsidiary Sesa Goa acquired a 51 per cent stake in the Liberian iron ore project Western Cluster Limited (currently controlled by Elenilto Minerals & Mining, Delaware) for $90 million. Sesa Goa's press release claims the mine contains one billion tonnes of iron ore and will make it "a significant player in the upcoming West African Iron Ore hub". They also plan road and port expansions in the area.[36]

Subsidiaries

  • Vedanta Aluminium. Produces aluminium. Operates in India.
  • Sterlite - Sterlite Industries. Produces copper cathodes, continuous cast rods (CCR), chemical byproducts. Operates in India.
  • Sterlite Energy. Produces energy. Operates in India.
  • Sesa Goa. Produces iron ore, pig iron, metallurgical coke, coke making technologies. Operates in India.
  • BALCO - Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd. Produces aluminium. Operates in India.
  • HZLINDIA - Hindustan Zinc Ltd. Produces zinc, lead, silver, cadmium. Operates in India.
  • MALCO - Madras Aluminium Co. Ltd. Produces aluminium. Operates in India.
  • CMT - Copper Mines of Tasmania. Produces copper. Operates in Australia.
  • KCM - Konkola Copper Mines. Produces copper, cobalt, pyrites and acids. Operates in Zambia.
  • Lisheen - The Lisheen Mine. Produces zinc. Operates in Ireland.
  • Skorpion Zinc. Produces zinc. Operates in Namibia.
  • Black mountain zinc mine. Produces zinc. Operates in South Africa.
  • Vedanta Foundation

History

Affiliations

  • Robin Walker worked on the Vedanta account while an MP in 2010-11 working on a part time consultancy basis for PR and lobbying firm Finsbury in London.

People

Executive Directors:[37]

  • Anil Agarwal Founder, Executive Chairman and 62 per cent shareholder.
  • Navin Agarwal Brother of Anil Agarwal, Deputy Executive Chairman, Chairman of Executive Committee.
  • Mahindra Mehta CEO, Member of Executive Committee.

Non-Executive Directors:[38]

Executive Committee:[39]

Contact

16 Berkeley Street
London
W1J 8DZ
United Kingdom
Phone: 44 20 7499 5900
Fax: 44 20 7491 8440

Resources

Facebook:
Vedanta Resources Facebook page
Sesa Goa Facebook page
Sterlite Industries Facebook page
Hindustan Zinc Facebook page
Twitter:
Vedanta Aluminium twitter page
Sterlite Industries twitter page

Notes

  1. Vedanta website About Us Accessed 20/07/11
  2. Richard Wachman Vedanta given green light for $8.5bn Cairn deal The Observer, Sunday 31 July 2011. Accessed 3/8/11
  3. Amy Kazmin, June 30th 2011, Financial Times. 'Delhi approves Vedanta Cairn deal' Accessed 25/7/11
  4. Amy Kazmin, June 30th 2011, Financial Times. 'Delhi approves Vedanta Cairn deal' Accessed 25/7/11
  5. Richard Wachman Vedanta given green light for $8.5bn Cairn deal The Observer, Sunday 31 July 2011. Accessed 3/8/11
  6. US embassy cable - 07YEREVAN459 HARD TIMES FOR AGRC LEAVES OTHER INVESTORS WORRIED American Embassy in Armenia to Washington 16/04/2007, Wikileaks US Embassy Cables. Accessed 11/11/11
  7. US embassy cable - 07YEREVAN459 HARD TIMES FOR AGRC LEAVES OTHER INVESTORS WORRIED American Embassy in Armenia to Washington 16/04/2007, Wikileaks US Embassy Cables. Accessed 11/11/11
  8. BBC News, Kieran Cooke. 9/01/2008. Armenia's controversial gold rush Accessed 11/11/11
  9. ActionAid, 11/10/11 [www.actionaid.org.uk/doc_lib/addicted_to_tax_havens.pdf Addicted to tax havens] Accessed 11/11/11
  10. Arijit Barman Brand Vedanta seeks CSR sheen July 22, 2010, Business Standard. Accessed 2/7/11
  11. Arijit Barman Brand Vedanta seeks CSR sheen July 22, 2010, Business Standard. Accessed 2/7/11
  12. Arijit Barman Brand Vedanta seeks CSR sheen July 22, 2010, Business Standard. Accessed 2/7/11
  13. Simon Chambers Cowboys in India Shown on more4, tuesday Jan 19th 2010. Accessed 2/8/11
  14. Mining the Mountain: corruption and 'cultural genocide' brought by Vedanta Resources Ltd [http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=3530 Watching the Corporations, Feb 25th, 2010. Accessed 2/8/11
  15. 'Past GPEMA Award winners', "Golden Peacock Awards", accessed 1 August 2011
  16. '48 Heroes of Philanthropy', "Forbes Magazine", 16 March 2009, accessed 1 August 2011
  17. 'Finsbury wins ‘PR Disaster of the Year’ award', "Survival International", 18 October 2010, accessed 1 August 2011
  18. Tim Purcell, 'Comment on "A hero of philanthropy?"', "Survival International blog", posted 14 March 2009, accessed 1 August 2011
  19. 'City Spy: Vedanta in a spin as it digs hole for itself', "London Evening Standard", 1 March 2011, accessed 1 August 2011
  20. 'Vedanta: time to give up on Niyamgiri mine', Survival International, 27 July 2011, accessed 1 August 2011
  21. 'Protestors Set Record Straight on Golden Peacock Awardee Vedanta', "Delhi Solidarity Group", 12 June 2009, accessed 1 August 2011
  22. Pradip Kumar Das, 'Orissa HC quashes land acquisition for Vedanta University', "The Hindu", 16 November 2011, accessed 1 August 2011
  23. Corporate Watch, Feb 25th 2010, 'Mining the Mountain: corruption and 'cultural genocide' brought by Vedanta Resources Ltd' Accessed 20/07/11
  24. Maseeh Rahman, Tuesday 24 August India blocks Vedanta mine on Dongria-Kondh tribe's sacred hill The Guardian, Accessed 20/7/11
  25. Nitin Sethi, Jul 12, 2011, Ramesh seals Vedanta fate, now courts to decide Times of India, Accessed 20/7/11
  26. Indo-Asian News Service New Delhi, July 17, 2011.Speedy decisions on Posco, Vedanta: Jayanthi Natarajan Accessed 20/7/11
  27. Indian Business Standard, New Delhi August 09, 2006 Chidambaram faces flak on Vedanta links Accessed 20/7/11
  28. Garima Jain, 26th May 2011 With the chimney collapse began the downfall Tehelka magazine. Accessed 20/7/11
  29. Deccan Herald, New Delhi, May 22 2011 Fraud office for legal action against Sesa Goa Accessed 20/7/11
  30. Bharat Mukti Morcha website. Sunday, 17 July 2011 Bharat Mukti Morcha condemns Mulgao mine disaster Accessed 20/7/11
  31. Indo Asian News Service. Jul 16, 2011 Three rescued in Goa mining accident Accessed 20/7/11
  32. Debabrata Mohanty, Indian Express, 8th Sept 2010. Vedanta University a closed chapter Accessed 20/7/11
  33. Garima Jain, 26th May 2011 With the chimney collapse began the downfall Tehelka magazine. Accessed 20/7/11
  34. Garima Jain, 26th May 2011 With the chimney collapse began the downfall Tehelka magazine. Accessed 20/7/11
  35. Garima Jain, 26th May 2011 With the chimney collapse began the downfall Tehelka magazine. Accessed 20/7/11
  36. Vedanta Press Release, Mon Aug 8, 2011. Reuters REG - Vedanta Resources - Sesa Goa to acquire 51 per cent stake in Western Cluster Accessed 15/8/11
  37. 'Vedanta homepage Executive Directors page', "vedantaresources.com", accessed 23 July 2011
  38. 'Vedanta homepage Management Structure page', "vedantaresources.com", accessed 23 July 2011
  39. 'Vedanta homepage Non-Executive Directors page', accessed 23 July 2011