BRITISH-based mining giant Vedanta faced angry protests yesterday over allegations of its environmental and rights abuses around the world.
Dissident shareholders and campaigners accusing the firm of “corporate crimes” disrupted Vedanta’s annual meeting in London. Demonstrations also took place in India and Zambia, where Vedanta operations have devastated communities.
Vedanta is being sued in British courts by Zambian villagers who claim that they have suffered 12 years of water pollution due to its operations.
Zambian government officials visited the villages earlier this year to persuade them to drop their case and settle with the mining company out of court.
But leaders from the village of Hippo Pool issued a statement that was read out at the Vedanta AGM in central London by Women of Colour spokeswoman Shoda Rackal.
It read: “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.”
Tribal communities in India say Vedanta has colluded with the state to murder and harass them. They called for an end to the displacement and repression of Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi communities across India by Vedanta.
Vedanta has long struggled to maintain any shred of ethical treatment of the communities close to the sites it despoils.
In 2010, the Church of England decided to disinvest in the company. In February 2016, Vedanta employed former Iraq war General Sir Richard Shirreff and Lord Peter Hainas consultants to advise on “handling local protest groups.”
Vedanta was excluded from the Norwegian Pension Fund in March after a report found “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.”
Foil Vedanta spokesman Samarendra Das said: “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 powerfully than the Zambian state.”
He accused Britain of giving the company a “cloak of respectability” while the financial system benefits by “appropriating the resources of the third world.”