The fate of diversified miner, Vedanta Resources Plc, with operations across the globe including India and Zambia, has heightened with interest groups and lawmakers petitioning the House of Commons in London over the ‘criminal behavior’ of some of the companies listed on the local stock market.
Civil rights campaigners, among others, Foil Vedanta and London Mining Network, on 21 July, petitioned the House of Commons-laying bare, evidence on the criminal behavior of some companies listed on its bourse.
The petitioners are seeking for better accountability measures and the de-listing of criminal companies, with their focus being ‘on contentious UK miner’, Vedanta Resources.
The petitioner, among the ‘bulky’ evidence adduced, argued and exposed before the house, new evidence of tax evasion, illegal land grabs, displacement, major pollution and water poisoning, as well as the United Kingdom’s role in promoting and protecting the company. They called for Vedanta’s immediate investigation and potential de-listing in London.
Miriam Rose and Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta explicitly exposed fresh evidence on the criminal activities of Vedanta, including unseen footage of Vedanta’s illegal land grab of Reserve Forest at the sacred Niyamgiri Hills. The evidence included interviews with people displaced by Vedanta, and now destitute, at Vedanta’s now doomed Lanjigarh refinery.
In a statement of petition to the lawmakers, petitioner, in their testimonies from communities showed how people were suffering the intergenerational effects of major water poisoning by Vedanta in Zambia, who have since never been compensated. They showed disturbing footage of the 2009 chimney collapse at Vedanta subsidiary BALCO at which at least 40 lives were lost.
The petitioners’ detailed Vedanta’s tax evasion and transfer mis-pricing in Zambia, as well as illegal mining and export of 144 million tons of iron ore from Goa in 2011/12.
The UK’s role in assisting and protecting this contentious mining company was exposed – from the roles of the Department for International Development (DfID) and former British High Commissioner to India Sir David Gore Booth in launching the company on the London Stock Exchange in 2003(10), to David Cameron’s personal assistance in forcing the Indian government to sell lucrative oil company Cairn India to Vedanta in 2011 (11).
The interest groups contended there was a failure by the company of UK listing rules to prevent poor corporate governance. They argued that boss Anil Agarwal owns 69.59 percent of Vedanta Resources, making other shareholders essentially irrelevant in decision making.
They further echoed calls of other investors to ensure a 50 percent free float requirement for public companies on the LME, while at the same time, noted the role of British controlled tax havens in enabling insider trading, transfer mis-pricing and tax evasion on a major scale.
They recommended for proper accountability measures and recourse to justice for the victims of criminal behaviours by UK listed mining companies, including Vedanta Resources Plc, are introduced in London. This to include the independent auditing of company and subsidiary accounts to establish whether tax evasion is occurring.
The petitioners called strongly for Vedanta Resources to be immediately investigated, trialed and potentially de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for the catalogue of crimes presented by them.
Recently, there have been concerns raised over London’s protection of dubious mining and resource-based companies listed on its bourse being a regular topic in the House of Commons over several years, Richard Lambert, the former Director General of the Confederation of British Industries (CBI), told the Financial Times In 2011.
John McDonnell (MP) who hosted the meeting in the House of Commons which included journalists, diplomats and members of the public had argued that high risk mining companies like ‘the world’s most hated company’ Vedanta Resources, are ‘bringing shame on the LME’. He called for action to redeem the bourse.
“We cannot stand by and allow London to be used as the financial base for companies that degrade our planet, exploit their workers and abuse the human rights of extremely vulnerable communities. We need to devise a comprehensive strategy to address this exploitation, on our doorstep.”
In Zambia, Vedanta Resources, owners of Konkola Copper Mines, with an estimated labour force of 18,000, has come under scrutiny from various players, Government included-following recent audit revelations of glaring shortcomings in its operations in the Southern African state.
Earlier, Vedanta Resources owner, Anil Agarwal was cited, in a video footage, as bragging that his KCM unit made US$500 million profits annually-having bought the unit for a paltry US$25 million in 2004 in the aftermath of privatization of the mining conglomerate, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines