LONDON, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Protesters have picketed the annual meeting of the international mining group Vedanta Resources, accusing the company of damaging the environment.
"Vedanta has a pattern of operation which is the same everywhere it operates and we have been tracking this company since it listed in 2003 on the FTSE 100, it's now on the FTSE 250," campaigner Miriam Rose told Xinhua exclusively on Thursday outside the Vedanta annual meeting.
"They are very high risk company, very low human rights standards and environment standards," said Rose, who is spokesperson for activist group Foil Vedanta.
"Because of that a number of agencies have pulled out of their shareholding including the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, which had quite a large share in Vedanta. And a number of other agencies over the years have pulled out their shareholding -- Church of England (COE), Martin Currie Investment Pensions and so on," she added.
The COE sold its multi-million pound stake in Vedanta in 2010, at the same time as Martin Currie Investment Pensions sold its multi-million pound stake.
The COE said in a statement at the time: "We are not satisfied that Vedanta has shown, or is likely in future to show, the level of respect for human rights and local communities that we expect of companies in whom the Church investing bodies hold shares."
Vedanta Resources is a London-listed company, having started on the FTSE 100 of the largest companies in 2003.
With a global squeeze on resources companies, Vedanta dropped to the FTSE 250 on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
All its operations are outside the UK, but it maintains a headquarters in London, which is staffed part time.
Rose said that Vedanta took over the Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia in 2004, since then there "have been major polluting incidents. The first one was in 2006 when the whole river Kafue, the main river in Zambia, was turned blue."
"For 48 hours they released pollution and they didn't tell anyone. 40,000 people were affected by that. It went all the way to the town of Kitwe," she said.
People had stomach cramps, diarrhoea. Those closer to the plant had more extreme effects on their digestive system, claimed Rose.
"That was a big incident. The pollution is also continual," she said.
Farming communities downstream affected won a court victory in 2011 and were awarded 2 million U.S. dollars through the Zambian High Court.
"Vedanta never paid and it was appealed to the Supreme Court who upheld the guilty verdict but took away the award," said Rose.
"This failure to get justice and the daily pollution means they have now taken the case to London. So 2,000 of the villagers are now represented by a legal firm suing the parent company and their subsidiary for the ongoing pollution," said Rose.
Rose also said that in India the firm had planned to mine a mountain in the Niyamgiri hills in the state of Orissa, sacred to the Dongria Kondh tribe.
"The tribe fought for 11 years to stop Vedanta mining their mountain and won. The company is now trying to get the state mining company to mine the mountain on their behalf," said Rose.
Rose said Vedanta used its London listing on the LSE as a "cloak of respectability".
Anit Agarwal the executive chairman and his family owns 69.9 percent of the company, according to Rose.
"So no other shareholder can vote against him. So in effect it is private controlled which is a corporate governance issue. This is shame on LSE, they are complicit," They should do due diligence on these companies before they are listed. And they should delist them if they are not complying with London listing rules," said Rose.
LSE was contacted for comment on its listings rules but had not replied by the time of going to press.
Tom Albanese, chief executive officer for Vedanta Resources, told Xinhua that the annual meeting saw a "fruitful discussion" between the shareholders, board and some activists who joined the meeting.
"Activists will raise a number of issues. There are two sides to every story. There is generally documentation by the company and is required under India, UK and U.S. legislation to be accurate in disclosures."
Albanese confirmed there were a number of separate cases in Zambia and there "is a bit of mixing and matching and I cannot comment further."
But he confirmed the facts about the spill in 2006 were in the public domain and litigation found against Vedanta, a judgment respected by Vedanta.
Bauxite deposit was the subject of controversy 10 years ago and the company had withdrawn about four or five years ago and "we have had nothing to do it" and was looking for bauxite in other locations.
Albanese denied Vedanta was using the state of Orissa as a proxy to mine the mountain.
On the issue of LSE listing, Albanese said: "It's fair to say that Vedanta is in full compliance with all the UK's listing compliance."
ANNUAL MEETING SPEECH
Executive chairman Anit Agarwal told the Vedanta annual meeting in central London Monday afternoon that the prospects were bright for the company he founded in 1979 with commodity markets turning positive.
"India and Africa, our key markets, present an exceptional potential for further growth," he said.
"We also have a long-standing presence in Africa, where we have invested approximately 4 billion U.S. dollars since 2004."
Agarwal touched on the attack on his company's reputation.
"Safety and sustainability continue to be a personal priority, as they are across the Group. We are making good progress in our journey towards Zero Harm, Zero Waste and Zero Discharge.
"We have not yet achieved 'zero harm' but we will continue pushing and we will not be satisfied until we attain it. We will continue working with the same spirit and enthusiasm to realise our ultimate goal," said Agarwal.