Foil Vedanta have released a report on the operations of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Zambia. The report reveals that, contrary to popular opinion in Zambia, Vedanta (KCM’s parent company) is not Indian but wholly British owned and controlled, and is making large profits at KCM. The report demonstrates Vedanta’s pattern of buying undervalued state companies, polluting, and operating without permission all over the world. It also reveals how investment companies like Blackrock have controlling interests in Zambian copper as key shareholders behind Zambia’s biggest mining companies.
Foil Vedanta’s(1) report ‘Copper Colonialism – Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia’ is a groundbreaking study of copper mining in Zambia, focusing on British mining company Vedanta, KCM’s parent company. The report reveals that Vedanta made approximately $362 million, or 12.9% of their total group revenue, from KCM in 2013 (according to the company itself and analyst reports)(2). The authors, who visited Zambia in December, note the number of misconceptions about this company in Zambia – where Vedanta has created the perception that they are an Indian company, and are making such a loss at KCM that they may need to be rescued by the state. In fact KCM are one of the highest profit making subsidiaries of the parent company.
The report details how Vedanta, a FTSE 250 London based company which is 67.99% owned by Chairman Anil Agarwal via tax havens, bought KCM for a fraction of its true value, possibly losing the Zambian exchequer up to $1.4bn in total.(3) It goes on to record some of the environmental and social abuses of the company in Zambia – including pollution of the river Kafue in 2006 and 2010 which have led to ongoing health problems as extreme as deformed births and miscarriages in the Chingola area, as well as poor workers conditions and low pay. Vedanta’s tax contributions in Zambia are close to zero, and they even brag that 50% of tax paid is via employees Pay As You Earn (PAYE). Vedanta hide these truths in Zambia by paying former journalists as PR agents to keep their image clean.
The authors demonstrate that this style of operation is a pattern for Vedanta across India and elsewhere, where they are consistently opposed by people’s movements and under investigation by authorities for corruption and legal violations. In Chhattisgarh, India, they bought BALCO’s bauxite refinery, smelter and mines for $89 million in 2001 when it was worth around $800 million. Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal is currently under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigations in India over the original disinvestment of 51% of Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) to Vedanta for only $72 million, claiming the deal was considerably undervalued, and may have lost the exchequer hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Vedanta’s subsidiary Sesa Goa are accused of exporting 150 million tonnes of iron ore from Goa, India in 2010/11 while only declaring 7.6 million, their agreed export allowance. The report suggests that Vedanta may also be exporting considerably more copper than they claim in Zambia, as well as cobalt and other minerals, and recommends citizens monitoring of trucks leaving their facilities to estimate the true amounts.
The report also looks at the real interests behind mining companies in Zambia. Using shareholder information it shows that secretive investment company Blackrock have high percentages of shares in Vedanta, Glencore and First Quantum, Zambia’s three biggest miners. Blackrock and JP Morgan are currently buying the majority of the worlds available copper to launch a futures market which will control the price of copper, giving them high returns on their investments while leaving copper producing nations in poverty.(4) The report also draws attention to foreign governments such as Norway and the UK, who play a duplicitous game of funding transparency and accountability projects on mining via NGOs and the Zambian government, while also profiting from the abuses of the very same mining companies.(5
Author Samarendra Das says, “We were shocked to discover how little information Zambian authorities and communities have about their own resource and the companies exploiting it. Despite its role in the economy, copper is the elephant in the room in Zambia. This report aims to expose the real interests controlling Zambia’s copper industry – from banks and investment firms to foreign governments and NGOs.”
Co-author Miriam Rose states, “Mining companies are commonly called ‘investors’ in Zambia, but what they are doing is far from investment, it is short lived extraction and loot of resources, leaving behind only environmental and social damage which will be paid for by future generations. There is limited time left for Zambians to change the course of history, make links with peoples’ movements opposing these policies elsewhere, and truly profit from this resource before it is all gone.”