Deadly protests lead to the closure of Vedanta’s copper smelter in southern India

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The Tuticorin copper smelter located in a South Indian city of 320,000 and owned by Vedanta Resources, has faced criticism for more than two decades for causing increased cancer rates in surrounding villages. Nisha Valderas, a resident, describes the situation: “If you go to the doctor, the first question is: Are you from Tuticorin?”. She knows of at least three people from the region who died of cancer before the age of eighteen ((

As early as 2008, a study found that the iron content in nearby groundwater exceeded the permitted limits by a factor of 20. In addition, increased incidents of asthma and respiratory diseases were found in the region. Despite this strong evidence, as well as receiving a fine of £10 million for violating environmental directives, and an interim closure of the copper smelter, it has continued to operate until recently.

However, after Vedanta announced at the beginning of the year that it would double its copper smelter capacity making it the largest copper smelter in the world, protests that had been ongoing since its 1996 launch escalated. Policemen are said to have targeted demonstrators and 13 people were killed ((

It was only with the political pressure resulting from these deadly protests that the minister of the region finally ordered a permanent closure of the copper smelter (( British Labor Party officials demanded that Vedanta Resources be excluded from the London Stock Exchange as a result of these incidents. That it came so far as to cause fatal incidents before the complaints filed over decades by the residents was responded to, demonstrates the lack of concern shown by the company.

Financial institutions that invest in companies that fail to respect human, labour or environmental standards also bear the responsibility for the resulting violations. Already the first Dirty Profits report from the year 2012 reported on various controversies around the world-wide activities of the enterprise and identified among other things. Allianz, Deutsche Bank, DZ Bank and UniCredit as investors in the company. In addition to Deutsche Bank (approximately 1 million), Commerzbank (0.8 million) and Allianz Global Investors (5 million) are currently investing in shares of Vedanta Resources.

Again in Dirty Profits 3, Sesa Sterlite (the subsidiary of Vedanta responsible for the plant) was also investigated and it was found major banks were invested in 2014 including Deutsche Bank and HSBC ((

Financial institutions that continue to invest in Vedanta Resources should follow the example of the Norwegian Pension Fund. Its Ethics Council in 2007 found that continuing to invest in Vedanta Resources represented an unacceptable risk to contributing to unethical activities ((