'India' Tag Archive

Feb 20 2017
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‘A nice place to work in’? Experiences of Icelandic Aluminium Smelter Employees


A special report for Saving Iceland by Miriam Rose

In 1969 the first of three aluminium smelters was built in Iceland at Straumsvík, near Hafnafjörður, on the South West side of Reykjavík by Alusuisse (subsequently Rio Tinto-Alcan). In 1998 a second smelter was constructed by Century Aluminum (now a subsidiary of controversial mining giant Glencore), at Hvalfjörður near Reykjavík, and in 2007 the third, run by Alcoa, was completed at Reyðarfjörður in the remotely populated East of the country. The Icelandic Government had been advertising the country’s vast ‘untapped’ hydroelectric and geothermal energy at ‘the lowest prices in Europe’ hoping to attract jobs and industry to boost Iceland’s already very wealthy but somewhat fishing dependent economy. The industry, which would permanently change Iceland’s landscape with mega-dams, heavy industry scale geothermal plants and several kilometer long factories, was promoted by the Icelandic Government and the aluminium companies as ‘good employment for a modern age’. However, ten years after the flagship Alcoa Fjarðaál project was completed, unemployment is higher than it was in 2005, and Iceland’s economy has become dependent on an industry which is vulnerable to commodity cycle slumps and mass job losses. Worse, the price charged for Iceland’s energy is tied to the price of aluminium and analyses of the country’s 2008/9 economic crisis suggest it was exacerbated by the poor terms of Iceland’s late industrialisation. Yet demands for further industrialisation remain, and more than 1000 Icelanders are employed in the aluminium sector.

This article exposes the conditions inside Iceland’s aluminium smelters based on interviews with workers conducted in 2012. The stories from two smelters share correlating accounts of being forced to work in dangerous conditions under extreme pressure, and without adequate safety equipment, leading to serious accidents which are falsely reported by the companies. These shocking allegations require serious attention by the trade unions, Icelandic government and health and safety authorities. This especially in the current context of labour disputes with the aluminium companies, alongside revelations about the same companies’ tax avoidance schemes and profiteering in the country. Read More

Mar 15 2014

Tom Albanese – Blood on Your Hands


On 6th March Tom Albanese, the former Rio Tinto CEO, was appointed CEO of Vedanta Resources, replacing M S Mehta. The newspapers are billing his appointment as an attempt to ‘polish the rough edges off [Anil] Agarwal’s Vedanta’ and to save the company from its current crisis of share price slumps, regulatory delays and widespread community resistance to their operations. This article looks at Albanese’s checkered history and the blood remaining on his hands as CEO of Rio Tinto – one of the most infamously abusive mining companies.

The Financial Times notes the importance of his ‘fixer’ role, noting that:

The quietly spoken and affable geologist is seen as someone willing to throw himself into engaging with governments and communities in some of the “difficult” countries where miners increasingly operate. That is something that Vedanta is seen as desperately needing – not least in India itself. Mr Albanese may lack experience in the country but one analyst says that can give him the opportunity to present himself as a clean pair of hands who will run mines to global standards…“There’s a big hill to climb there” Mr Albanese said.(1) Read More

Feb 05 2014

People’s Victory Costs Vedanta $10 Billion at Niyamgiri!


On Saturday 11th January the Ministry of Environment and Forests finally gave its statement formally rejecting permission for Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine. This move brings a conclusive end to the ten year struggle of the Dongria Kond tribe, alongside local farmers and dalits, to prevent the mining of this sacred mountain range which is their livelihood. Saving Iceland has followed the struggle and supported our comrades at Foil Vedanta as part of the global solidarity campaign which helped win this unique victory. Read More

Dec 16 2012

Call Out for Action: Kick Vedanta Out of London! 1pm, 11th Jan 2013


From our friends at Foil Vedanta.

Declare solidarity with grassroots movements fighting Vedanta in India, Africa and elsewhere!

Kick Vedanta out of London for it’s corporate crimes, murder and destruction. Noise demonstration and picket at Vedanta headquarters, 16 Berkeley Street. Read More

Dec 05 2012
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Call out for action! Noise demonstration at India High Commission, 2pm, 6th December


From our friends at Foil Vedanta.

Declare solidarity with Odisha grassroots movements! Stop the Niyamgiri mine once and for all!

Noise demonstration and picket at India High Commission, Aldwych, WC2B 4NA, Holborn Tube, 2 – 4pm, Thursday 6th December.

On Thursday 6th December tribals and farmers of the grassroots organisations Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, Loka Sangram Mancha, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, and Sachetana Nagarika Mancha will hold one of the largest demonstrations ever on the threatened Niyamgiri mountain since the movement began. In anticipation of the final Supreme Court decision on the planned mega-mine ten thousand people are expected to rally on the mountain in a show of defiance. They will call for closure of the sinking Lanjigarh refinery and an absolute ban on the so-far-unsuccessful attempt to mine bauxite on their sacred hills. Read More

Aug 29 2012

Global Day of Action Against Vedanta Draws Thousands in London, Odisha and Goa!


News from our friends at Foil Vedanta:

More than 100 protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organisations crowded the entrance to British mining company Vedanta Resources’ London AGM and poured red paint on the steps on Tuesday in an attempt to disrupt the meeting. In Goa and Odisha in India where Vedanta operates, parallel demonstrations involving thousands of people affected by the company’s activities took place on Monday and Tuesday. Inside the AGM the meeting was once again dominated by dissident shareholders who pointed out Vedanta’s racism, major environmental and social violations and poor governance.

See the Foil Vedanta website for further information and photos.

Aug 06 2012

Call Out! Join Us to Stop the AGM of the World’s Most Hated Mining Company: Vedanta


From our friends at Foil Vedanta:

Join us at the eighth annual AGM protest: 28 August 2012 2.00 pm, Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3ED. Nearest tube Holborn (Piccadilly & Central lines) or Chancery Lane (Central).

We are also calling out for a global day of action. Please show your solidarity with movements across India and Africa fighting this devastating company. Email your pictures or statements to savingiceland (at) riseup.net.

Why Peoples’ Movements are Fighting Vedanta:

Vedanta plc is a London listed FTSE100 company which has brought death and destruction to thousands. It is owned by billionaire Anil Agarwal and his family through companies in various tax havens. It has been consistently fought by people’s movements but it is being helped by the British government to evolve into a multi-headed monster and spread across India and round the world, diversifying into iron in Goa, Karnataka and Liberia, Zinc in Rajasthan, Namibia, South Africa and Ireland, copper in Zambia and most recently oil in the ecologically fragile Mannar region in Sri Lanka.

Read More

Jul 25 2012
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Alcoa’s Power Executive – Who is Influencing Iceland?


Aluminium giant Alcoa is one of the most powerful and influential companies in Iceland with it’s poster-child Fjarðaál greenfield1 smelter in Reyðarfjörður, and it’s millions invested in the now failed geothermal smelter project at Bakki, Húsavík. Alcoa’s annual revenue was almost 20 times larger than the Icelandic GDP in 2010 ($21Billion2 versus $1.2 Billion3). Giving it considerable international influence and the potential for frightening leverage in Iceland.They are also becoming one of the biggest lobbyists in Greenland, with eight employees pushing their mega smelter and dam project on this tiny nation.

But who are the faces behind Alcoa? From big pharmaceutical chiefs, to Bilderberg attendees, Iraq profiteers and a Mexican president, Alcoa’s board remains one of the most influential and shadowy of the mining and metals companies. Use the links to Powerbase’s profiles in this article to find out more.

Current Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld has been an Alcoa board member since 2003. He is also a director of Bayer, the pharmaceuticals and chemical company which grew out of the Nazi company IG Farben, responsible for the medical experiments at Auschwitz. Bayer is now famous for it’s GM and crop science business and was named one of 10 Worst Companies of the Year by Multinational Monitor in 2001. Kleinfeld is associated with all three of the most influential and private ‘global planning groups’. He attended the Bilderberg conference in 2008 and is a member of the Trilateral Commission and Director of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. He is also a Director of the Brookings Institution, one of the USA’s biggest think tanks, and the third most cited in Congress.

Kleinfeld was CEO of Siemens from 2005 to 2007 after spending 20 years with the company. He resigned amid a corruption scandal which saw the US Department of Justice investigating the company for charges of using slush funds of €426m (£291m) to obtain foreign contracts, and funding a trade union to counter existing Union action against them. Kleinfeld resigned just hours before the news broke to the media. In 2009, after a lengthy investigation, Kleinfeld and four other executives were forced to pay large compensation sums. Kleinfeld allegedly paid $2 million of the $18 million total collected from the five, though he still denied wrongdoing. Kleinfeld is also on the boards of the finance giant Citigroup and the U.S Chamber of Commerce.

Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo has been on Alcoa’s board since 2002, and chairs the Public Issues Committee. Zedillo is a prominent economist and another member of the big three elite think-tanks sitting on the World Economic Forum and the Trilateral Commission with Kleinfeld, and attending the Bilderberg conference in 1999. Like Kleinfeld he is also a director of Citigroup. Zedillo also sits of the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American foreign policy think tank based in New York City who carry out closed debates and discussions and publish the journal Foreign Affairs. CFR played a significant part in encouraging the war on Iraq, and helped plan it’s economic and political aims alongside the US Government, particularly how to gain oil contracts after the war. He directs the Club de Madrid, a right-wing/neoliberal focused group of former government officials, think tankers and journalists involved in pushing reactionary policies to terrorism (referring to the Madrid bombings).

Mr. Zedillo was Mexican president from 1994-2000. He was appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan to be the United Nations Special Envoy for the 2005 World Summit, and chaired the World Bank’s High Level Commission on Modernization of World Bank Group Governance in 2008. He is a director of JPMorgan-Chase, Proctor and Gamble, BP, Rolls Royce and an advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He directs the Center for the Study of Globalization at Yale University, which puts out influential reports and papers edited by him.

A fellow member of the Council on Foreign Relations is Alcoa board member E.Stanley O’Neal. O’Neal is a Harvard graduate and investment banker who served as CEO of Merrill Lynch from 2002 to 2007 and is a director of the New York Stock Exchange (now NYSE Euronext), the Nasdaq Stock Market and BlackRock – a key investor in the mining and metals industry. According to Forbes he was awarded $22.41 million in 2006. Mr O’Neal is also a trustee of another shady organisation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a private group led by John J. Hamre, former deputy secretary of defence which ‘provides world leaders with strategic insights on — and policy solutions to — current and emerging global issues’. CSIS provided propaganda materials used by the CIA to destabilise the Government of Chile in the run up to the 1973 coup.

A third Council on Foreign Relations member sits on Alcoa’s board. James W. Owens is Chairman of the Business Council of the CFR, CEO and Executive Chairman of Caterpillar from 2004 to 2010 and Alcoa board member since 2005. Caterpillar are famous for their tendency to profit from war-induced contracts including in Israel and Iraq, just the sort of thing that the Council on Foreign Relations are interested in. Owens is also a director of the International Business Machines Corporation and Morgan Stanley and a senior advisor to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, a global asset manager working in private equity and fixed income.

Indian mega magnate Ratan Tata has been a director of Alcoa since 2007 and is currently a member of the International Committee and Public Issues Committee. He chairs Tata Sons, holding company for the Tata Group, the family business which is one of India’s largest business conglomerates including telecoms, transport, tea and now one of the biggest steel companies in the world after they bought Corus outright in 2007. As well as his directorships of most of the Tata companies, he is also a a former director of the Reserve Bank of India, and advisor to NYSE Euronext (the New York Stock Exchange), and JP Morgan – one of the largest shareholders of the London Metal Exchange who set metal prices worldwide and enable banks to stockpile and futures trade aluminium. Mr Tata is also trustee of Cornell, Southern California, Ohio State, and Warwick Universities, a director of the Ford Foundation and a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Business Council for Britain.

A fellow member of the Ford Foundation, and Saving Iceland favourite most-wanted, is Kathryn Fuller. Ms Fuller chaired the Ford Foundation from 2004 to 2010 and has been a trustee since 1994. However she is most famed for her contradictory positions as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Chief Executive (1989-2005) and Alcoa board member (since 2001). Newspaper Independent on Sunday claimed she joined Alcoa in exchange for a $1m donation to WWF US and allowed Alcoa to join WWF’s exclusive “Corporate Club”, a claim Fuller has found hard to refute. Despite publicly opposing the highly controversial Fjarðaál smelter project, Fuller abstained rather than voting against the project in Alcoa’s boardroom. Elsewhere she has claimed that Alcoa holds “a strong commitment to sustainability, including energy efficiency, recycling, and habitat protection.”

Compared to these heavyweights Alcoa’s other current board members may look like small fry, but they still command an impressive and worrying influence across a number of boards.

Sir Martin Sorrell is founder and chief executive officer of the £7.5 billion communications and advertising company WPP. He has been a NASDAQ director since 2001 and was appointed an Ambassador for British Business by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Before founding WPP, Martin Sorrell led the international expansion of famed UK advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi. He calls himself ‘a money man’ saying: “I like counting beans very much indeed”.

Arthur D. Collins, Jr. is a big pharmaceuticals boss. He is retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic Inc. who he had been with between 1992 and 2008, and previously Corporate Vice President of Abbott Laboratories from 1989 to 1992. He also sits on the boards of arms manufacturers – Boeing, and bio-tech giant Cargill.

Michael G. Morris has been Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of all major subsidiaries of American Electric Power since January 2004 having been a company executive since 2003. He is also a Director of the USA’s Nuclear Power Operations and the Business Roundtable (chairing the Business Roundtable’s Energy Task Force) as well as the Hartford Financial Services Group. He was listed 158th on the Forbes Executive Pay list in 2011 and received a total $9 million in 2010.

Finally, Patricia F. Russo, is a Director of asset management group KKR & Co, General Motors, Hewlett Packard and drug manufacturers Merck & Co, who’s arthritis treatment Vioxx induced heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths in 27,000 people between 1999 and 2004. Merck were exposed for trying to bury negative evidence and distort drug trials to hide the known cardiovascular effects of Vioxx. Litigation following the scandal is ongoing and will be part of the business of Ms Russo.

Coming back to Iceland there is another former director of note. Norwegian national Bernt Reitan was Alcoa Executive Vice President from 2004 to 2010 and a director of iron alloy and silicon company Elkem from 1988 to 2000, putting him in the centre of the development of Iceland’s Hvalfjörður Elkem plant, and the Fjarðaál aluminium smelter. Elkem subsidiary Elkem Aluminium was sold to Alcoa in 2009. Reitan broke the ground at the massive Fjarðaál smelter in Reyðarfjörður in 2004 alongside Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, then Minister of Industry, and Guðmundur Bjarnason, Mayor of Fjarðabyggð. In view of his influential position in Iceland Reitan sits on the Icelandic-American Chamber of Commerce which was formed by the Iceland Foreign Trade Service in New York and promotes trade between Iceland and the USA.

Mr Reitan is also a Director of the International Primary Aluminium Institute and a former board member of the European Aluminium Association as well as Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Yara Internation ASA and Renewable Energy Corporation ASA.

The combined power of these Alcoa Directors reaches deep into the political and corporate structures of the USA and Europe. In this light it is a mean feat for Alcoa to be ejected from Húsavík, but we can be assured that Alcoa’s aluminium claws are still dug in deep in Iceland – a small country with such cheap and abundant hydro power.  Read More

Oct 14 2011
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Kandhamal 2008 – New Documentary by Samarendra Das about Mining-Driven Hindu Supremacist Violence


During 2007 and 2008, Kandhamal, a district of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, witnessed organised attacks on Christians in some of the worst communal violence in India’s history.

Through survivors’ testimonies, Kandhamal 2008 examines how Hindu supremacist groups turned two communities – Adivasi (indigenous) Konds and Pano Dalit Christians – against each other, with the tacit support of the State Government and local administration. More than 50,000 people became refugees, 5,000 houses were burnt and destroyed, at least 400 churches, prayer halls and institutions were desecrated, demolished or burnt down. This region is extremely poor, but rich in mineral resources which have attracted multinational mining companies including British firm Vedanta. The Odisha Government has ruthlessly pursued neo-liberal land acquisition policies formulated by the UK’s (Department for International Development (DfID) and the World Bank. The Konds have consistently fought this corporate land grab and the film highlights how Hindu supremacist groups and the State Government have sought to undermine that struggle.

Kandhamal 2008 will be premiered on Tuesday, 1 November, in Rm CLM.6.02 Clement House, London School of Economics at 7.15 pm. Director and researcher Samarendra Das, who was born in Odisha and has lived most of his life in Kandhamal, will discuss the background to and making of the film. Samarendra’s book, Out of this Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel (Orient Black Swan, 2010), which was co-written by anthropologist Felix Padel, is a thorough study of the aluminium industry and its global impacts. For more information about the documentary screening contact:  sasg at southasiasolidarity.org.

Aug 18 2011

Protest at the Cairn Energy Headquarters in Edinburgh: “No Oil for Vedanta!”


At 2.30pm today 10 people arrived unannounced at the offices of Cairn Energy at the Clydesdale Plaza in central Edinburgh. They installed themselves at the grand entrance to the building, blowing whistles and shouting: “No oil for Vedanta! Stop, stop, stop the deal!” and “Vedanta out of Sri Lanka”, attracting the attention of the floods of passers-by attending the Edinburgh theatre festival. Three of the demonstrators gave out leaflets in the street from the campaign group Foil Vedanta and explained that the demonstration was timed with Cairn India’s AGM in Mumbai, where the Vedanta-Cairn deal would be discussed. The leaflets describe the protest as in solidarity with Indian people’s movements in communities affected by Vedanta’s atrocities including Niyamgiri and Puri in Orissa, Advalpal in Goa, and Thoothkudi in Tamil Nadu. They stress Vedanta’s poor environmental track record and demand that the company should not be allowed to take over Cairn India, an oil company drilling in pristine ocean off Sri Lanka.

Protesters claim this is a British issue as both Cairn and Vedanta are British companies, and have been aided by David Cameron and the British Ambassador to India in pushing the deal through. The leaflets highlight Vedanta CEO Anil Agarwal’s position as the 17th richest man in Britain and claim the British government has allowed him to evade millions of pounds worth of tax using Jersey and Bahamas based tax havens. One of the placards showed Cairn CEO Bill Gammell and Vedanta CEO Anil Agarwal in bed with David Cameron and read ‘Bill Gammell, Anil Agarwal, David Cameron in bed for oil’ while another slogan accused all three of having ‘blood on their hands’. A stack of leaflets was handed in to the building to distribute to Cairn Energy staff and a security guard warned those gathered that the police would be called if they remained at the building. This warning was taken seriously in the light of Cairn Energy’s zero tolerance policy on protests at the same offices by Greenpeace a month earlier, at which the company took out injunctions against Greenpeace preventing them from publishing any pictures of the event. The protesters left after an hour.

Below is a press release that followed the protest. Download the leaflet that was distributed at the protest here: Cairn India AGM leaflet. Read More

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