Foil Vedanta have today released a report (embedded below) 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."
- Foil Vedanta are a London based international solidarity group focusing on the activities of British mining company Vedanta. We link up global communities affected by Vedanta, and hold them to account in London. We are currently aiming to make the case for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for their human rights and corporate governance abuses.
- Excerpt from report (p.12):
KCM and other mining companies in Zambia don't publish their profits, even though the Zambian taxpayer has a share in most of them via ZCCM-IH. However Vedanta's 2013 annual report claims KCM produced 216,000 tonnes of copper in 2013. In the same year costs of production were valued at 255.1 US cents/lb, putting the total cost of production that year at $1.2 billion, which would constitute a profit of $362 million (at a current copper price of $7,300). Analysts reports from Global Data reveal that KCM made 12.19% of revenue for the entire Vedanta group in 2012 so they are certainly not doing too badly.
- Excerpt from report (p.6):
A 51% share in KCM was sold to Vedanta Resources for just $25 million, paid in cash, and $23million in deferred payments, in 200412. The deal was facilitated by Clifford Chance and Standard Chartered Bank13 (one of the main bookrunners and lenders to Vedanta Resources). Within three months Vedanta had already recouperated its initial investment, making $26 million. The banks also helped Vedanta secretly negotiate a call option allowing them the right to purchase Zambia Copper Investments' 28.4% share14, which they exercised in November 2005 (a year after their initial purchase), giving them the 79.4% monopoly they currently hold on KCM, while the Zambian government - via ZCCM-IH (their mining investment wing), own the remaining 20.6%. The Competition Commission was even rendered irrelevant by the Zambian government to allow Vedanta such a large majority share.
The price negotiated for the buyout of ZCI's remaining shares is not reported, but analysts at the time valued it between $250 million and $550 million, putting Vedanta's original 51% share at between $455 and $910 million, nine to eighteen times what Vedanta paid! This means the Zambian exchequer lost between $155 and $340 million in from the sale of 21.4% of ZCCMIH's shares alone. In response, ZCI's 33% French shareholders (grouped into a company called Sicovam SA) called the deal 'the most outrageous and scandalous ever seen in Africa for decades'.
This puts the value of the entire 79.4% share held by Vedanta at between $705 and $1460 million, losing the Zambian exchequer between $600 and $1400 million in undervalued assets.
- Excerpt from report (p.26):
Blackrock is the world's biggest asset management company, in charge of $4.1 trillion of assets (including much of Zambia's copper via its shares). It is bigger than any bank, insurance company or government fund, and is the majority shareholder in half of the world's 30 largest companies. It was set up by Larry Fink - a Washington insider who was named as a potential treasury secretary in the US. Blackrock, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are currently working together in an attempt to buy up 80% of available copper on behalf of investors, and hold it in warehouses. This will create a copper futures market enabling speculation, futures trading, and backing of new loans and funds.
In 2010 JP Morgan bought more than half of the available warehoused copper in a few weeks, leading to a spike in copper prices. Manufacturers and copper wholesalers warned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that such a monopoly on copper would squeeze the market and send prices skyrocketing but under pressure from Blackrock and the banks the SEC approved their proposal.1 The aluminium futures market set up by Goldman Sachs, on which the copper takeover is modelled, is estimated to have cost consumers billions of dollars in price hikes, as market manipulations sent prices soaring.2
(5) See section on NGOs and civil society, p.30 of report.
1 The New York Times, July 21st 2013, 'Next up Copper.'
2 David Kocieniewski, New York Times, July 20, 2013. 'The House Edge: A Shuffle of Aluminum, but to Banks, Pure Gold'
(Source: Foil Vendata, 31 January 2014, Press Release)