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Vedanta stripped of international safety awards

Press Trust Of India  |  London 

Leading mining group Vedanta Resources has been stripped of international safety awards amid claims that it won the prize without declaring that a chimney collapse at one of its sites had killed at least 40 workers last year, according to a media report.

Awards to Vedanta have been withdrawn by the British Safety Council (BSC) in response to findings thrown up by a broader analysis of deaths of workers at all FTSE 100 mining groups last September, The Observer reported. The Observer analysis found that 154 work-related deaths have been disclosed by London’s largest multinational miners in their latest annual reports and other shareholder filings. According to the report, all 12 London-listed firms have “zero fatality” targets, but only Mexico’s Fresnillo achieved this last year.

Vedanta had the highest death toll, with 67, followed by Anglo American with 20, Kazakhmys with 17 and ENRC with 12. Countries where the deaths occurred were not disclosed by all companies, but estimates suggest they were most common in those resource-rich regions where labour costs are lowest.

An estimated 67 occurred in India, 29 in Kazakhstan and 25 in South Africa. Without the collapse of Vedanta’s 240-metre part-built chimney in Korba, in the state of Chhattisgarh, the 2009 death toll among London’s blue-chip miners would have been more in line with recent years.

According to the report, Vedanta’s chairman Anil Agarwal had told a shareholder meeting in London that the episode at Korba was an “unfortunate accident”. Despite three officials from a Vedanta subsidiary being charged last November in India with what police described as “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”, Agarwal told the meeting: “Investigations have revealed that (the incident) was caused by severe thunderstorms and lightning.”

BSC said it had stripped Vedanta of its honours because it was necessary to protect the integrity of the awards.

First Published: Mon, August 30 2010. 00:23 IST