Mining and Oil Giant Faces Scrutiny Over Influence on Environmental Policies
September 1, 2023
In a startling exposé, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has unveiled another case of alleged “covert lobbying,” this time targeting major mining-to-oil conglomerate Vedanta Limited. Following their recent report on the Adani Group, which raised questions about the use of “opaque” funds, OCCRP’s latest investigation has cast a shadow on Vedanta’s activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to OCCRP’s findings, Vedanta Limited engaged in a clandestine campaign aimed at weakening environmental regulations. The report alleges that in January 2021, Anil Agarwal, Chairman of Vedanta Group, communicated with the former environment minister, Prakash Javadekar. In this correspondence, Agarwal reportedly advocated for allowing mining companies to boost production by up to 50 percent without the need for new environmental clearances. The argument put forward was that such a move could potentially stimulate India’s economic recovery during the pandemic.
“The government could add ‘impetus’ to India’s ‘rapid’ economic recovery by allowing mining companies to boost production by up to 50 percent without having to secure new environmental clearances,” stated the OCCRP report, quoting Anil Agarwal’s letter to the then-environment minister.
Furthermore, the report alleges that Vedanta’s oil arm, Cairn India, played a role in influencing the elimination of public hearings for exploratory drilling in government-auctioned oil blocks. Despite local opposition, six of Cairn’s controversial oil projects in Rajasthan were reportedly approved.
In response to OCCRP’s investigation, Vedanta defended its actions, describing itself as “one of the leading natural resources organizations in India” and claiming to operate with the objective of enhancing domestic production sustainably. A company spokesperson stated, “Continuous representations are submitted for consideration to the Government in the best interest of national development and India’s march towards self-reliance in natural resources.”
Despite the allegations and the controversy surrounding the report, Vedanta Limited’s shares saw an increase of 1.42 percent, trading at Rs 235.60 apiece around 10 am.
This revelation by OCCRP raises significant questions about the role of influential corporations in shaping environmental policies during a global crisis. As the investigation unfolds, it remains to be seen how the Indian government and the public will respond to these allegations, and whether further scrutiny will be applied to corporate interests in environmental matters.