Three green groups seek review of Vedanta’s Asarco deal


New York : In continuing difficulties for Vedanta Resources’ takeover bid of US copper mining giant Asarco, three leading green groups have urged the US attorney general to review the environmental record of the London-based metals and mining major as well as of other bidders.

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In their joint letter, Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project and Public Citizen/Texas Office have expressed concerns over support by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for Asarco’s sale to Vedanta’s Indian subsidiary, Sterlite Industries, without assessing the environmental record of Vedanta and other bidders.

The groups find it troubling that a DOJ representative told the court that Vedanta’s environmental record based on lower Indian environment standards should not be a “dispositive disqualifying factor”, according to a press release Tuesday.

The letter has urged DoJ to proceed with caution before turning over the century old American Smelting and Refining Company (Asarco) ­”which has a record of one of the worst polluter in the country ­ to a new corporate parent with a weak environmental record.”

Sterlite bought over the operating assets of Asarco, based in Tucson, Arizona, for $2.6 billion over a fortnight ago.

Last Friday, the deal hit a bump in the US Bankruptcy Court in Texas, where it awaits approval. The judge signalled he might give Grupo Mexico, Asarco’s estranged corporate parent, one last chance to resume control of its US subsidiary.

He asked why Grupo Mexico should not have the opportunity to file a plan to take Asarco out of bankruptcy.

While bidding, the Mexican company had promised to pay all creditors in full and take Asarco out of bankruptcy.

Vedanta’s takeover of Asarco has also been objected to by two Arizona Congressmen on environmental grounds.

Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva, too, sent a letter last week Attorney General Michael Mukasey, calling for an investigation of Vedanta’s environmental record before allowing the deal to proceed.