Minister under pressure to approve controversial sale of Lisheen Mines
Published 31/01/2011 | 05:00
ANGLO American is putting immense pressure on Natural Resources Minister Pat Carey to finally approve the mining company's planned sale of Lisheen Mines in Tipperary before the Government is dissolved tomorrow, sources say.
Anglo said back in May 2010 that it planned to sell the zinc mine to Indian company Vedanta for €308m.
Mr Carey was named the minister responsible for natural resources last week following the resignation of the Green Party's Eamon Ryan. Mr Ryan, and his junior minister Conor Lenihan, have so far resisted the proposed deal amid concerns about Vedanta's record in other countries.
Anglo American said it would sell the Lisheen Mine to Vedanta Resources as part of a bigger €1.34bn deal which includes zinc mines in Namibia.
Lisheen employs around 370 people and is set to wind down in 2014. Ministers fear that the Indian company's poor environmental and human rights record will cause problems. Several shareholders in Vedanta, such as the Church of England, have sold their stakes due to concerns about the company's human rights record. Reliable sources say both Mr Ryan and Mr Lenihan have been uncomfortable about Vedanta's record.
Attempts to contact both Anglo American and Vedanta yesterday were unsuccessful.
Local opposition to the sale of the mine has been fierce at times. Independent TD Michael Lowry, who represents the area in the Dail, said on Friday that Mr Carey should "carefully consider" any approval. The TD said he has been approached by both employees and people living close to the mine about the possible consequences of the planned sale. Mr Lowry added that he has met with Mr Lenihan to discuss the issue.
Other politicians who have expressed concerns include Marie Hoctor, a former junior minister, and John Hogan, a local councillor.
Anglo American decided to withdraw from the zinc industry worldwide in late 2009 as part of a wider restructuring following an abortive merger bid from rival Xstrata. Zinc is one of Ireland's few valuable minerals and production is or was centred on three zinc-lead mines -- Lisheen, Galmoy in Kilkenny, and Tara in Meath which is the largest lead-zinc field in Europe.
Vedanta's bid, if it is approved, would be the largest ever investment by an Indian company in Ireland and would be part of an increasingly common trend which is seeing Indian and Chinese companies expanding into Western countries.
One of the other companies rumoured to have cast an eye over Lisheen last year was China Minmetals, which is one of the world's largest companies.
China Minmetals and other state-owned companies have been snapping up mines in Africa and elsewhere over the past decade to supply China with the raw materials to power its booming manufacturers.
Whoever buys Lisheen will be responsible for the site clean-up between the villages of Moyne and Templetuothy after the closure of the mine in four years. Anglo has set aside more than $30m for this.