Following an exposé investigation published by Zambia Reports which examined the inner workings of Vedanta Resource’s influence campaign aimed at the Republic of Zambia over the Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) dispute, Tokollo Matsabu, one of the members of the company’s hired research firm in South Africa, Eunomix, responded with attacks and threats against this publication over issues with the attribution of her article.
The results of Eunomix’s paid research were circulated widely on Vedanta propaganda platforms such as KCMToday.com, and were even tweeted by Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal, which in turn were tweeted and promoted by Eunomix CEO Claude Bassaic without disclosing the conflict of interest:
In a subsequent email Q&A with Eunomix, published in full below, the company denies that they have any conflict of interest when being paid by Vedanta to publish and comment about the KCM dispute and other mining matters in Zambia. They indicate that Vedanta’s PR firm, R&A Strategic Communications, is working with them to arrange media opportunities. According to their claims in this Q&A, Eunomix was only hired by Vedanta Resources for just one week, they were hired on the exact same day that Mr. Bassaic did media interviews on the same issue, and further that BusinessDay was informed of the author’s conflict of interest, which was not disclosed in the text of the article.
Zambia Reports is currently fact checking several issues in this account with the relevant parties and will share that information soon. Please see the full text of the email interview below:
1) When did Vedanta hire Eunomix and what is the value and duration of the contract?
The contract was finalised on 22 May 2019. The contract was for 5 days of work by 2 researchers. Eunomix charged its normal daily rate. The contract consisted of updating research work that was done in 2013 by Eunomix on the effectiveness of mining policy across Sub-Saharan Africa between 1970 and 2010, with a focus on Zambia.
2) What is the mandate of Eunomix’s engagement on behalf of Vedanta?
The mandate was as follows: “To carry out an urgent analysis of the types of socio-economic outcomes of sudden regulatory, policy and/or judicial decisions made on behalf of mining license issuers – sovereign governments as a rule – that represent de facto expropriation or spoliation of a mining operation. These socio-economic outcomes would include objective indicators like investment, production, employment, exports, tax revenues, credit ratings and profits; but also subjective indicators like business confidence, investability, perception, and so on. The analysis would focus on Zambia, but would need to include other relevant past examples for which data is available.”
The expressed and clear understanding was that while Vedanta was commissioning the research, it did not expect or want any influence over the findings. This is explicitly state in the PUBLICLY AVAILABLE report. As stated in the response to your previous question, the methodology applied was the same as the 2013 research (which was self-funded), and updated to include data through to 2017. The research commissioned by Vedanta added a comparison with Chile, a jurisdiction which produced the same amount of copper as Zambia in 1970; but who’s copper production trajectory differed significantly from that of Zambia, due to the different application of policies which could be termed “resource nationalistic”.
3) What is the Eunomix company policy with regard to the publication of commentaries in the media or sourcing of quotes on matters regarding the company’s clients?
Eunomix’s policy is to publish its research findings, unless its contracts with clients specify that this may not be done.
4) Do you believe that the failure to disclose Vedanta’s financial relationship with Eunomix in the BusinessDay article represents a violation of the Press Council’s Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media?
We are not experts on the Press Code. But we believe it applies to member media organisations only. The article was centred on our report, which was publicly available and explicit about Eunomix’s relationship with Vedanta. As regards the Op-Ed, Russel and Associates disclosed to Business Day’s editorial team that the research referred to in the article had been commissioned by Vedanta.
5) When Claude Baissac spoke with journalists from Bloomberg on 22 May 2019, did he similarly inform them of Eunomix’s conflict of interest?
There is no conflict of interest because Mr Baissac was interviewed by Bloomberg on the morning of the 22nd of May, and hired by Vedanta in the afternoon. We had no knowledge at the time of the Bloomberg interview that Vedanta was going to retain our services.
6) What is the relationship between Eunomix and R&A Strategic Communications?
Both firms do work for Vedanta. R&A helped facilitate the publication of the Business Day article. We understand that in doing so they informed the relevant staff member at Business Day that the research was commissioned by Vedanta.