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Chair, Ranking Member of U.S. House Judiciary Committee Urge DOJ to do 'Careful Study' of Environmental Record of Vedanta/Sterlite, Other Would-Be Buyers of ASARCO
Date:7/10/2008

WASHINGTON, July 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two leading U.S. House Judiciary Committee members -- Rep. John Conyers, Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Lamar Smith, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee have asked U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to have the Department of Justice focus its attention on the environmental records of Vedanta/Sterlite and other companies seeking to gain control of U.S. copper miner ASARCO.

In a letter to Attorney General Mukasey, Conyers and Smith explain: "We understand that ASARCO is associated with approximately 100 Superfund sites in the United States. The media have reported that ASARCO agreed with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003 to set up a $100 million trust fund to help pay the company's environmental cleanup costs. It is estimated that ASARCO's Superfund liabilities may range up to $1 billion.

Recently, ASARCO's board of directors accepted a $2.6 billion purchase offer from Sterlite Industries (USA) Ltd. (Sterlite USA) to buy substantially all of the debtor's principal assets, subject to approval by the United States Bankruptcy Court. We understand that these assets include ASARCO's facilities in Texas and Arizona. Sterlite USA will also assume certain of the debtor's liabilities. The obligations of Sterlite USA under the purchase and sale agreement are guaranteed by Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. ...

Prior to the ASARCO board's acceptance of Sterlite USA's offer, the bankruptcy court issued an order requiring the board to consider 'any bidder's and its affiliates' history of compliance or noncompliance with environmental regulations.' Sterlite USA's affiliate, Vedanta, however, is alleged to have a poor environmental record outside the United States. There assertedly have been 'numerous reports that raise serious questions about Vedanta's history of compliance with EHS [environmental, health and safety] laws and regulations.'

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SOURCE U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary
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