India Carmichael Mine Indigenous People
London museum claims on Adani sponsorship refuted
Feb 17, 2022
Citizens keep the heat on the London Science Museum over its sponsorship deal with Adani. Image The Wire

The Coal Action Network in the UK has taken on the London Science Museum over its sponsorship deal with Adani. A ‘green energy gallery’ is to be sponsored by Adani Green, leading to a string of protests outside the museum. Members of the museum’s board of trustees have also resigned in protest.

The Science Museum Group has attempted to defend the sponsorship. However, in a message to supporters, the Coal Action Network has refuted the arguments of this body and its spokespeople in strong statements reproduced below:

The Science Museum Group stated that it ‘respects the rights of all people and is committed to engaging the public on climate change.’

Indigenous Adivasi people of India's Hasdeo forests march in protest against Adani's proposed coal mines in their ancestral lands. Image Vijay Ramamurthy.

The claim that the Science Museum Group (SMG) respects Indigenous rights is laughable. The scale of human-rights abuses the SMG is supporting through its sponsorship deal with Adani directly contradicts any claim to this.

During a BBC Front Row interview, the museum's Director Ian Blatchford was asked to respond to comments made by Adrian Burragubba, a Traditional Owner of land who opposed Adani’s Carmichael mine in Australia, that ‘by putting this company on a pedestal, the Science Museum is complicit in Adani’s violation of our Human Rights and destruction of our ancestral lands.’

An ad van with indigenous elder Adrian Burragubba rejecting Adani's Carmichael coal mine during a protest outside the London Science Museum

Blatchford decided to defend Adani’s coal business by dismissing Burragubba’s comments, questioning their validity, and suggesting that they were exaggerated: ‘Well, Adani and their coal interests in Australia do get accused of a whole variety of things, but the company would push back very strongly on those accusations… So, although you’re quoting one voice, I would not say that that is a definitive intervention on the issue, because we’ve thought about two things: not only [Adani’s] response to that and the truth of it – and there is certainly a great tendency for some campaigners to exaggerate very significantly those issues – but also we’re looking at other voices.’

A protest supporting indigenous W&J rights against the Adani Carmichael coal mine.

In response, Indigenous people sent a letter to the Science Museum Group calling on its leadership to listen to Indigenous peoples’ concerns about its new sponsorship deal. The letter received a swift response from Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the Science Museum Group’s Trustees. Did she listen to the concerns raised? Her critics say ‘no’.

She begins by trying to shift responsibility: ‘Your letter makes some very specific allegations about the activities of Adani Mining. I feel that these are questions for that company, and also the relevant national governments.’

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Dame Mary then goes on to ‘explain’ to these representatives of communities whose lives have been massively impacted by Adani’s coal extraction, that Adani Green Energy has the ‘potential to have a very positive impact, both in supporting millions of people in India who have currently no access to electricity and in expediting India’s transition away from coal.’

So no need to worry about the land grabs forcing you from your homes for new Adani coal mines then? The ongoing disrespect the Science Museum shows to Indigenous community concerns is clear.

The PEKB coal mine in India's Hasdeo forests, operated by Adani. Image Abir Dasgupta

The Science Museum Group has said ‘this gallery is sponsored by Adani Green Energy, a major renewable energy company based in India. It is part of the Adani Group, which includes five other businesses with interests spanning ports, airports and coal mining. Each of the businesses are independent, publicly traded entities with their own board of directors.’

It is true that the Adani Group has six listed companies: Adani Enterprises, Adani Ports and SEZ, Adani Power, Adani Transmission, Adani Green Energy and Adani Gas. However, the claim that they are independent is totally false.

They are all controlled by the Adani family with members on every board. On top of this research shows that the money flows between the six companies. The Group is increasingly raising money from overseas. It also raises a lot of money within India – in the form of bank loans, borrowing against shares and pledging assets. Notably, this money circulates within the group through a high density of ‘related party transactions,’ or transactions between companies that are connected.

This means that money raised for Adani Green Energy can end up being used to finance new coal mines across the world. With campaigners publicly pointing this out to Barclays Bank, Blackrock and other investors, the Science Museum Group has no excuse for not realising this themselves.

In fact, it turns out that before they made the deal their own trustees had raised concerns over it. Two of them resigned, explaining why they did not agree with the museum’s decision to let coal giant Adani sponsor.

Hannah Fry resigned from the London Science Museum's board of trustees over the Adani sponsorship deal

Museum Group spokespeople said ‘differing opinions and debate are integral to our work, both as part of the cultural community and as a science institution. However, this approach will not stop us from robustly challenging the false claim made by some that our curators have been gagged. Our museums retain editorial control in our exhibitions, galleries and events, and this is asserted clearly and unambiguously in all contracts we sign.’

This is not the case. The Sponsorship Agreement between the Science Museum and Adani, disclosed through FOI to scientist Alex Penson, reveals the existence of a ‘gagging clause’ committing it ‘to take reasonable care not at any time during the term to make any statement or issue any publicity or otherwise be involved in any conduct or matter that may reasonably be foreseen as discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation of the sponsor.’

An identical clause included in the museum’s sponsorship agreement with the oil giant Shell was widely criticised for undermining the museum’s independence as it could prevent it from accurately presenting the role of fossil-fuel companies like Shell and Adani in significantly contributing to the climate crisis.

Part of the 'gagging clause' in the sponsorship deal.

To respond to the science museum’s sponsorship deal and the spurious arguments used to defend it, people can write to the following:

Director, Sir Ian Blatchford - [email protected]

Chair of Trustees, Dame Mary Archer - [email protected]

General Museum - [email protected]