Mittal's Romanian Steel Plant Claimed Lives

16/12/2013 13:29 GMT | Updated 14/02/2014 10:59 GMT

On the 17 July 2006, numerous media reports featured the controversy surrounding the Romanian steel plant purchased by the rich steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal.

"Some 25 people had been killed and another 254 injured at the Galati plant in eastern Romania since it was bought in late 2001 by Mittal, the world's largest steel magnate, said a report in the Sunday Telegraph" [Business Standard]. Mittal's management attempted to play down the hefty £30,000 fine for not regularly checking equipment, for improper technology, for not checking employees' health and for inadequately marking dangerous areas. [Telegraph]

Insisting that all had improved, the company's spokesman showcased its generosity: "Each Mittal Steel business unit has a compensation policy to support any financial losses as a result of injuries sustained in the workplace," the spokesman said. "In the case of any fatality, support is provided to the family."

Mittal is infamous for the $66 million spending spree on his tiara wearing daughter's glitzy wedding.

He is also famous for his donations to the UK's Labour Party. While money was dripping into the Labour Party's coffers, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair was only too eager to endorse Mittal's bid for the purchase of the Romanian company. Dubbed as the steelgate affair, Mr Blair's infamous letter to the Romanian Prime Minister said:

"I am delighted by the news that you are to sign the contract for the privatisation of your biggest steel plant Sidex, with the LNM Group. This represents an important step forward in the efforts you and your government are making to restructure and modernise your country's economy. I am particularly pleased that it is a British company which is your partner. This should send a very positive signal to investors and businessmen in Britain and more widely. Together with the other measures you are taking, I hope it will stimulate renewed interest by British business in Romania. And it will, I hope, set Romania even more firmly on the road to membership of the European Union, an objective of which the British government remains a staunch supporter."

The Guardian's excellent dissection of this letter is worth a read.

Apart from the disastrous problems in 2006 that plagued the Romanian Steel Plant, there was another more mysterious issue that remains unsolved to date. Numerous stray dogs around the steel plant died in August 2007. Mittal's management remained tight-lipped about this incident.

The local media Antena Ro reported as follows:- [translated via Google]

"Serious allegations were made against the management of the Complex Mittal Steel Galati. Representatives of associations for the protection of animals said that dozens of stray dogs on the industrial platform were poisoned. Stray dogs in Galaţi steel plant and its surroundings were poisoned and taken on the night of Friday to Saturday, in bags. I've been told by many people in Sidex, but they are too afraid to declare what they saw. "Nobody wants to say anything, neither employees nor management', said a member of the association for the protection of animals. Dogs were lured with chunks of meat poisoned. After eating, the animals began to feel sick and faint. In excruciating pain, the dogs were thrown into cars and taken away. Oana Ţigănuş, member of the association for the protection of animals AFIM said that they they found five dogs, all of them dying. Some animals were taken to a veterinary clinic is in a state of hypothermia. "The nature of the poison was unknown, and resuscitation is nearly impossible, "said Gabriel Basil veterinarian. Associations for the Protection of Animals estimates that the entire industrial platform would have around three thousand stray dogs"

Further articles are available here.

To date there has been no meaningful response by Mittal's management. A petition signed by nearly 4000 people wrote

"Despite numerous letters and emails, officials at Mittal Steel Company Ltd have not responded to anyone, including Romania Animal Rescue, Inc., and refuse to comment on the mysterious disappearance of the dogs at the Sidex plant. Over a hundred letters have already been sent to Mr. Mittal from concerned people across the world to inform him of the tragedy occurring at his Romania plant, but he has not responded."

Against this backdrop, in 2013, ArcelorMittal's assistants were seen attempting to develop a squeaky clean image online. They requested help to promote their charitable actions for street dogs. The website stated "ArcelorMittal is the first Romanian corporation that choose to invest to solve the street dogs' problem in a humane, decent way". They added "How can we promote ArcelorMittal generous help for street dogs in Romania? If you know media related people, famous personalities who can help us make these special efforts known to the general public".

It is therefore only right and proper that we feature Mr Mittal's history with stray dogs. To prove his dedication to street dogs, he may wish to start by answering the questions about the mysterious deaths of numerous stray dogs in 2007. In the end, if he really wanted to "solve the street dog problem in a humane, decent way", he may wish to donate $66 million to all all dog rescuers - an amount that would save all the dogs in Romania. Surely if he thinks nothing of spending that kind of money on one Bollywood-esque glitzy wedding dripping with diamond tiaras, expensive cuisine, gold laced saries and lip sync serenades, then it is only right a proper that he spends equally the same amount on stray dogs in Romania. If he does, I would certainly write about his sterling work in saving stray dogs. Until then, if anyone has any further information on the mysterious canine deaths in 2007 please contact me.