Run and part-owned by Britain's richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, ArcelorMittal has received more than $500m in taxpayer-backed loans over the past decade, from development lenders including the London-based European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.
Bankwatch, a network of local campaign groups that monitors the activities of the EBRD, says the steelmaker has used the cash to boost its bottom line, instead of mitigating the environmental and social impact of its plants.
Protestors will present Arcelor's shareholders with a 40-page dossier of evidence about the firm's behaviour across the globe, from Orissa in India to Vanderbijlpark in South Africa. Pippa Gallop of Bankwatch said the firm had grown rapidly by buying up former state-owned steel plants without investing sufficiently in cleaner technologies: 'The main problem is the aggressive cost-cutting strategy of this company.'
Jan Syrtr, a Czech lawyer involved in bringing a test case against the company over pollution levels from its Ostrava plant, said people in the local district of Radvanice a Bartovice have to use magnets to clear the steel dust from inside their homes. 'Depending on the state of the weather, you can really smell that you're in Radvanice,' he said. 'We don't want money; we just want this to stop.'
Liz Ilg, from Citizen Action in Cleveland, Ohio, will demand the company put more effort into cutting pollution at her local works. She said: 'This is the most urban steel mill in the US: they've got more people living around them than any other plant - 390,000 within five miles.' Mittal took over the plant from International Steel Corporation in 2004.
'The main message is: start to look at pollution prevention at your facilities. The best way to do that is to sit down and talk to community members,' said Ilg. She has collected 34,000 signatures on a petition, but says the company has so far refused to meet local people.
A spokeswoman said: 'ArcelorMittal takes health and safety and environmental issues very seriously. During 2007, we spent approximately $500m on health and safety and environment-related projects and since 1990 we have successfully reduced the CO2 footprint of our steelmaking by over 20 per cent.' She added that the company was drawing up plans to reduce emissions from the Czech plant.
Gallop said it was difficult for civil society groups to monitor whether the EBRD's loans to ArcelorMittal have been well spent. 'In many cases, the improvements are completely unverifiable, because the action plans have never been released,' she said. An EBRD spokesman said the bank had clear policies 'to assess the impact of our loans'.