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Tribal women gather to protest and listen to speeches at Bijepur at a rally organised by the Adim Adhikar Surakshya Manch (a group to protect tribal groups) against the Vedanta plant. Stuart Freedman/ ActionAid

There have been numerous meetings of tribal communities to protest against Vedanta's plans (Stuart Freedman/ActionAid)

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Vedanta ‘in total contempt of the law’ says Indian government

Ecologist

17th August, 2010

Damning Indian government report says British-owned mining company’s plans should be blocked, as two local tribal campaigners are abducted

British-owned mining giant Vedanta Resources has been dealt another blow after the Indian government criticised its latest plans to mine for bauxite in a remote part of eastern India considered sacred by the indigenous population.

Earlier this year major investors including the Church of England pulled investments from the company, saying they had ‘no confidence’ the company was respecting the human rights of the local communities. This followed heavy criticism of its plans for the new mine by NGOs and the UK government.

The latest report by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forestry has recommended that proposals for the new mine be rejected due to its expected impacts on both nearby wildlife and the local Dongaria Kondh tribal people who occupy the area.

The report also went on to criticise Vedanta’s activities in the region, saying the corporation had acted ‘in total contempt of the law’.

The report stated:

•    Mining in the area would disturb important wildlife habitat in the area, including a number of sensitive species.

•    The mine would threaten the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of the local Dongaria Kondh people who occupy the surrounding area.

•    That local state officials had colluded with Vedanta in its application for permission to mine, including falsifying documents in the application process.

•    Consent for the mining had neither been sought nor obtained from the Dongaria Kondh people, as required under Indian law.

Campaign groups including ActionAid and Amnesty International have welcomed the report, calling on the Indian government to rule against Vedanta when it makes its final decision on the mine later this month.

‘This is an important report because it is going to help protect the extinction of the tribal community and help them assert their fundamental rights,’ said Bratindi Jena, head of tribal rights at ActionAid.

‘The India government must now do the right thing and call a stop to this project once and for all.’

Vedanta has declined to comment on the report at present, but the company has previously stated that it ‘remains committed to pursuing its investments in a responsible manner, respecting the environment and human rights’.

Abduction of campaigners


The report comes just one week after two anti-Vedanta campaigners from the Dongaria Kondh tribe were abducted by gunmen while on their way to campaign against the proposed mine. One of the men was beaten and the other tortured before being released.

Ramesh Gopalkrishnan, researcher for Amnesty International’s South Asia team, has called on the Orissa state government to investigate the kidnappings, reporting that the abducted men believe local police to be responsible.

Gopalkrishnan said: ‘From what these men say, and from what eyewitnesses say, these men were taken by local police.

‘They were illegally detained and we have issued a statement asking the state government to find out why. The state government has so far not responded.’

Useful links

Indian Environment Ministry report

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COMMENT
Determination in the face of destruction
What do you do when your faith, identity, independence and livelihood are all endangered by a mine that has the backing of a multi-billion pound company and even your own government? For the Dongria Kondh hill tribe of Orissa, India, there is only one answer: you stop them.
NEWS
Vedanta told to 'change behaviour' by UK Government
Mining company unable to provide any evidence as government agency rules they ignored rights of indigenous people
INVESTIGATION
UK companies linked to devastating Indian mine
Plans to bulldoze an Indian mountain sacred to local people were controversial enough... before shareholder data revealed that a raft of UK household names, ranging from Jaguar cars to the Church of England, own shares in the company behind the mine, Vedanta Resources plc
NEWS
Church sells stake in controversial mining company, Vedanta
The Church of England has dealt a significant blow to Vedanta Resources plc by pulling £3.75 million worth of investments from the company on ethical grounds
INVESTIGATION
Between a rock and a hard place
The battle between mining giant Vedanta and the threatened tribal Dongria Kondh of Orissa, eastern India continues.

 

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