Jul 31 2008

Vedanta Promises

British mining giant Vedanta’s Chairman Anil Agarwal told the company’s AGM today that his company would only go ahead with its highly controversial bauxite mine in Orissa, eastern India, with the ‘complete permission’ of the Dongria Kondh tribe. Vedanta’s subsidiary, Sterlite, is currently awaiting permission from India’s Supreme Court to mine bauxite, the raw material for aluminium, from Niyamgiri mountain in Orissa. The court is expected to award permission shortly.

Agarwal told shareholders in London today, ‘I can only promise that we will only start work if we have complete permission of the court and the people.’ It is the first time the company has made any such commitment to comply with international law, which recognises tribal peoples’ right to give or withhold consent for developments which profoundly affect their future.

Vedanta’s Executive Director Kuldip Kaura backed up Mr Agarwal by emphasising, ‘the local people have to give their consent.’

A representative from a neighbouring Kondh tribe who was present at the AGM told Mr Agarwal, ‘We are here to appeal to you to help save our mountains. Progress to us means living on our mountain. How can your development replace our God?’

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘We sincerely hope that Mr Agarwal’s words to shareholders today were not just empty promises. As the Dongria Kondh have so far been vehemently opposed to his plans for the mine, which will destroy them as a people, Vedanta should now announce it is suspending its plans unless and until the Dongria Kondh consent.’

Source: Survival