Aug 09 2008

Controversial Mining Project in Orissa Approved

OrissaSurvival International – India’s Supreme Court has today dealt a devastating blow to the Dongria Kondh tribe by giving British FTSE 100 company Vedanta permission to mine their sacred mountain. The tribe say the mine will destroy their way of life forever. Vedanta’s subsidiary Sterlite plans to mine for bauxite, the raw material for aluminium, from Niyamgiri mountain in Orissa, eastern India. Vedanta is majority owned by London-based Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal. The Dongria Kondh say the huge open cast mine will destroy a vast swathe of untouched forest, and will reduce their most sacred site to an industrial wasteland. Last month, thirty Dongria Kondh men blockaded a road that is being built through their forest towards the site of the proposed mine. The tribe say they will stage mass protests if mining goes ahead.

The Dongria Kondh cannot appeal this decision by the Supreme Court, but they plan to submit another petition to the Court focusing on the ways in which the mine will violate their cultural and religious rights.

Dongria spokesperson Jitu Jakesika said, ‘We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money. We will give our lives for our mountain.’


Tribals say the mines will destroy their livelihoods

BBC NEWS – The Indian Supreme Court has allowed the British company Vedanta Resources to go ahead with a controversial bauxite mining project in Orissa state. But, the court said, the company will have to pay for the development of the region out of its profits. The region is considered sacred by tribes who live in the area and is protected by the constitution. The Supreme Court has also allowed South Korean steel firm Posco to build a $12 billion plant in the same state. Environmental and tribal activists have opposed Vedanta’s plans saying the mines will force people from their homes and destroy their livelihoods. The tribes have said they would “fight to the death rather than leave their sacred home” in the Niyamgiri mountains. 

The company has an agreement with the state government to set up a bauxite
refinery in the Niyamgiri mountains.
In India, both the state and central government back the Vedanta plan as part of efforts to industrialise and exploit the mineral resources of ‘underdeveloped’ eastern India.

The Supreme Court told the Indian unit of Vedanta, Sterlite Industries, that it will have to pay 10% of its profits or 100m rupees (whichever is more) for the development of the region.

“Even if you kill us we will not give Niyamgiri,” said one tribal member Jairam, in a press statement released on the tribe’s behalf by British charity ActionAid.

Another member of the tribe, Jitu Jakeskia, said: “We are deeply connected with the mountain. It is home to our God Niyamraja.

“We will not allow the company to mine our land, our sacred place. Any compensation they offer is worthless to us.”

The Indian and Orissan governments both back the Vedanta plan as part of efforts to industrialise and exploit mineral resources in the east of the country, which they say is under-developed.

Steel jobs

The giant Posco project in Orissa is the country’s biggest direct foreign investment.

It has faced stiff opposition for more than two years from local farmers who are angry over losing their land.

“Posco is permitted to continue the iron ore mining,” the Supreme Court said.

Reuters reported that Posco had so far been able to acquire about a quarter of the 4,000 acres it says it needs for the plant.

The court gave it the green light to use another 3,000 acres of forest land, the agency reported.

Critics say the plant could displace 20,000 people. The company and the government argue that badly-needed jobs will be created in a poor part of the country.