Aug 20 2008

Pressure on Vedanta Increases

Survival International – British mining company Vedanta is under intense pressure over its plans to mine the Dongria Kondh tribe’s land in India, as a Scottish investment group sells its shares and Amnesty International joins the campaign in support of the tribe.

Martin Currie – an Edinburgh-based investment management company – has sold its £2.3million stake in Vedanta following pressure from Survival International. The company’s director of corporate communications, Scott White, said, ‘It is fundamental that we expect companies to behave both within the law and morally… The doubts over the issues with the bauxite project … led to exiting the stock.’

Last year the Norwegian government’s Council of Ethics recommended that Norway sold its shares in Vedanta due to an ‘unacceptable risk of complicity in current and future severe environmental damage and systematic human rights violations.’

Since the Supreme Court of India gave its clearance for Vedanta’s mine at Niyamgiri in the Indian state of Orissa earlier this month, Amnesty International has added its voice to those calling for the mine to be stopped because of the devastating impact it would have on the Dongria Kondh. Local politicians also met this week to discuss ways of halting the mine, and a gathering of 15,000 local Kondh people is planned.

The Dongria Kondh have vowed to resist the mine. On hearing the Supreme Court’s decision, 40 Dongria Kondh from several villages blockaded the road to the proposed mine site. They held banners across the road with the slogan, ‘We are Dongria Kondh. Vedanta cannot take our mountain.’ Dongria activists swore not to leave Niyamgiri and stated, ‘Niyamgiri is Dongria land. Vedanta cannot come here without our permission. We say no.’

The Dongria Kondh also recently claimed they were ‘tricked’ into praising Vedanta on a video posted on YouTube. Sahadev Kadraka, one of the Dongria men filmed ‘praising’ the company, has said, ‘There were three people from Vedanta. They said, ‘We have brought some clothes for your village and we will give them to you.’ They asked us ‘Do you support Vedanta and do you want to mine bauxite?’ We said no, we don’t want to give our mountain. Then they said, ‘Everyone from the other side of the mountain has agreed to mine. If you refuse, we will not give anything to you. If you complain then we won’t provide anything to you again.’’

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Bribery and intimidation are weapons of the bully and have no place in a reputable mining company. They work against the legal principle of consent which Vedanta must obtain if it is to work within the international law on tribal peoples. Vedanta has agreed this and must stick to its word. ‘Development’ which destroys local tribes has no place in 21st century India. If the mine goes ahead, the Dongria Kondh will be destroyed and Vedanta’s balance sheet will be stained forever.’