India: Tribals oppose bauxite mining

Date of publication: 
14 September 2015

Tribal organisations like Niyamgiri Suraksha Samity (NSS) and Lok Sangram Manch (LSM) are opposed to efforts of the Odisha government to start bauxite mining from Karlapat mines to save alumina refinery of Vedanta at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

The one million tonne capacity Lanjigarh refinery of Vedanta is facing severe bauxite ore shortage and it had started to shut down the unit.

Earlier plan of Vedanta to mine bauxite from ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills had been thwarted in 2013 due to protest of local tribals. Following it, the Lanjigarh refinery was depending on ore procured from outside Odisha, which was leading to its losses. To rescue the Vedanta refinery at Lanjigarh, the Odisha government has recently directed its PSU Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to start mining in Karlapat area. As per reports the OMC is hoping to start mining activity in the area from December 2016.

But the NSS and LSM, that had played a key role in thwarting attempts of mining in Niyamgiri hills, feel mining in Karlapat region would also be detrimental for environment, life and livelihood of tribals of the area.

NSS president Lada Sikaka and LSM leader Subash Kulusika said Karlapat region of Thuamul Rampur block in Kalahandi district bears a unique natural ecosystem. Karlapat forest is accepted as a sanctuary, they added.

According to them vegetation in Karlapat region is more dense than Niyamgiri hills. Presence of large trees in Karlapat is much more than Niyamgiri region. So, they felt it would not be right to allow large scale mining in the Karlapat area, which would completely destroy the environment and ecosystem of the region.

The NSS and LSM activists also feared that mining in Karlapat area would drastically affect life and livelihood of tribals living inside forest of the region. They also criticised the government for promoting mining in the region at the cost of life and livelihood of poor tribals without ensuring their rights under Forest Rights Act.

Both organisations were also of the opinion that proper assessment of environmental as well as socio-economic losses of tribals living in Karlapat area has not been done till now although the State government is promoting mining in the area.