Business as usual: Vedanta mine plans threaten India's poorest

Date of publication: 
27 July 2009

Activists have demonstrated outside the annual general meeting of British mining company Vedanta, protesting against its plans for a mine in India.

The Kondh tribe says the opening of the bauxite mine will destroy a large part of the Niyamgiri Mountain in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

An elder of the tribe was to attend the meeting, while environmental campaigner Bianca Jagger protested outside.

They have appealed to investors to stop Vedanta going ahead with the mine.

Vedanta says the project is ethically and environmentally sound.

Ms Jagger is supported by UK-based campaign groups, including ActionAid and Survival International.

They held a demonstration outside the meeting the venue of the Vedanta meeting in London, with a yellow digger to illustrate the kind of mining assault they say the firm will launch on the Niyamgiri hills, which many tribal peoples believe to be sacred.

Way of life

ActionAid bought a single share in Vedanta for tribal activist Sitaram Kulisika so that he could attend the meeting on behalf of the Kondh tribe.

“Last year Vedanta directors promised not to mine without our consent. I am here to request all shareholders to honour that promise and save our livelihood and our god,” he said ahead of the protest.

“We have been living in harmony with this mountain, these forests, these animals for generations. Vedanta has been here for less than 10 years.

“They cannot tell us what is best for our future.”

Ms Jagger has called on investors, including the Church of England and some borough councils, to rethink their involvement with Vedanta.

The Church has shares in Vedanta worth £2.5m ($4.1m).

Mining giant Vedanta is based in the UK but has most of its operations in India.

It is about to start mining bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills, to be processed at a refinery that has already been built in the area.

Bauxite is used to make aluminium.

The company and its Indian partner have been accused of forcing people to move from the land.

Vedanta has said it is committed to developing the project “in line with the best international standards for environmental management”, and has noted that the project has been approved by India’s Supreme Court.

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