MAC: Mines and Communities

India: New Vedanta protests meet with violent "security" response

Published by MAC on 2012-01-31
Source: Statement, the Hindu

UK company also gets final oilfield go-ahead

Forty seven Indigenous villagers from Rengopalli, Orissa, were violently arrested on 21 January, as they nonviolently protested against UK-listed Vedanta Resources.*

The company wanted access to the villagers' ancestral land for its second "red mud pond", destined to store toxic wastes from the Lanjigarh alumina refinery.

Just two days earlier, Orissa's High Court had rejected Vedanta's application for a six-fold expansion of the plant's capacity. See: Vedanta in India: a bad project is given thumbs-down

Last week the company sought to initiate a "fresh dialogue" with the Ministry of Environment, claiming this rejection was an act of "discrimation" against it.

The refinery's first red pond had already sprung two major leaks during 2011. See:
Vedanta - once more unto the breach!

As predicted a fortnight ago, Vedanta has also received final approval to take a leading stake in India's richest new oil field in Rajasthan.

Serious allegations of abuse against the company were peremptorily brushed aside. See: Vedanta set to grab further Indian resources - twice over

Previous story on MAC: Vedanta in India: a bad project is given thumbs-down

* Amnesty International features a short film on the event, taken by Orissa residents at:

India: Drop false charges against those protesting against Vedanta's land acquisition in Orissa and release them

Amnesty International Public Statement

AI index: ASA 20/004/2012

25 January 2012

Amnesty International urges authorities in the eastern Indian state of Orissa to immediately release 47 villagers of Rengopalli who were arrested on 21 January for peacefully protesting the pollution of their ancestral land by Vedanta Aluminium's Lanjigarh bauxite refinery, and to drop the charges against them.

The villagers were trying to stop Vedanta from taking over one of the two access roads to their village. The road is the most direct route to the village, as well as to the Vedanta refinery's 60 hectare red mud pond, the second such repository for toxic waste from the refinery's operations.

The first red mud pond, which had leaked twice during the monsoon season last year, is already full with toxic wastes. Research by Amnesty International has showed that the refinery and its red mud pond, which have been in operation for four years, do not meet national or international standards in relation to its environmental, social and human rights impact.

Amnesty International urges the state authorities to comply with their obligations under Indian and international law by immediately consulting with the affected communities at Rengopalli about the potential impact of the red mud ponds.

Vedanta Aluminium is a fully-owned subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources.

Residents of Rengopalli, one of the 12 villages surrounding the refinery, have been campaigning against the take over of their access road claiming the second red mud pond will further pollute their lands and water. They have also alleged that the local authorities had failed to duly consult with elected village councils in the area as required by law before deciding to take over the 0.5 hectare land on which the access road was located.

The arrested, including 38 Adivasis (Indigenous people) and 9 Dalits, face several charges including rioting and attempting to murder police officials who aided the company's security guards and contractors. Bulldozers and other heavy equipment were used to take over the land; five Adivasi women sustained injuries in the police baton-charge during the protests.

The residents informed Amnesty International that, earlier, a local court, before which the company had filed a petition seeking police protection to take over the land under dispute, had sought further details on its status.

But Rengopalli residents allege that the local authorities and the police swung into action, proclaimed prohibitory orders at the red mud pond site, charged 37 of the villagers with violating these orders and made them appear before the authorities on 20 January in an attempt to persuade them to renounce their resistance to the project.

Amnesty International believes that the local authorities, instead of protecting the rights of the Adivasis to their traditional lands and habitats as required by Indian and international law, acted in a manner which facilitated the takeover of their land for the company.

Video footage of the confrontation shows local security forces cooperating closely with company officials and private security as they approached the peaceful protest.

After the Orissa high court last week dismissed the Vedanta Aluminium's plea for a six-fold expansion of the refinery, Amnesty International reiterated its demand that the Indian authorities order its immediate clean-up, including of the first red mud pond which is full.

Cairn-Vedanta deal gets final approval from Cabinet

Special Correspondent

The Hindu

24 January 2012

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Tuesday gave its final approval to the London-based mining group Vedanta Resources Plc's acquisition of a majority stake in Cairn India Limited for $8.48 billion.

The CCEA, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cleared the deal at a meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday. Fresh approval was necessitated in view of the Home Ministry pointing to alleged cases of serious human rights violations, default of payment, environmental damage in its mining and metal projects in India and abroad.

Following the serious issues raised by the Home Ministry, officials in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry put up the deal before the CCEA for a review.

In a communication to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry through an office memorandum on November 25, 2011, the Home Ministry conveyed its security no-objection certificate (NOC) to the Cairn-Vedanta deal.

However, the note said: "Independent of the above security clearances, this company/group has come to notice of involvement in some cases of default of payment, human rights violations, environmental damage in its mining and metal projects in India and abroad".

The Petroleum Ministry's CCEA note points out that all approvals and pre-conditions for the share transfer have been achieved.

Vedanta cries foul at environmental clearance to Jindal, Lavasa projects

Seeks talks after court battle lost

Piyali Manda

Business Standard

27 January 2012

New Delhi - Crying "discrimination", the Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) wants to initiate a fresh dialogue with the environment ministry to arrive at a solution enabling the expansion of its aluminum refinery in Orissa.

Vedanta has claimed the ministry discriminated against it by not clearing its Lanjigarh project, while the Jindal Power and Lavasa projects got the green signal.

"As in our opinion, it was a case of discrimination, we had filed a review petition before the Orissa High Court for reconsideration of our expansion project at Lanjigarh in line with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) circular dated November 16, 2010, under which similar cases of the Jindal Power Ltd and Lavasa projects have been duly considered," VAL President and CEO Mukesh Kumar told Business Standard.

The November 16, 2010 office memorandum deals with the consideration of proposals involving the violation of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 or the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 or the CRZ Notification of 1991.

The Orissa High Court last week declined to review the Vedanta petition, as in its opinion the said memorandum lacked the authority of a legal statute.

"If the office memorandum has no legal statute, it is to be seen whether the environmental clearances given to Jindal, Lavasa and others under the same circular are also going to be withdrawn by the MoEF," said another Vedanta official, who did not wish to be named.

Both Jindal Power Ltd and Lavasa Corporation (a unit of Ajit Gulabchand's Hindustan Construction Company) declined to comment on the matter. Environment Minister Jayanti Natarajan could not be reached for comment in repeated attempts. However, a senior ministry official said there was no discrimination against Vedanta.

The Orissa High Court on July 19, 2011 had rejected Vedanta's plea for sixfold expansion of its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, upholding the MoEF decision. Later, the company filed a review petition before the court, seeking reconsideration of the order. That review petition was rejected last week by a division bench of Chief Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice B N Mohapatra. VAL had proposed to expand its million-tonne alumina refinery to six million tonne and enhance the capacity of its captive power plant from the existing 75 Mw to 300 Mw.

It had applied for the expansion plan in August 2007 but went ahead with construction work pending the environmental clearance. The MoEF ordered the expansion work halted in October 2010.


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