MAC: Mines and Communities

Comment From Our Correspondent In Orissa (december 10 2006):

Published by MAC on 2006-12-10

Comment from our correspondent in Orissa (December 10 2006):

The WII Report, circulated over 2 months ago, was quite clear that mining on Niyamgiri is unacceptable. Four weeks ago a small article appeared in the Oriya (Orissa) press stating that the WII has revised its Report, and that it now concludes there will be no serious impact from mining.

On 1st October hundrds of tribal people gathered on Niyamgiri's summit, in the mining lease area, to swear an oath not to allow their mountain to be mined. The Dongria Konds, who live throughout the Niyamgiri range and only there, have a profound understanding of the fertility which flows from the mountains through streams. The trees cover the water-retentive bauxite soil, which captures and retains water, right up inside the mountain. Countless streams flow down the mountain throughout the year, rich in mineral nutrients. It is known that deforestation & blasting would damage this water-holding capacity.

The forest is significant for its wildlife, including elephant, tiger, leapard, bear, wolf, king cobra and monitor lizard. It was recommended for sanctuary status in 1997, just before a deal was made with Sterlite/Vedanta in 1998 (a Memorandum of Understanding).

The CEC also pointed out that construction started on Vedanta's refinery before the company got legal clearance, and questioned whether it should be allowed, since it is sited right at the source of the Bamsadhara river, where it forms out of streams descending from Niyamgiri. Toxic Red Mud and ash ponds that have been dug will inevitably affect the river and ground water.

In recent weeks many lorries have been carrying bauxite to Lanjigarh from rail stations in the vicinity. This bauxite originates from mines operated for Vedanta under contract in Chattisgarh (about 1,000 kms away). These mines are on mountains in Surguja & Kawardha Districts (N & W Chattisgarh), where they are worked in hazardous, sub-standard conditions by tribal labourers whose villages & land, up on the mountain plateau, are being encroached upon by the mines.

Last week a report in the Oriya newspaper"Samaj" reported Naveen Pattnaik (Orissa's Chief Minister) as meeting with the "Industry Gurus", asking their advice on how to develop Orissa's exceptional mineral resources.

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