MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Human chain advances opposition to Vedanta

Published by MAC on 2009-02-02

Last August, India's Supreme Court gave a conditional go-ahead for UK-listed Vedanta Resources plc to mine bauxite from the Nyamgiri hills in Orissa. Last week the company announced that it was ready to begin.

Five months ago, it was predicted on this website that the fate of the project - and above all, of the livelihoods of the Dongria Kondh Adivasi (Indigenous) people living in the hills -
wouldn't be resolved by" further surveys and public hearings...The true battle for Nyamgiri and the hills themselves has only just begun." See:

Now, that prediction has been resoundingly confirmed. On January 11th, the company was blocked by tribal members from accessing the hill tops. See;

A week later, hundreds more protestors descended on the company's refinery and mining site. See:

Then, on January 27th, around 10,000 opponents joined hands in a 17-km long human chain, demanding that "Vedanta Go Back!"

Of late there have been reports that some members of the Dongria Kondh community
want outside NGOs no longer to visit their territory, although some Indian and overseas groups have undoubtedly assisted in making the Adivasi concerns better known around the world.

In any event, the "true battle" for the hills now seems well underway.

Indian villagers in human chain protest at Vedanta

By Jatindra Dash


27th January 2009

BHUBANESWAR, India - Thousands of tribespeople in eastern India, some carrying bows and arrows, formed a human chain on Tuesday to protest against a bauxite mine planned by Vedanta Resources Plc police said.

The protest is the latest in several land disputes involving multinationals and it comes days after the London-listed company said it was ready to start mining bauxite in Orissa state.

Members of the indigenous Dongria Kondh tribe that has lived in the lush forests of Niyamgiri hills in eastern Orissa state for generations held hands to form a 17 km (10 miles) long human chain on Tuesday.

Those opposing the project said the mining will affect the lives of thousands of people and destroy local ecology.

"Hills are our mother, we will not allow the company to do mining," said Lingaraj Azad, a protest leader.

Holding placards that said "Vedanta Go back" and "Vedanta quit Niyamgiri", at least 10,000 protesters vowed to stop the company from mining in the hills.

Last August, India's Supreme Court allowed Vedanta to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills. Vedanta wants to dig open-cast mines to feed an alumina refinery it has built in the area as part of an $800 million project.

Acquisitions of land by foreign and local companies have been controversial in several Indian states, with courts having to resolve disputes involving big projects, including South Korea's POSCO's
proposed $12 billion steel plant, also in Orissa. (Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Alex Richardson)

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