India: Vedanta’s illegal expansion of alumina refinery under scrutiny

Vedanta Alumina plant in Lanjigarh, Orissa

by Latha Jishnu

Sep 15, 2010

FOR months there has been speculation in Delhi about an imminent clampdown on metals giant Vedanta’s bauxite mining operations in Orissa.

However, when the final forest clearance for Vedanta’s proposal to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills was rejected by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on August 23, there was surprise at the speed at which matters had moved the preceding week.

The ministry’s stop-order came in the wake of a flurry of committee meetings as officials compiled a detailed dossier on the environmental and forest rights violations by the London Stock Exchange-listed metals firm. The ministry’s decision was based on the findings of the N C Saxena Committee set up to examine the mining proposal. The N C Saxena committee submitted its report on August 16. Four days later, its recommendations were accepted by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of MoEF.

Minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh also had to double check the legal implication of his order on Vedanta with the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Attorney General of India since FAC had given in-principle clearance to Vedanta for diverting 660.74 hectares of forestland for mining to the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) in 2007. The Supreme Court had also cleared the proposal in August 2008. Continue reading

India: Vedanta’s violence on workers in Orissa

[This article describes how Vedanta Mining has not only acted against the interests of tribal people, but in utter disregard of the interests of Vedanta employees.  Nonetheless, the corporation has created and organized open antagonisms between the workers and the tribals, and even gotten sections of the workers to demand that the government in Orissa give a green light to Vedanta’s mining and refinery operations on adivasi (tribal) lands.–ed]

Vedanta workers

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Following the government order on scrapping of the Niyamgiri mining project and indictment of Vedanta for carrying out expansion work of its refinery at Lanjigarh without permission, more than 5000 workers were suddenly retrenched yesterday by L&T, the contractor for carrying out Vedanta’s construction work.

On being served the retrenchment notice – verbally – the workers demanded their backlog payments’ and compensation to which the company did not heed. Workers then went on to stage a strike. It is reported that demands and downright denials led to a violent situation, in which there was some damage to the plant properties. Then the police accompanied by vedanta goons attacked the demonstrators and beat them up mercilessly… More than hundred workers are injured with bleeding heads, broken limbs, and internal injuries. Hundreds of workers have been arrested and, as reports coming from Lanjigarh this morning suggests, are being further beaten up in the police station. Continue reading

Maoist Political Prisoner Exposes “Whose Development Is It, Anyway?”

Now that the Government has finally struck down the Vedanta mining project in Orissa, senior Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy, presently under arrest inside Delhi’s Tihar jail, writes about how mining giants are making obscene amounts of money at the cost of the poor while even the State fails to make any gains.-Open Magazine

International supporters of the Dongria struggle against Vedanta mining apply the message and image of the anti-colonial movie Avatar to the struggle

28 August 2010

By Kobad Ghandy

Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others—the empires and their native overseers. In the colonial and neo-colonial alchemy, gold changes into scrap metal and food into poison.— Eduardo Galeano in Open Veins of Latin America

It is ironic — the richer the land the poorer its people: Eduardo Galeano, in his above mentioned book said: “The Indians (local inhabitants) have suffered, and continue to suffer, the curse of their own wealth; that is the drama of all Latin America”.

In India too, the richest states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh are amongst the poorest in the country. Of course, unlike two centuries back in Latin America they no longer exterminate the local population. They induce slow death through starvation, disease and lack of livelihood. Development for some has always been at the cost of ‘development’ for the many.

Tantalum, a necessary ingredient of computers, cell phones, ipods, and so on, is to a large extent, extracted cheaply from Congo which has one-fifth of the world’s deposits. But to extract that (together with gold and tin) MNCs have tied up with warring warlords which has taken a toll of 5.4 million lives since April 2007. Killings continue at the rate of 45,000 per month and Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation. Continue reading

Indian government rejection of Vedanta bauxite mine a “landmark victory” for Indigenous rights

Dongria Kondh protesting Vedanta's bauxite mine project

Amnesty International :: 24 August 2010

Amnesty International today described the Indian government’s decision to reject the bauxite mine project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills as a landmark victory for the human rights of Indigenous communities.

India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests today rejected the mine project proposed by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources and the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation, after finding that the project already extensively violates forest and environmental laws and would perpetrate abuses against the Dongria Kondh adivasi and other communities on the Hills.

“The Dongria Kondh and other local communities have been struggling for years for this decision, which is a very welcome one,” said Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director, Madhu Malhotra.

“The companies and the Orissa government should now guarantee that they will not attempt to simply move the project to another site without ensuring adequate safeguards – they must ensure they will respect the human rights of Indigenous and local communities wherever the companies operate.” Continue reading

Protest against Vedanta over India mine project

[Amnesty International and Survival International led a protest of Vedanta shareholders, against a bauxite mine in India on Dongria Kondh lands.-ed.]

July 27, 2010

India-focused Vedanta Resources would face protests at its shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday from investors and pressure groups over its plans to establish a bauxite mine in an area sacred to indigenous people.

Pressure groups have long opposed a planned mine in India’s eastern Orissa state, but the sympathetic move by major asset manager Aviva Investors (part of insurer Aviva Plc) marks a more activist stance by institutional investors on social issues.

Aviva said it had organised a meeting on Friday of investors which in total hold around 5 percent of Vedanta shares with human rights group Amnesty International.

In order to show its concern over the Bauxite mining project and other issues with the company, Aviva said it plans to vote against three resolutions at Vedanta’s meeting on Wednesday, regarding the annual report and accounts, the remuneration report and the reappointment of the board member who chairs the health, safety and environment committee.

Vedanta shareholders will also confront more colourful protests as they enter the meeting, including two people made up as indigenous people from the hit film Avatar, which chronicles how a futuristic mining company threatens the existence of the Na’vi people. Continue reading

Vedanta’s Controversial Mine Gets Backing of India’s Prime Minister

June 30, 2010

In a highly unusual move, India’s Prime Minister has intervened directly in the approval process for one of the world’s most controversial mines.

The office of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has written to the Environment and Forests Ministry urging it to clear Vedanta’s proposed Niyamgiri mine in Odisha. The mine cannot go ahead without official clearance from the Ministry.

The mine is likely to have a devastating effect on the Dongria Kondh tribe who live in the area. A Dongria Kondh man told Survival International, ‘Mining only makes profit for the rich. We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money.’ The tribe has become known as the ‘real Avatar tribe’ because of the parallels between their plight and that of the Na’vi in James Cameron’s blockbuster. Continue reading