Vedanta ‘in total contempt of the law’ says Indian government

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British-owned mining giant Vedanta Resources has been dealt another blow after the Indian government criticised its latest plans to mine for bauxite in a remote part of eastern India considered sacred by the indigenous population.

Earlier this year major investors including the Church of England pulled investments from the company, saying they had ‘no confidence’ the company was respecting the human rights of the local communities. This followed heavy criticism of its plans for the new mine by NGOs and the UK government.

The latest report by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forestry has recommended that proposals for the new mine be rejected due to its expected impacts on both nearby wildlife and the local Dongaria Kondh tribal people who occupy the area.

The report also went on to criticise Vedanta’s activities in the region, saying the corporation had acted ‘in total contempt of the law’.

The report stated:

• Mining in the area would disturb important wildlife habitat in the area, including a number of sensitive species.

• The mine would threaten the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of the local Dongaria Kondh people who occupy the surrounding area.

• That local state officials had colluded with Vedanta in its application for permission to mine, including falsifying documents in the application process.

• Consent for the mining had neither been sought nor obtained from the Dongaria Kondh people, as required under Indian law.

Campaign groups including ActionAid and Amnesty International have welcomed the report, calling on the Indian government to rule against Vedanta when it makes its final decision on the mine later this month.

‘This is an important report because it is going to help protect the extinction of the tribal community and help them assert their fundamental rights,’ said Bratindi Jena, head of tribal rights at ActionAid.

The India government must now do the right thing and call a stop to this project once and for all

Vedanta has declined to comment on the report at present, but the company has previously stated that it ‘remains committed to pursuing its investments in a responsible manner, respecting the environment and human rights’.

Abduction of campaigners

The report comes just one week after two anti-Vedanta campaigners from the Dongaria Kondh tribe were abducted by gunmen while on their way to campaign against the proposed mine. One of the men was beaten and the other tortured before being released.

Ramesh Gopalkrishnan, researcher for Amnesty International’s South Asia team, has called on the Orissa state government to investigate the kidnappings, reporting that the abducted men believe local police to be responsible.

Gopalkrishnan said: ‘From what these men say, and from what eyewitnesses say, these men were taken by local police.

‘They were illegally detained and we have issued a statement asking the state government to find out why. The state government has so far not responded.’

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