Plans by British-listed company, Vedanta Resources plc, to mine the sacred Niyamgiri hills in India have hit a stumbling block whilst an appeal is heard by the Indian Government.
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The appeal was filed by representatives from the Kondh tribal community, thousands of whom live in the pristine hills of Niyamgiri in Orissa, India. It outlines reasons why Vedanta shouldn’t be allowed to build a huge open-cast aluminium mine in the heart of their ancestral lands and asks that the current environmental permission, given by the Indian Government earlier this year, be revoked.
"Why would your company go ahead with a mine in the Niyamgiri Hills and destroy a pristine forest? With challenges to the environment globally, including climate change, will you commit not to mine there." Bianca Jagger speaks inside the Vedanta AGM, 2009
The mine will cause irreversible damage to a pristine ecosystem, which is the source of the tribe’s food, livelihood and medicines and seat of their God.This is the latest in a long list of activities by the Kondh tribe to stop the mine going ahead. ActionAid has been campaigning alongside them since 2004, both in India and the UK.This July, we supported Sitaram Kulisika, a tribal representative, to come to the UK from Niyamgiri to attend the Vedanta AGM in London, so that the voice of his people could be heard. Bianca Jagger, Nitin Sawhney and Diane Abbot also attended, alongside over 80 protestors and our own mining equipment. You can see photos of the day HERE.
Sitaram also gave press interviews and met several shareholders individually to ask them to support the campaign. In addition, he spoke to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights about why the UK government must do more to regulate business practice overseas.
At the same time, there has been a flurry of activity in India. The Kondh people are maintaining their watch over the mountain in case anything happens there. Protesters staged a candlelit vigil on the day of the AGM. The Indian Minister for Environment and Forests has expressed some concerns about the project.
The appeal process really is an opportunity for the Indian Government to listen to the Kondh people and stop the mine from going ahead.
"Last year you promised that you would not mine without the permission of the Dongria Kondh people. My people have sent me to tell you that we will not leave. I am asking for your help not to destroy Niyamgiri." Sitaram Kulisika speaks to Vedanta Chairman, Anil Agarwal, inside the Vedanta AGM, 2009.
It’s not too late for you to add your voice to the campaign. You can write to the Indian High Commissioner here in the UK and ask him to appeal to the Indian government to stop the project.