India’s National Human Rights Commission has written to the Orissa government demanding a full report into its joint venture mining project with British mining giant Vedanta Resources, following a complaint submitted by UK-based Survival International.
The complaint relates to Vedanta’s plan to mine for bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills, eastern Orissa, which threatens the fragile ecology and very survival of Dongria Kondh tribals, who consider the hills to be sacred. The tribes and international organisations have been protesting against the mine for many months.
Survival’s complaint exposes the ways that the Dongria Kondh’s human rights, including their religious freedoms, would be violated if their most sacred site is desecrated by the mine.
The future of the mining project has been thrown into doubt following statements from India’s Minister for the Environment that, had current laws to protect tribal peoples’ rights in India been in place when Vedanta applied to mine the Dongrias’ mountain, ‘the chances are that this project would not have been cleared.’ Vedanta is majority-owned by Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal.
The minister stated that the project has not got full approval and that Vedanta would be prosecuted if they tried to start mining without full clearance. Although mining has not begun, Vedanta is trying to build access roads and conveyor belts. However, strong resistance from the Dongria Kondh is stalling the company’s progress.