Tribal people in India have passionately spoken out against British mining giant Vedanta Resources’ plans to expand an alumina refinery at the foot of their Niyamgiri Hills during a large public hearing.
Company representatives, local authorities and media articles have heralded the consultation a “success” and in favor of the expansion, but people present at the hearing report that the majority of the people there were against it.
At least 1,000 people attended the meeting in Lanjigarh, Odisha state, on Wednesday, at which local tribespeople condemned Vedanta’s plans ahead of its Annual General Meeting in London on August 1.
Dongria and Majhi Kondh told the hearing that the refinery is already causing them problems due to pollution, and that promises of compensation in the form of jobs, schools and healthcare never materialized.
Tribal leaders resisting the company have been facing intimidation and arrests in recent months. Jilo Majhi, for example, told the crowd that he had spent two months in jail because of Vedanta, and asked the company to drop charges against those who led the resistance against the mine.
Vedanta’s refinery was built before the company received permission to mine the Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite, and in a landmark triumph for tribal rights, members of the Dongria Kondh tribe overwhelmingly rejected the mine in 2013.
Today, company executives will have to answer to shareholders at Vedanta’s AGM about the £670 million which has already been spent on the expansion, which was described as “a complete violation of the law” in a government investigation.
In May 2014 Vedanta officially announced that: "In deference to the sentiments of the community, Vedanta confirms it is not seeking to source bauxite from Niyamgiri bauxite deposit for its alumina refinery operations, and will not do so until we have the consent of the local communities."
Survival is investigating the misrepresentation of the public hearing by the local government and the media and is calling for an urgent review of the event.