India’s Supreme Court has blocked the opening moves in an attempt by Odisha’s state government to begin mining in the Niyamgiri hills, home to the Dongria Kondh tribe.
The Supreme Court judges directed the state to re-submit their application to allow for the Dongria’s views to be also heard in court.
In 2013 the tribe unanimously rejected Vedanta’s plans to mine their hills during a historic referendum in which all twelve villages that were consulted voted against the mine. The Odisha state is now trying to re-open the issue arguing that the 2013 referendum was flawed.
Given that the Odisha state government oversaw the 2013 referendum and apparently accepted the tribe’s verdict, some are questioning why they are only now contesting its decision.
Vedanta recently announced that it might have to close its loss-making refinery, at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, if more bauxite cannot be supplied.
The Dongria, and other tribes in the area, have expressed their desire to stop any attempts to mine the Niyamgiri hills. Kumuti Majhi, President of the Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti (Save Niyamgiri Organisation) said: “All the tribals are ready to go to jail, but we will not bow down before the government’s pressure.”
Survival International was at the forefront of a successful global campaign against Vedanta’s plans, and is now calling for the Indian and Odisha state authorities to respect the Dongria’s decision to reject the mine.