'Poisonous red mud' pours from Vedanta refinery

Government pollution inspectors previously criticized Vedantas environmental record at the refinery.
Government pollution inspectors previously criticized Vedantas environmental record at the refinery.
© Survival

Toxic sludge has poured out of FTSE 100 Vedanta Resources’ waste pond at its controversial alumina refinery in Orissa, east India, according to local reports.

The toxic slurry reportedly poured out of a crack in the retaining wall into the nearby streams. It was several hours before Vedanta staff were able to stem the flow.

One local man says that fish began dying within fifteen minutes of the slurry mixing with the water.

Vedanta denies any leak, attributing the red sludge to ‘construction soil’ mixing with rainwater near to the reservoir. A local journalist has claimed that Vedanta security staff attempted to stop anyone filming or photographing the spectacle.

Members of the Majhi Kondh tribe live around Vedanta’s alumina refinery. More than a hundred families lost their homes when the refinery was built, while many others lost their farming land.

The alumina refinery hit the headlines last year when the nearby Dongria Kondh tribe led a successful international campaign to block the associated mining project that would have destroyed them.

In August last year India’s Environment Ministry blocked Vedanta’s plans for the mine and the refinery, citing a ‘total contempt for the law’. Vedanta and the Orissa Mining Corporation are currently appealing to India’s courts to overturn these bans.

When a red mud pond collapsed in Hungary last year, several people died and more than a hundred were injured.