Supreme Court bars British company from mining sacred hills

India’s Supreme Court has surprised and delighted the Dongria Kondh tribe by barring the UK company Vedanta Resources Plc from mining bauxite in the sacred Niyamgiri hills in Orissa, eastern India.

The decision, announced on 23 November, offered the tribe a temporary reprieve, ordering the company’s Indian unit, Sterlite Industries, to come back with a new proposal for the project. For the time being the Dongria Kondh’s sacred hills are safe from the devastation the open-cast mine would wreak.

The 10,000 Dongria Kondh live by subsistence farming in the forests of the Niyamgiri ('mountain of the law') hill range.

Before the announcement, which was widely expected to allow the company to go ahead with the mine, Dongria woman Dandu Sikaka said, ‘How will we survive without Niyamgiri, the mountain? Our streams will dry up. If they mine, it will become a disaster. We will all die if you dig out our forest.'