Tribe – ‘Vedanta is destroying us for profit’

May 15, 2008

This page was created in 2008 and may contain language which is now outdated.

As FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta announces record profits today, India’s remote Dongria Kondh tribe is claiming the company will destroy them forever if it goes ahead with plans to mine their sacred mountain.

Dongria Kondh spokesman Jitu Jakesika gave a message today to Vedanta’s shareholders: ‘You are destroying so much. Mining only makes profit for the rich. We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money.’

Vedanta claim that they are investing in tribal development, but Mr Jakesika said, ‘We don’t want any money from this company, we don't want anything from them. We cannot give them our mountain, it is our life.’

India’s Supreme Court is deciding whether to permit Vedanta’s subsidiary, Sterlite, to mine bauxite on the summit of the Dongria Kondh’s sacred mountain, Niyamgiri, in the state of Orissa. The court is due to sit on Friday in a hearing that could bring the case to an end after more than three years.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Vedanta has made record profits this year, but at what cost? That is the question shareholders in the company must ask themselves. If Vedanta mines Niyamgiri, the Dongria Kondh will not survive. It’s that simple.’

A Dongria Kondh delegation this week met Rahul Gandhi, general secretary of India’s ruling Congress Party and son of Sonia Gandhi, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the proposed mine. After visiting the Dongria Kondh in March, Mr Gandhi said, ‘Mining the hill will destroy the environment, destroy the water supply source and destroy the culture as well as the livelihood of tribals.’ He has invited the Dongria Kondh to Delhi next week. Seventy members of the tribe are going.

Last week hundreds of Dongria Kondh staged a sit-down protest in the Orissa state capital, Bhubaneswar, calling for their mountain to be protected from mining. Experts from the Wildlife Institute of India have concluded that the mine will cause ‘irreversible’ changes to the local environment.

Notes to editors:

Survival is holding a peaceful vigil outside the offices of Vedanta’s PR company FINSBURY on 28 May

Photos of the Dongria Kondh available. For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

Dongria Kondh