Supreme Court gives go-ahead to mine – Tribe vows resistance

August 8, 2008

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India’s Supreme Court has today dealt a devastating blow to the Dongria Kondh tribe by giving British FTSE 100 company Vedanta permission to mine their sacred mountain. The tribe say the mine will destroy their way of life forever.

Vedanta’s subsidiary Sterlite plans to mine for bauxite, the raw material for aluminium, from Niyamgiri mountain in Orissa, eastern India. Vedanta is majority owned by London-based Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal.

The Dongria Kondh say the huge open cast mine will destroy a vast swathe of untouched forest, and will reduce their most sacred site to an industrial wasteland. Last month, thirty Dongria Kondh men blockaded a road that is being built through their forest towards the site of the proposed mine. The tribe say they will stage mass protests if mining goes ahead.

The Dongria Kondh cannot appeal this decision by the Supreme Court, but they plan to submit another petition to the Court focusing on the ways in which the mine will violate their cultural and religious rights.

Dongria spokesperson Jitu Jakesika said, ‘We will become beggars if the company destroys our mountain and our forest so that they can make money. We will give our lives for our mountain.’

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Today’s ruling is a devastating blow not just to the Dongria Kondh, but to all of India’s tribal peoples. International and constitutional rights are being trampled for the sole benefit of distant shareholders. But the Dongria Kondh are not giving up, and Survival will continue to support them in their campaign to save their land.’

For further information please contact Miriam Ross on (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504 543 367 or email [email protected]

Dongria Kondh