Survival campaigner visits tribe threatened by British company

September 18, 2008

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A Survival campaigner has just returned from a visit to the Dongria Kondh tribe in India, who are under threat from FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta.

‘The Dongria Kondh are the most determined people I’ve ever met,’ says campaigner Lindsay Duffield. ‘In village after village they told me, ‘Vedanta will have to cut our heads off before we let them build their mine. We don’t want it.’’

India’s Supreme Court gave clearance last month for Vedanta’s subsidiary Sterlite to mine the tribe’s land on the Niyamgiri mountain in the state of Orissa. The Dongria Kondh have vowed to resist the mine and have held protests on the road leading to the mine site as well as in the state capital and in Delhi. More protests are planned.

Duffield travelled to India to gather testimonies from members of the tribe and to research the likely effects of the proposed mine. ‘It’s obvious how absolutely crucial Niyamgiri mountain is to the Dongria Kondh,’ she says. ‘Not only do its forests provide them with their entire livelihood, but it’s also central to their identity.’

‘Vedanta says it has consulted the people, but the Dongria Kondh say nobody has asked them whether they want the mine.

‘Vedanta has also claimed that there are no villages within twelve kilometres of the mine site, but there are many – the nearest one is a little over one kilometre from the edge of Vedanta’s mining concession. If the mine goes ahead, the Dongria Kondh’s forests will be cut down, their rivers will be polluted, and the mountain, their most sacred site, will be hacked to pieces.’

Lindsay Duffield is available for interview.

For more information please contact Miriam Ross at Survival International (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504 543 367 or email [email protected]

Dongria Kondh