All images courtesy Survival International
The government of India has halted plans by UK-based Vedanta Resources to establish a bauxite mine of the sacred tribal lands of the Dongria Kondh and Kutia people in Orissa. The move comes after a report commissioned by India's environment minister found the proposed mine would violate the tribal people's rights, as well as finding Vedanta acted in contempt of the law in try to squash opposition to the mine.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Bloomberg, "There are very serious violations of environment act and forest rights act. There is no emotion, no politics, no prejudice in the decision. It is purely based on a legal approach."
Emotions certainly enter into the picture when activists and indigenous rights campaigners, who have been engaged in long-term protest of the proposed mine and its impact on both people and the environment, responded.
Big Corporations Can No Longer Assume Might is Right
The Guardian quotes Monty Python star Michael Palin as saying, "I hope it will send a signal to the big corporations that they can never assume that might is right. It's a big victory for the little people."
The multi-year struggle against the proposed mine has pitted some 8,000 tribal people, most of whom are illiterate and have been dubbed 'the real Avatar tribe', against an $8 billion dollar multinational firm, whose owner is himself worth $6 billion.
Era When Mining Companies Can Act With Impunity Drawing to Close
Survival International's Jo Woodman:
This is a victory nobody would have believed possible. The Dongria's campaign became a litmus test of whether a small, marginalized tribe could stand up to a massive multinational company with an army of lobbyists and PR firms and the ear of government. Incredibly, the Dongria's courage and tenacity, allied with the support of many people in India, and Survival's supporters around the world, have triumphed.
Survival's director Stephen Corry added:
The era when mining companies could get away with destroying those in their path with impunity is thankfully drawing to a close, though it remains significant that Vedanta fought for its plans to the end, repeatedly denying everything the tribespeople said. The concerned public must remain vigilant about these so-called development projects - companies simply cannot be trusted voluntarily to abide by human rights standards, particularly when dealing with tribal peoples who can't know what they're up against.
Though their plans have been halted, Vedanta Resources can appeal the decision.
More on Vedanta Mining:
Vedanta's Controversial Bauxite Mine Violates Tribal People's Rights: Indian Govt Report
Na'vi Hit London to Protest British Mining of Sacred Indian Mountain Tribal Hindus' Sacred Land Threatened by Mining Operation - And the Church of England?