A public hearing – but is anyone listening?

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This Saturday, the British-listed mining company, Vedanta Resources, faced overwhelming local opposition for their plans to expand their refinery in Orissa, India.

The sacred Niyamgiri Hills in India are the home to and source of livelihood for the Kondh tribal people.  Now they are also the proposed site for a huge open-cast bauxite (a raw form of aluminium) mine that threatens to destroy the Kondh’s way of life.

At the base of these pristine hills, Vedanta has built a huge refinery capable of processing one million tons of bauxite a year.  Vedanta are currently putting forward proposals to expand this refinery five-fold, despite the lack of final permissions for the bauxite mine on Niyamgiri itself.

This Saturday, over 500 members of the Kondh tribal community from 20 of the villages affected by the refinery expansion attended an official hearing with Vedanta.  Waving banners they protested on both the refinery and mining plans.  They asked Vedanta to ‘Quit Niyamgiri’ and to ‘Stop abusing the indigenous community’.

By law, to obtain clearance for such an industrial project, a company has to hold an official hearing to obtain the views of the people affected.  Vedanta can only go ahead if the majority back their proposals.

‘Many of the people affected by the expansion proposal had not received notice of the official hearing – how can clearance be given if their views are not heard?’,
asked Bratindi Jena, Head of ActionAid India Tribal Rights.

The hearing ended with no conclusion.  There has been widespread criticism of Vedanta’s management of toxic waste at the refinery and the Kondh have made it clear that they don’t want the expansion plans to go ahead.  Vedanta must take this opportunity to listen to their voices.Please stand alongside the Kondh people to support their campaign.