Barely a day after a four-member government panel submitted a report against UK-based Vedanta Resources being given mining rights for bauxite in Orissa, the company hit back on Tuesday saying that it is willing to do mining in any other location that the state government may allocate. Vedanta also said that it still does not own the mine and hence the question of illegal mining does not arise.
The report, which will be taken up by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) on Thursday, said that allowing mining in the proposed area (Niyamgiri hills) will deprive two tribes — Kutia and Dongaria Kondh — of their rights and shake the faith of the tribal people in the laws of the land. The committee, which investigated alleged violations of environmental laws by Vedanta, also accused the company of illegally occupying forestland. The ministry of environment and forests will take a final call on the report after FAC gives its recommendations to it.
"Without the requisite approvals and clearances we will not even move an inch," said Anil Agarwal, chairman, Vedanta Resources.
"We are willing to look at alternate locations and it is the state government’s obligation to give us bauxite. It does not matter where the mine is located."
The Vedanta Group had entered into an agreement with state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation for mining bauxite in Niyamgiri hills, which is revered by the local tribal population. OMC will mine bauxite and feed Vedanta’s alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, being expanded at a cost of R6,000 crore.
The tribal population and various social activist groups like Amnesty International, ActionAid and Survivor International have been up in arms against mining in the area.
Many investors and trusts including Aviva, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Marlborough Ethical Fund, Millfield House Foundation and the Church of England have attacked the company and sold off their shares. Celebrities including Bianca Jagger, Joanna Lumley and Michael Palin have lent their support to the tribals.
"The findings are unequivocal: mining will destroy the Dongria Kondh and should not be allowed and we have been saying this for years," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International. "Let's hope this is the final nail in the coffin for Vedanta's plans."