Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mining by NRI-owned British firm triggers protests in Orissa

Econimic Times, Jan 17, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: Hundreds of tribals armed with bows and arrows on Saturday marched in an Orissa district protesting against mining in a hilly area by a British firm owned by an NRI.

The tribals assembled at Semelbhata village in Kalahandi district and marched some five km shouting slogans against Britain's Vedanta Resources and the state and central governments, police said. The firm's chairman is NRI Anil Agarwal.

The company has been allowed to mine at Niyamgiri hills in the area.

The protesters marched near the company's alumina refinery as well as in Lanjigarh town shouting slogans "Vedanta Go Back" "Niyamgiri is our god.. We will not allow its mining".

"They were armed with bows and arrows and walked peacefully," L.D. Bisi, a police officer, said.

Vedanta Alumina, part of the Vedanta Resources (Sterlite) Group, is building an $800 million alumina refinery project at Lanjigarh in the impoverished district of Kalahandi, some 600 km from here.

The company wants to mine the Niyamgiri hill for bauxite for its already built plant. The hill in Lanjigarh block is inhabited by Dongaria Kondhs, a tribal group.

The tribals claim that mining would pollute their rivers, destroy jungles and displace them from their land and culture.

"Hills are our god. We cannot live without it. We are not going to allow the company to mine the hills," said Jitu Jakaka, a tribal leader.

The Supreme Court allowed Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri Hill in August last year despite opposition from tribal and anti-displacement groups.

"Vedanta is committed to the sustainable development of the locality. We are committed to make the life better in the areas," said Shashanka Pattnaik, a company official.

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