U.K.-Registered Mining Company Accused of Practicing Poor Human Rights in East India

Press Release
August 28, 2012

U.K.-Registered Mining Company Accused of Practicing Poor Human Rights in East India

U.K. Mining Company in India Fails to Protect Local Communities

Contact: Carolyn Lang, clang@aiusa.org, 202-675-8759

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International has accused the U.K.-registered mining company Vedanta of attempting to “gloss over” criticisms of its poor human rights record in the East Indian state of Orissa. After prior accusations of human rights violations, Vedanta published a “meaningless and hollow” report that puts forward the company’s own account of its operations there.

With the company staging its annual general meeting August 28th in London, the human rights organization believes the report “Vedanta’s Perspective” is an attempt to calm investor fears over its controversial operations in India as it seeks to expand.

A new briefing released today, Vedanta’s Perspective Uncovered: Policies Cannot Mask Practices, reveals how the company ignores its impact on the human rights of local communities in Orissa.

“Our new briefing exposes the glaring gap between the company’s assertions and the reality on the ground,” said Polly Truscott, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific program.

For the past five years, the FTSE 100-listed mining company Vedanta Resources has been seeking to expand its existing alumina refinery in Lanjigarh and gain permission for a joint venture to mine bauxite in the nearby Niyamgiri Hills, inhabited by the indigenous Dongria Kondh community. Amnesty International reports that Vedanta has not disclosed relevant information to local communities – such as the impact of pollution caused by the company’s activities, and has not held meaningful public consultations.

“New evidence from the communities in Orissa shows that changes announced by Vedanta have had little positive impact on the livelihood, rights, and other concerns of the communities on the ground," Truscott said. “Vedanta’s human rights record falls far short of international standards for businesses.”

Amnesty International finds it disturbing that those opposed to the company’s operations have faced fabricated charges, resulting in their imprisonment and effectively preventing others from exercising their right to protest peacefully.

Amnesty International is also concerned about evidence, uncovered during an ongoing inquiry by India’s National Human Rights Commission, showing that police have sought to promote the interests of the company both in the framing of false charges and in the suppression of dissent.

“The most revealing and meaningful indicators of whether Vedanta is making progress in addressing human rights issues must be based on what is happening, or not happening, on the ground in Lanjigarh and Niyamgiri,” Truscott said.

“Our detailed analysis shows little has changed. The reality is that its new approach remains both meaningless and hollow.The company needs to go much further in demonstrating to its critics that its new approach will make a difference.”

There have been at least two instances when the police, using a local Maoist presence as an apparent pretext, have harassed representatives of international media and human rights organizations and told them not to travel to Lanjigarh and the Niyamgiri Hills.

“Vedanta’s report claims to put new information on its activities in the public domain, but it glosses over most of our findings,” Truscott said.“It also fails to take into account investigations by Indian regulatory bodies, as well as authorities such as the National Human Rights Commission which has investigated Vedanta’s operations in Orissa.”

Amnesty International reviewed Vedanta’s changes against four criteria based on the United Nations Framework and Guiding Principles for businesses and found that they failed on all four.

“Vedanta needs a reality check on human rights – and pressure from investors could help deliver this,” Truscott said.

On reports that Vedanta may have to temporarily shut down its Lanjigarh refinery for want of adequate bauxite supply from other sources, Truscott said: “This may be a short-term problem. What’s really at stake here is Vedanta’s human rights record.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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