In late August, the 12th and final local village council voted against Vedanta Aluminum’s plans to mine bauxite ore in the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India. The Indian Supreme Court ruled in April that local indigenous communities must consent to mine for the project to move forward. The indigenous groups living in these 12 villages were unanimous in their opposition to Vedanta’s proposed mine, arguing that it would lead to environmental degradation and the destruction of their traditional way of life.
This was the first ruling of this kind by the Supreme Court, and local opposition to the mine has effectively killed the project – a rare victory for marginalized indigenous groups in India over wealthy corporations and powerful government bodies. Local, national and international activists, including Amnesty International, have campaigned against Vedanta’s mine and refinery at this site for years. Vedanta and the Odisha state government had pushed ahead with this project despite serious concerns about ground, air and water pollution, the religious rights of local indigenous groups, and Vedanta’s failure to secure the free, prior and informed consent of locals.
The Niyamgiri Hills are home to some 8,000 Dongria Kondhs and other tribes and forest dwellers. It is also home to the Niyamgiri deity and hence considered sacred by indigenous tribes. While one can be sure that this ruling and these votes are not the end of this struggle, they are certainly historic and a reason to celebrate. They have held a massive corporation accountable for its violations of human rights and its environmental destructiveness, while giving a powerful voice to marginalized groups who too often pay the heavy price for India’s “development” and “progress”. Thank you to everyone who has acted in solidarity with the Dongria Kondh against Vedanta. Please continue to.