Since April 1997, Vedanta Resources has had plans for a bauxite mine at the foot of the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa, India, to more easily supply its nearby aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh with raw materials.
Until now, Vedanta has obtained its bauxite mostly from illegally-operated mines. The plan for the bauxite mine provoked international outrage due to Vedanta’s lack of consideration for the Dongria Kondh, an indigenous tribal group regarding their holy sites and their settlements. Vedanta neglected to consult the tribe to ask for their consent to use the land when planning to build the mine. The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests acknowledged that one of the holiest sites, an untouched summit area, would have been destroyed. A successful complaint before the British OECD contact point finally led to a mediation process which halted the project temporarily. Despite this, Vedanta continued with the development of the project, until, finally, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests blocked the company in 2010. In an act of basic democracy, the Indian Supreme Court assigned the decision over the bauxite mines to 12 villages in the area of the Niyamgiri – they were to decide if they agreed to the construction of the mines. Unanimously, the villages voted against them.
The ministry for Environment blocked Vedanta´s plan in January 2014. (See also article in The Economic Times) In a response to that, the minister for steel and mines regretted these “politics at the cost of development” and declared that other mining sites would be provided to Vedanta
Although the construction of the bauxite mine has been cancelled, Vedanta’s refinery at Lanjigarh is still operating and causing severe environmental damage due to the expenditure of so-called “red mud,” the waste product of aluminium processing. There is already documentation of a “red mud” spillage from artificial storage ponds near a local river.
London Mining Network (2012): UK-listed Mining Companies and the case for stricter oversight;
Amnesty International (2012): Vedanta’s perspective uncovered. Policies cannot mask practices in Orissa.