Vedanta Resources, an India-focused metals and mining company headquartered in the UK, has received a setback after local tribes voted against the company’s proposed bauxite mining project atop Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha state.
In April 2013, India’s top court ruled that the decision to allow Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in two districts of the eastern state rests with local tribes.
Following this, the state decided to conduct ‘Palli Sabha’ – a meeting of the village – in 12 villages to look into environmental and religious issues and the rights of the tribes.
In the first of the 12 village meetings held at Serkapadi village of Rayagada district on 18 July, 36 registered voters belonging to the Dongaria Kondh tribe voted against Vedanta’s bauxite project.
This will hamper the company’s plans to mine bauxite for its one million tonne refinery at Lanjigarh in the Kalahandi district of Odisha.
The next village meetings are scheduled to be held in the adjoining Kesarpadi village of Rayagada district on 22 July and the last meeting at Jarpa village, Kalahandi, on 19 August.
India is one of the largest producers of bauxite in the world.
Vedanta, which is owned by Indian businessman Anil Agarwal, plans to mine the Niyamgiri hill range, which is believed to be the home of deity Niyam Rajawhich by local tribe Dongria Kondhhome.
Vedanta Resources formed a joint venture with a state owned firm to develop the mine under a memorandum of understanding.
In 2010, the Environment Ministry rejected the proposal to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri Hills. However, Vedanta and its partner, the Odisha Mining Corporation, the actual lessee of the mines, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against this decision.
Upon completion of the 12 meetings, final reports will be submitted to the Supreme Court by the end of August.
The court ordered the ministry to take relevant measures within two months after it receives a report from the meetings.
Image: India is one of the largest producers of bauxite in the world. Photo: Werner Schellmann.