Ahead of the AGM of Vedanta Resources in London today, (28 August) India’s Dongria Kondh tribe has sent a strong message to the company’s chairman Anil Agarwal.
"‘Even if Anil Agarwal himself comes here, we won’t leave our land. We will use all our strength to make them leave this place. Let us live our lives in peace", two Dongria women said to Survival International, the NGO which campaigns for the rights of tribal people.
The FTSE100 company is intent on mining the Dongria’s mountain for bauxite.
The company’s failure both to consult with the Dongria, and to get all the necessary clearances for the mine before starting works on its refinery, has damaged Vedanta financially as well as in terms of its reputation. Last week, it was announced that running its refinery without being able to mine locally has cost the company over US$540 million (£340 million).
In 2010 the Indian government found Vedanta guilty of "total contempt" for the law and for the rights of the Dongria Kondh. The company was denied permission to mine in the Niyamgiri Hills, the only home of this "particularly vulnerable" tribe. But an appeal in the Supreme Court could overturn this historic decision.
A Dongria spokesperson, Lodu Sikaka said, "If the company stops trying to take our mountain, we will stop suffering. But if they stay, we will suffer, the mountains will suffer, the earth, the forests, the water and winds will suffer. Because of this we have started getting lots of different diseases, fever, diarrhoea. Because of these illnesses, some of us have died."
Stephen Corry, Director of Survival said today, "Ignoring tribal rights does not pay: it devastates people’s lives, destroys companies’ reputations and – as Vedanta has found – is financially reckless. The Dongria have the right to be consulted, and to give – or withhold – their consent. If Vedanta had talked to them first and respected their fundamental attachment to their land, they would have saved themselves and the Dongria a lot of trouble."