Orissa tribals protest Vedanta’s mining project

October 20th, 2008 - 8:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 20 (IANS) Hundreds of tribals Monday staged a demonstration here protesting a mining project by Britain’s Vedanta Resources in Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills, the police said. In August, the Supreme Court allowed Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills. The mined bauxite would feed the company’s proposed $800-million alumina refinery in Kalahandi district and an aluminium smelter project, costing Rs.70 billion, in Jharsuguda district.

At least 1,000 tribals, many of whom were armed with their traditional weapons - bow, arrow and axe, marched shouting slogans against the company, state and central governments and the Supreme Court.

The tribals vowed to protect their hills whatever the cost may be. The hills, in the Lanjigarh block of the Kalahandi district, are inhabited by Dongaria Kondhs tribals.

The tribals of Kalahandi, as well as from Gajapati and Rayagada districts, have been protesting after Vedanta signed the mining agreement with the state government four years ago.

The tribals claim that mining would pollute their rivers, destroy the jungles and displace them from their land and culture.

“We never went to the Supreme Court. We don’t bother what the court says,” Lingaraj Azad, a tribal leader, told IANS. “We will not allow any body to mine in our sacred hills.”

“Tribals facing displacement by projects such as (South Korea steel major) Posco in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur and by Tata Steel in the district of Jajpur (district) joined us,” a tribal leader said.

The officials of the companies, however, maintain that their projects would significantly enhance employment and economic growth in the state.

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