Indian supreme court rules to protect sacred hills against UK mine operation Vedanta Resources

Tribal councils will have final say on bauxite dig

India's highest court has dealt a damaging blow to a British-based mining company’s £1.1bn plan to dig for bauxite on land deemed sacred by local people, saying local tribal councils would have the final say on whether the project should go ahead.

In what campaigners said was a major victory for the rights of tribal people, the supreme court rejected a request from Vedanta Resources to end a ban on the proposed mining. Instead, it asked two local councils to respond within three months on whether or not they want the mining to proceed.

“If the project, affects their religious rights, especially their right to worship their deity, known as Niyam Raja, in the hills top of the Niyamgiri range of hills, that right has to be preserved and protected,” ruled the court.

The site in the Niyamgiri hills in India’s eastern state of Orissa is home to around 10,000 members of the Dongra Kondh tribe who survive as subsistence hunters and farmers. They consider the hills to be a living god and have always resisted attempts to mine the land. They say the mine would destroy their way of life.

There was no immediate word form tribal members, but in a statement the lawyer who has represented them, Sanjay Parikh, said the decision supported the tribe against the interests of multi-nationals. “The historic judgement delivered by the court recognises the community, cultural and religious rights of tribals,” he said.

The project is a joint venture between UK-based Vedanta Resources, headed by Anil Agarwal, and a mining company established by the state government, which says the plan would help provide jobs in a desperately poor part of India.

It was proposed that the mine would supply 150m tonnes of bauxite for an aluminium refinery that was established nearby. Instead, the refinery was obliged to use ore trucked in from elsewhere in India and it was shut down in December because of a shortage.

The controversy over the proposed mine dates back to 2004 and has involved India's highest court as well as a series of special committees. The mining industry is very powerful in India but the the proposal to mine in Niyamgiri was confronted by an international campaign.

Rahul Gandhi, widely seen a likely future prime minister of India, visited the site more than once and said he supported the tribal community. India’s ministry of environment and forests, which in 2007 had initially given the go-ahead to proposals, also opposed the mining.

In London, Vedanta’s offices saw demonstrations involving members of the Foil Vedanta activist group and other campaigners. Samarendra Das of Foil Vedanta, said: “For ten years Vedanta has harassed local people and committed major abuses and illegalities in its attempt to push this flagship project through. For ten years farmers [and tribal people] living around Niyamgiri have fought to save their traditional communities and their sacred mountain.”

There was no immediate comment from Vedanta about the court’s decision and the company did not respond to emails and phone calls. During a series of hearings ahead of today’s decision, the Orissa state authorities and Sterlite Industries, a subsidiary of Vedanta, had argued the mine would case no environmental damage.

Kanchi Kohli, an India-based environmentalist with the organisation Kalpavriksh, said she considered the court’s decision very significant. She said: “It’s truly democratic. It’s very welcome.”

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary teaching jobs in the Swaffham area

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Are you a fully quali...

Year 1 Teachers needed for day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Primary General Cover Teachers needed

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 2 Teachers needed for day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week