Survival International (SI) filed a complaint against British mining company Vedanta Resources because the companys aluminium refinery and planned bauxite mine on Niyam Dongar Mountain in Orissa, India will violate the rights of the Dongria Kondh tribe. The Niyam Dongar is a sacred mountain to the Dongria Kondh, which is one of the most isolated tribes in India. The tribes culture, identity and livelihood are inextricably bound to the mountain.
The complaint alleges that neighbouring tribes have already felt the impact of Vedantas presence. Some of them claim they have been forcibly evicted to make way for the aluminium refinery. Others may still have to vacate their homes as the plant expands and feeder roads, air strips, and toxic waste ponds are built.
The complaint also alleges the Dongria Kondh has not been consulted in the construction process and that the project will severely endanger the rights of these indigenous people. Moreover, there are fears that local streams and arable land will be polluted by air-borne particles from the mine, the road, and the conveyor belts that carry ore to the refinery.
SI contends that Vedanta, in refusing to accept that any impacts exist, has failed to consider the “potential implications” of its activities for the Dongria Kondh.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Version 2000 Chapter II
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.2
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.7
- Version 2000 Chapter V
- Version 2000 Chapter V Paragraph V.2 Subparagraph V.2.B
The UK NCP contacted Vedanta about the complaint, and the company responded by refuting all allegations. Vedanta also rejected the NCPs offer for mediation and refused to submit any evidence to substantiate its claims.
After conducting an investigation, the NCP published a final statement in September 2009 upholding SIs allegations that Vedanta acted in violation of the OECD Guidelines. Vedanta responded by stating “Vedanta refutes the conclusions [of the report] and has complied in all respects with Indian regulations including consultations with the local community”.
In its final statement, the NCP also made recommendations to Vedanta to bring its business practices in line with the OECD Guidelines and requested that both parties provide an update on the implementation in three months.
In its three-month report Vedanta denied that there will be any displacement from the proposed mining project and reiterated that the mine is in compliance with Indian law. Vedanta also stated that its consultation processes comply fully with Indian legal requirements and are already in line with the recommendations contained in the NCPs final statement.
SIs three-month report claimed that Vedanta had completely ignored the NCPs recommendations and deliberately frustrated SIs follow-up trip by hiring locals to threaten and intimidate SI employees and their guides. Further, SI reported that several NGOs and members of the Dongria Kondh stated that Vedanta had not initiated any discussion or contact with those affected by the project and has failed to alter its conduct in any way.
In March 2010, the UK NCP issued a follow-up statement urging Vedanta to immediately work with the Dongria Kondh people to explore alternatives to resettlement of the affected families. The NCP also recommended the company include a human rights impact assessment in its project management process and take concrete action to implement any self-regulatory practices it adopts.
Ultimately, the UK NCP could not compel Vedanta to comply or cooperate with the procedures and recommendations.