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British mining company Vedanta Resources has built a one million-ton aluminium refinery and plans to mine bauxite on Niyam Dongar mountain in Orissa, India, to feed the refinery. This mountain is a sacred mountain for the Dongria Kondh tribe, one of the most isolated tribes in India; and its culture, identity and livelihood are inextricably bound to the mountain.
The complaint alleged that neighbouring tribes had already felt the impact of Vedanta’s presence. Some of them claim that 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 Dongria Kondh tribe was not consulted in the construction process, and the complaint claimed that the construction of the mine would severely endanger the rights of these indigenous people. Moreover, there are fears that local streams and arable land would be polluted by air-borne particles from the mine, the road, and the conveyor belts to carry ore to the refinery. Vedanta has allegedly failed to consider the “potential implications” of its activities for the Dongria Kondh because it refuses to accept that there are any.
The UK NCP contacted Vedanta about the complaint, and the company responded that it refutes all of the allegations. However, Vedanta declined the NCP’s offer for mediation and refused to engage with the NCP process or submit any evidence to the NCP to substantiate its claims.
After conducting an investigation, the NCP published a Final Statement in September 2009 upholding the complainants' allegations that Vedanta acted in violation of the OECD Guidelines. Vedanta responded to the NCP’s conclusions 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 a 3-months-on update on the implementation of recommendations. Both parties did so. Survival International’s report claimed that Vedanta has completely ignored the NCP’s recommendations and deliberately frustrated Survival’s follow-up trip by hiring locals to threaten and intimidate Survival employees and their guides.
In March 2010, the UK NCP issued a follow-up statement which reflects the parties’ response on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the final statement. The NCP recommended that Vedanta should immediately work with the Dongria Kondh people to explore alternatives to resettlement of the affected families. The NCP also recommends that the company should include a human rights impact assessment in its project management process and whatever self-regulatory practices the company chooses to undertake are translated into concrete actions.
Survival International’s team reported that access to the project area was obstructed by people allegedly paid by Vedanta. Several NGOs and members of the Dongria Kondh also reported that Vedanta had not initiated any discussion or contact with those affected by the project and has declined to alter its conduct in any way. The Complainants objected to Vedanta's statement that the proposed mine will cause no displacement and is in compliance with Indian law and regulations. The UK NCP encouraged Vedanta and Survival International to engage with each other in order to come to a mutually satisfactory outcome. However, the NCP could not make Vedanta comply or cooperate with the procedures or the recommendations.
Additional Information: http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_165