August 9, 2008

Court OKs Mine on Sacred Tribal Land

The highest court in India has ruled that a British company may establish a bauxite mine across an area considered by tribal groups to be sacred.

Siding with Vedanta Resources, the Supreme Court ruled that the company has met conditions for the project in the Niyamgiri Hills to move forward. The high court also said company must invest a percentage of its profits from the mine to help local people, The Independent reported Saturday.

Still, tribal groups say they will protest the project. For the Dongria Kondh tribe, the Niyamgiri Hills is the home of their deity.

"Even if you kill us we will not give Niyamgiri. Our souls are in Niyamgiri. Our food, water, homes are in Niyamgiri. There is nothing without Niyamgiri," said Jairam, a villager from the Rayagada district.

The project is backed by the federal and state governments. Proponents say the project may help an underdeveloped area of India.

"When any country is developing or shining in terms of its economy, it does not help the marginalized communities - the tribal people, women, and so forth. They remain outside of the benefits," said Bratindi Jena of the charity Action Aid.

Jena called the court's decision "devastating for the indigenous people living there."