Testing Times for Vedanta: The Battle with the Dongria Kondh Tribe of Odisha

Testing Times for Vedanta: The Battle with the Dongria Kondh Tribe of Odisha
Case Code: CSRS004
Case Length: 22 pages
Period: 2004 - 2014
Pub Date: 2015
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.500
Organization: Vedanta Resources plc
Industry: Metals and Mining
Countries: India
Themes: Sustainability
Testing Times for Vedanta: The Battle with the Dongria Kondh Tribe of Odisha
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


Charges Against VAL

Since 2004, VAL had attracted strong opposition from the 8,000 Dongria Kondh tribes. The Kondhs, living in the forests, believed that the mountain range was sacred and that their god, Niyam Raja, provided them with food, water, and a way of life. According to Kutia Majhi, president of the resistance group, Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (the Save Niyamgiri Foundation), "We get almost everything from the mountain. All we need from the government is salt, kerosene. The government should spare our culture...."

The Investigation

In 2004, the Supreme Court received several petitions from the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (the Save Niyamgiri Foundation) opposing the bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri. Subsequently, the Supreme Court directed up the CEC for investigating whether VAL had taken appropriate environmental and forest clearances....

VAL's Response

Vedanta Resources and its subsidiary companies, VAL and Sterlite, denied that their operations in Odisha were causing serious harm to local communities. They argued that on the contrary, the company's operations were beneficial to these communities...

The Verdict

Several regulatory bodies intervened, alleging that VAL's operations were not in compliance with the Indian laws. The opposition political parties in India demanded a CBI probe into all mining agreements, alleging that the OMC and VAL had violated forest laws and the state's mineral policy. In view of the protests from locals and international activists, the MoEF in 2011 banned the mining project. The MoEF reprimanded VAL for violating the ecological norms and expanding its refinery without obtaining a mandatory environmental clearance. Subsequently, the OMC requested the Supreme Court to reverse the ban. In April 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that for the project to move forward, local indigenous communities must give their consent...

The Battle Continues...

In January 2014, the MoEF decided not to allow the VAL mining project to go ahead. In May 2014, VAL said that it would not mine at Niyamgiri Hills without the consent of the local communities. According to Vedanta Resources, "In deference to the sentiments of the community, Vedanta confirms it is not seeking to source bauxite from Niyamgiri bauxite deposit for its alumina refinery operations and will not do so until we have the consent of the local communities."...


Exhibit I : Timeline of Vedanta Aluminum Limited
Exhibit II : VAL's Financial Performance
Exhibit III : Details of Investigation by the Saxena Committee
Exhibit IV : VAL's Awards
Exhibit V : VAL's Commitment to United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG)
Exhibit VI : A Note on the Land Acquisition Act

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