The campaign against a British mining company which plans to destroy the mountain homeland of a remote Indian tribe is being brought to the streets of London today.
Activists are marching on the AGM of Vendanta Resources plc, calling on shareholders to vote against proposals to open a massive bauxite mine in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. Mining will destory a large part of the Niyamgiri Mountain, spiritual home of the Kondh tribal people.
The 8,000-strong Kondh tribe is dependent on the mountain for their crops, water and livelihoods.
Although the majority shareholder in Vedanta is its billionaire owner Anil Agarwal, documents seen by the Ecologist revealed that a host of UK banks, companies and other bodies also held shareholders in the company.
Halifax Pension Fund, Lloyds TSB Group Pension Fund, Norwich Union Life and Pensions Ltd and Unilever Pension Fund, amongst others, are all named as beneficial shareholders in the controversial mining conglomerate.
A number of local and regional authorities - including Suffolk County Council, Havering Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council - appear in the register by virtue of their pension funds.
The Church of England and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust have also indirectly bought shares in Vedanta.
Protests block progress
Repeated protests by the tribal people have blocked the mining plans of one of Britain’s biggest companies, leading to a costly delay.
Vendanta announced in January that the mine would start ‘in a month or two’ but so far protests have prevented any progress.
ActionAid, which is asking shareholders to oppose the mining, pointed out that the destruction of an equivalent iconic cultural site such as Stonehenge would not be tolerated in the UK.
'Last year Vedanta directors promised not to mine without our consent,' said tribal activist Sitaram Kulisika.
'I am here to request all shareholders to honour that promise and save our livelihood and our god. We have been living in harmony with this mountain, these forests, these animals for generations. Vedanta has been here for less than 10 years. They cannot tell us what is best for our future.'