India's Mines in the Sacred Mountain

An impassioned invective by Arundhati Roy speaks on behalf of the Dongria Kondh people in south Orissa. Their bauxite-rich ancestral hills, worth around $4 triliion, were snatched out from under them by the India's supreme court and sold to British-owned Vedanta, one of the biggest mining corporations in the world (the Church of England is a share holder).

According to the Guardian, ash from a Vendata aluminum-refinery is already a problem. The new bauxite mine will erode perennial streams that nurture local animal populations and make life in the hills impossible. The Dongria Kondh are protesting what is essentially a text-book colonizing project updated for the 21st century. An international opposition campaign protests the company, and even the British government has condemned the negotiations, but they still broke ground this year, falling hundreds of trees and turning arable hills into a pond of red mud. The villages around the mine report rising mortality from tuberculosis and crop loss.

Roy's article emphasizes the alliance that many desperate indigenous people form with the Maoist army, taking up arms in a last ditch attempt to fight for their land. In retort, the Indian government declared the bedraggled rural Maoists 'India's largest threat' - convenient nomenclature for groups who slow so-called industrial progress. The national media meanwhile stir up fears of 'red terrorism.' Roy's warning is clear: in areas where land can turn a big profit, "the state will use the opportunity to mop up the hundreds of other resistance movements in the sweep of its military operation, calling them all Maoist sympathisers" Roy fears the creation of a manufactured, perpetual war, similar to Kashmir, where civilians suffer the most.

Roy's article also breaks down the economics of the mining industry in the ecologically-vulnerable area - the massive money at stake, and unknown number of cronies and unofficial stakeholders feeding off the bonanza, on land home millions of Indian tribals technically protected under the constitution.

In Goa years of iron ore mining have also stripped the coasts' trees and dumped toxins in the drinking water. VV teamed with local anti-mine activist and blogger Sebastian Rodriguez at the recent Goa Camp, to bring the issue into public discussion. Last year Rodriguez was handed a Rs 5 billion suit by mining corporation Fomento for 'defamation,' but he continues to trumpet the issue.

Hopefully prominent voices such as Roy's, Rodriguez's and VV's will make Indian mining a central international issue, one that binds ecological pollution with indigenous rights, government accountability, and the desperate need for new economic models beyond base and corrupt multinational industrial practice.

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