Perfil de demanda judicial contra Vedanta Resources por actividades en Orissa

Dongria Kondh Dance

For an English-language version of this case profile, please click here.

El 19 de marzo de 2003, Vedanta Alumina Limited solicitó un permiso ambiental al Ministerio de Ambiente y Bosques de la India (MdAB) para construir un proyecto de refinería de aluminio en el estado de Orissa en el oriente del país. El permiso fue otorgado el 22 de septiembre de 2004 y en él se establecía que el proyecto no estaba autorizado para llevar a cabo actividades de deforestación. Sin embargo, la refinería de aluminio dependía directamente de actividades mineras en la cordillera Niyamgiri, área en donde habitan las tribus Dongria Kondh. La solicitud del permiso para la porción minera del proyecto se hizo por separado. El Comité Autorizado Central (CEC, por sus siglas en inglès), que hace parte del MdAB, recibió peticiones opuestas a la construcción de la refinería de aluminio y sus actividades mineras de bauxita relacionadas con el proyecto. La función del CEC es monitorear y asegurar el cumplimiento de las órdenes de la Corte Suprema respecto de los bosques y la vida silvestre. Los opositores del proyecto alegaban que la refinería destruiría la forma de vida de las comunidades Dongria Kondh (debido a su arraigo espiritual y cultural a la cordillera Niyamgiri) y que los trabajos del proyecto habían comenzado sin los permisos necesarios. Además, alegaban que muchas personas habían sido desplazadas forzadamente de sus hogares, algunas veces de manera violenta, y que las actividades mineras ya habían causado daños ambientales graves y seguirían causando otros más.

El CEC realizó recomendaciones a la Corte Suprema el 21 de septiembre de 2005 para que revocara el permiso ambiental de la refinería de aluminio. El 23 de noviembre de 2007, la Corte Suprema de India ordenó a Vedanta y a su subsidiaria Sterlite que no continuaran con el proyecto. (Vedanta había transferido el proyecto a Sterlite.) Sin embargo, la Corte le solicitó a Vedanta que volviera a presentar su propuesta teniendo en cuenta ciertas salvaguardas, entre las que se incluía (a) la creación de una empresa de propósito especial con el Estado de Orissa y Vedanta como accionistas propietarios del proyecto, en donde Vedanta reservaría 5% de sus ganancias antes de impuestos para reinvertir en la comunidad local, y (b) el envío de un informe sobre los efectos del proyecto, en particular sobre el número de personas que podrían emplearse en él. Sterlite volvió a enviar su solicitud incluyendo dichas condiciones. La Corte Suprema le dio luz verde al proyecto de manera formal el 8 de agosto de 2008.

El MdAB denunció que la aprobación del proyecto por parte de la Corte Suprema no lo obligaba a otorgar permiso automático al proyecto, y le solicitó al Fiscal General que diera un concepto sobre el asunto. El Fiscal General acordó que el MdAB no está obligado a aprobar el proyecto únicamente con base en la decisión de la Corte Suprema. El MdAB creó un panel de expertos el 30 de junio de 2010, para que investigara el impacto de la mina en las tribus locales y en la vida silvestre. Este panel envió su informe el 16 de agosto de 2010, en el que dice que la empresa no debería tener permiso para realizar actividades mineras de bauxita en la cordillera Niyamgiri. Luego de las recomendaciones del informe generado por el panel, el Ministro de Ambiente y Bosques anunció el 23 de agosto de 2010 que el gobierno actuaría en contra de Vedanta, por las supuestas violaciones a las regulaciones de conservación de bosques y protección ambiental relacionadas con el proyecto en la cordillera Niyamgiri. Vedanta apeló la decisión del gobierno, y en abril de 2012 la Corte Suprema de la India escuchó la apelación. En abril de 2013, la Corte Suprema ratificó que se mantendría la prohibición para la realización de las actividades mineras en la cordillera Niyamgiri, y que los derechos de las tribus locales se deberían tener en cuenta.

Survival International instauró una queja respecto del proyecto, bajo los Lineamiento de la OECD ante el Punto de Contacto Nacional del Reino Unido (NCP, por sus siglas en inglès). El NCP encontró que Vedanta “no realizó las consultas previas y oportunas obligatorias con las comunidades Dongria Kondh sobre la construcción de la mina”, y recomendó que “Vedanta se comprometiera de manera inmediata y apropiada con los Dongria Kondh” y “que ésta debería respetar el resultado del proceso de consulta”.

En agosto de 2009, luego de una queja presentada por Survival international, la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la India le escribió al Gobierno del Estado de Orissa solicitándole un informe completo sobre su participación como socio de proyectos mineros con Vedanta. En abril de 2013, la Corte Suprema de India reafirmó la prohibición de actividades mineras en la cordillera Niyamgiri y ordenó que se tomaran en cuenta los derechos de las comunidades Dongria Kondh para que fueran ellas mismas quienes decidieran si el proyecto minero podría o no continuar. En agosto de 2013, todos los 12 pueblos tribales votaron en contra del proyecto de Vedanta en la cordillera Niyamgiri. En enero de 2014, el Ministro de Ambiente y Bosques decidió no permitir que el proyecto minero continuara.

- "Environment Ministry rejects Vedanta's mining proposal in Niyamgiri", Urmi A Goswami & Meera Mohanty, Economic Times, 11 Jan 2014
- "India court says locals to have say on Vedanta mine", BBC News, 18 Apr 2013 
- "India tribe's Avatar-like battle against mining firm reaches supreme court", Jason Burke, Guardian [UK] 8 Apr 2012
- "Vedanta mine plan halted by Indian government", Richard Wray, Guardian [UK], 24 Aug 2010
- "Vedanta should not be given mining approval: govt panel", Reuters, 16 Aug 2010
- "Orissa Government, Sterlite form Lanjigarh Area Development Foundation", Orissa Diary, 15 Oct 2009
- "India court okays mining projects", BBC, 8 Aug 2008
- "Indian court reserves judgement on Vedanta mining", Reuters, 25 Jul 2008
- "Tribe takes on global mining firm", Damian Grammaticas, BBC, 17 Jul 2008 
- "Vedanta rejects claim that new mine will destroy Indian tribe's way of life", David Litterick, Telegraph [UK], 6 May 2008
- "Vedanta puts its case for bauxite mine to India’s highest court", Ashling O’Connor, Times [UK], 29 Oct 2007
- "Vedanta Undermines Indian Communities", Nityanand Jayaraman, CorpWatch, 15 Nov 2005

- Vedanta: Sustainable Development
- Survival International: The Dongria Kondh 
- Action Aid: [PDF] Vedanta Cares?

Supreme Court of India
T.N. Godavaraman Thirumulpad v. Union of India in the matter of Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd., 8 Aug 2008 [judgment granting Sterlite permission to mine Niyamgiri]
- [DOC] Interim Order on the basis of the CEC Report, 3 Feb 2008
T.N. Godavaraman Thirumulpad v. Union of India, 23 Nov 2007
T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors: 2006, 17 Oct 2006

- [PDF] Report of the Four Member Committee for Investigation into the Proposal Submitted by the Orissa Mining Company for Bauxite Mining in Niyamgiri [submitted to Ministry of Environment & Forests], N.C. Saxena, S. Parasuraman, Promode Kant, Amita Baviskar, 16 Aug 2010
Central Empowered Committee: Report in IA No. 1324 Regarding the Alumina Refinery Plant being set up by M/S Vedanta Alumina Limited at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi District, Orissa, 21 Sep 2005

OECD Guidelines complaint (in UK):

Vedanta condemns UK agency's findings [India], Business Standard [India], 14 Oct 2009
UK reprimands Vedanta over Orissa mining project, Business Standard [India], 13 Oct 2009
‘Guilty’:  UK government blasts Vedanta in unprecedented attack, Survival Intl., 12 Oct 2009

- [DOC] Final Statement by UK National Contact Point for OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: Complaint from Survival International against Vedanta Resources plc, 25 Sep 2009
- [PDF] Initial Assessment by UK National Contact Point for OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: Survival International and Vedanta Resources plc, 27 Mar 2009

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Autor(a): Peter Hood & Julianne Hughes-Jennett, Business and Human Rights Journal

"How Should English Domiciled Multinationals Manage their Human Rights Risk in Light of the Judgment in Lungowe v Vedanta?", 26 Nov 2017

...[T]he doctrines of separate corporate personality and forum non conveniens insulated English domiciled parent companies from liability for the actions of their foreign subsidiaries.  However, developments in English and European law have progressively undermined the foundations of these doctrines...Last week, the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in Lungowe and Ors. v Vedanta Resources Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc. This will come to be seen as a landmark case in relation to parent company liability and jurisdiction and has deep significance for how English domiciled multinationals manage their human rights risk.

...The Court confirmed that a parent company does not automatically owe a duty of care to someone affected by the actions of its subsidiary. The Claimant must do more to prove that a duty of care arises... The Court expressly confirmed that the law has developed so that a parent company’s duty of care can extend to non-employees affected by the operations of the subsidiary. Together, this expands the scope of parent company liability and will likely encourage more claims of this kind. 

...In order to fulfil their responsibilities under [...] the UN Guiding Principles, they [English domiciled multinationals] are required to take responsibility for human rights risks throughout their group and supply chain... [Pushing] responsibility for human rights due diligence down to the operating subsidiary level [...] will likely be more effective in reducing the risk of an adverse human rights impact in the first place.

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Autor(a): Survival International

"Dongria tribe's views to be heard in Indian Supreme Court", 14 Apr 2016

India’s Supreme Court has blocked the opening moves in an attempt by Odisha’s state government to begin mining in the Niyamgiri hills, home to the Dongria Kondh tribe. The Supreme Court judges directed the state to re-submit their application to allow for the Dongria’s views to be also heard in court. In 2013 the tribe unanimously rejected Vedanta’s plans to mine their hills during a historic referendum in which all twelve villages that were consulted voted against the mine. The Odisha state is now trying to re-open the issue arguing that the 2013 referendum was flawed. Given that the Odisha state government oversaw the 2013 referendum and apparently accepted the tribe’s verdict, some are questioning why they are only now contesting its decision. Vedanta recently announced that it might have to close its loss-making refinery, at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, if more bauxite cannot be supplied...

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Autor(a): Andrew Marszal, Telegraph (UK)

"Indian tribe in new court fight to save sacred mountain", 26 Mar 2016

One of India’s most ancient tribes [Dongria Kondh] is facing a renewed threat of destruction after a fresh legal bid was launched​ by the State Government ​ ​to open its ancestral lands to exploitatio​​n by a British-based mining giant...[T]he Orissa state government launched a yet another request to dig up the tribe’s sacred Niyamgiri mountain and turn it into a bauxite mine...The tribe’s fight to save their hills appeared to be nearing a permanent solution last year when Vedanta said it was drawing up plans to close the plant, along with nearby hospital and school built by the corporation...The Orissa government’s petition calls for a rerun on the grounds that new, young tribal members have come of age since the last vote, and others who voted in 2013 have passed away...Vedanta denies any connection to such activity, adding: “Vedanta is a law abiding company and we always adhere to the correct procedures.”​

 

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Autor(a): Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The financial cost of social conflict is an important reason why companies in the mining, oil and gas industries should make more effort to ensure their projects do not provoke tensions with local communities, researchers said…A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that delays caused by these conflicts can incur costs of around $20 million per week for mining projects valued at between $3 and $5 billion. It noted "growing appreciation" among sustainability experts of the potential financial damage unmitigated environmental and social risks can inflict on large-scale extractive ventures…That is why leading companies are implementing the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, allowing them to manage their rights risks more effectively, according to study author Rachel Davis…[Also refers to Vedanta Resources & Barrick Gold]

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Autor(a): Rachel Davis & Daniel Franks; Harvard Kennedy School; Shift; Univ. of Queensland (Australia)

This study...explores the full range of costs to extractive companies from failing to prevent or mitigate conflict with local communities around their operations. Through 45 in-depth confidential interviews, an analysis of 50 publicly available cases and fieldwork in Peru, the report investigates the most frequent, greatest, and most often overlooked costs of conflict. Co-Authored by Shift's Rachel Davis, and Daniel Franks from the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, University of Queensland, the research shows that extractive companies generally do not identify, understand and aggregate these costs in a way that could help them attract the attention of senior management or the Board. The research also shows that while environmental impacts such as pollution often trigger conflict, there are typically underlying economic and social issues that relate to the quality of the relationship between the company and local communities, which if left unaddressed, may make conflict more likely.

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Autor(a): Amnesty International

Amnesty International a publié…Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy afin de faire progresser le droit à un recours pour les victimes de violations des droits humains commises par des entreprises…Les victimes de violations des droits humains se heurtent souvent à des obstacles lorsqu’elles cherchent à obtenir un recours. Ces difficultés sont d’autant plus importantes lorsque ces violations ont été commises par des entreprises transnationales…Injustice Incorporated décrit le combat pour la justice de communautés pauvres confrontées à de puissantes entreprises transnationales…[C]ette publication démontre comment…les entreprises parviennent à échapper à leurs responsabilités et à bafouer, ou saper considérablement, le droit des victimes à un recours…Les quatre cas développés sont les suivants : Bhopal…Omaï…Ok Tedi…Trafigura…Injustice Incorporated avance des propositions pour le changement dans trois domaines clés : les freins juridiques aux procédures extraterritoriales, le manque d’informations et les relations entre entreprises et États…

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Autor(a): Amnesty International

This book seeks to ground the debate on the human right to remedy in cases of corporate-related abuse in the lived experiences of victims…[It]… focuses on four emblematic cases and exposes how corporate political and financial power intertwined with specific legal obstacles to allow companies to evade accountability and deny, or severely curtail, remedy…The cases are…[the] 1984 Bhopal gas leak in India…[the] case of Omai gold in Guyana...[the] Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea…[and the] dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire…[Trafigura responded that] it is simply wrong to suggest that the issues have not had the right judicial scrutiny...[Union Carbide responded that] [a]ll of the victims’ claims…were resolved a quarter-century ago by a comprehensive settlement…[Includes full responses from Arcelor Mittal, Dow Chemical, Tata Group, Trafigura Beheer, Union Carbide (part of Dow)] [Also refers to BHP Billiton, BP, Shell, Vedanta Resources]

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Autor(a): Gordon Bennett, Lincoln's Inn, in Lawyers for Better Business blog

The Dongria Kondh victory in a decade long battle to prevent mining in their sacred hills should alert company directors to their responsibilities towards communities…In early January India’s minister of Forests and Environment vetoed a $1.7 billion mining project in the Nyamgiri Hills, Odisha…What next? In India, proceedings may now be brought against Vedanta’s subsidiary for violations of the Forest Rights Act…It might also be possible to launch proceedings in England…Section 172 of the UK Companies Act requires directors to “have regard to” the impact of their decisions on the reputation of their company and on the communities affected by its operations. The UK government has insisted that…[it] means “thinking about”; it is absolutely not about just ticking boxes…[W]e believe it will in many cases, [mean] that the proper course is to act positively to achieve the objectives in the clause, that will be the directors’ duty…

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Autor(a): Survival International

In a sensational victory in the stand-off between India’s ‘real Avatar tribe’ and British mining giant Vedanta Resources, India’s authorities have quashed the company’s plans to mine the Dongria Kondh tribe’s sacred hills, it has been widely reported. The decision follows unprecedented consultations with Dongria Kondh villages surrounding the mine site, which were ordered by India’s Supreme Court and dubbed the country’s first ever ‘environmental referendum’. All twelve Dongria Kondh villages involved in the consultation courageously rejected Vedanta’s project in the face of intimidation and harassment, but the final decision lay with the Ministry for Environment and Forests. The crushing defeat will have global repercussions for companies intent on working on tribal peoples’ lands and should serve as a lesson that tribal communities’ prior consent must always be sought.

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Autor(a): Urmi A Goswami & Meera Mohanty, Economic Times

Environment Minister Veerappa Moily has decided not to allow the Vedanta Group to mine the Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite…The minister's decision comes on the back of the overwhelming rejection by 12 state-government designated villages of the proposal to mine the Niyamgiri Hills. In April, the Supreme Court had ruled that villages in the two districts of Rayagada and Kalahandi were to decide if mining should be allowed in the Niyamgiri Hills.

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