Does ICMM have a comment on Vedanta and their mining practices in India? Namely planning to cut down the trees that are sacred to the local tribe and then proceed to mine? Now the British Government has told British-registered mining company Vedanta, owned by an Indian national turned Brit, that they have been behaving badly.
The story of Vedanta, the sacred trees, and offended locals is told, from a bloggers perspective at this link. As usual, there is the claim that the forest and trees are sacred:
The Kondh is one of India’s most isolated tribes. It believes in witch doctors and animal sacrifices, and worship the mountains and forests they inhabit.
Vedanta, which is controlled by the London-based billionaire Anil Agarwal, had received awards for its sustainable development programmes.
Next there is “pressure group” Survival International. They appealed to some British government agency “charged with promoting guidelines for multinational companies adopted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”
This same British agency issued a statement damning Vedanta :
Vedanta failed to consult enough with an indigenous ethnic group about a proposed bauxite mine in India. The Dongria Kondh people would be directly impacted by the mine in Orissa being built by London-listed Vedanta. Vedanta did not respect the rights and freedoms of the Dongria Kondh consistent with India’s commitments under various international human rights instruments.
The mining company Vedanta declined comment. Why should they comment? They have long denied the ground is sacred to those local tree-huggers. More: they have a ruling from India’s Supreme Court allowing them to proceed. We all know it takes decades to get a ruling from an Indian Court, so Vedanta must have pull in that area.
The interesting part of this story, is that the British have done to a national mining company what activists in Canada have been trying to get the Canadian government to do for a long time: namely, comment on bad mining practices in other countries by nationally-registered mining companies. Can you imagine the Canadian government saying something bad about a Canadian mining company failing to adequately consult with tree-huggers at an ore body in Peru?
The issue hardly arises in the USA. Obama has his hands full enough with wars with Islamists and Republicans alike; he has no time to worry about failure to consult in foreign places involving mining. First let us sort out those mountaintop mining issues, I can almost hear him saying.
Meanwhile, ICMM, that London-based association of rich mining companies has just issued Human Rights in the Mining and Metals Industry: an Overview, Management Approach, and Issues. I could find nothing in this volume telling you how to deal with criticism from the home country or loss of political support in the center of imperial power. Personally I am impressed by this ICMM publication. My opinion: throw a hundred copies at Vedanta and demand they act decently. For this is a case of racialism, class, money, influence, social climbing, and the clash of old-world and new-world values. If the old boys at ICMM cannot bring the upstarts to heel on this one, who can? Is this truly a case where we need and have to rely on NGOs from a local school?