Plans to mine bauxite from sacred hills in the Indian state of Orissa have been angrily denounced at the annual general meeting of the UK company behind the scheme.
The founder and chairman of Vedanta, Anil Agarwal, struggled to explain a commitment to "sustainable development" in the teeth of testimony by village people who had flown to London from Orissa to describe how the company was destroying the environment even before the mining has started.
Vedanta Resources told shareholders of "another excellent year" in which the company earned record revenue for a sixth successive year, with revenues of $8.2bn, 26 per cent up on 2007. But the good news was drowned out by the determination of minority shareholders to force the company to confront the consequences of its adventure in Orissa's Nyamgiri Hills.
The Dongria Kondh, a tribe some 8,000-strong from the Indian state of Orissa worship the peak of the Nyamgiri hills as a god – and with reason, as the thick layer of bauxite which crowns the hills serves as a huge sponge for the monsoon rains, releasing them steadily throughout the year and guaranteeing the fertility of the forests and crops.
Since 2002, the survival of the hills and of the tribe itself has been thrown into doubt by Vedanta's plans to mine the Nyamgiri Hills for bauxite. A protected forest area, it is home to endangered animals including tigers, leopards and elephants as well as hundreds of species of rare plants and trees.